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Scott Brinker’s Epicenters of Targeted Marketing

February 18, 2013


In two recent posts (The Future of Big Data, Part 2 and Part 3), I discussed some observations about the connections between big data and marketing made by marketing technologist Scott Brinker. In a new post, Brinker discusses “another way to visualize the relationship between big data and the other innovations happening in the marketing department.” [“3 epicenters of innovation in modern marketing,” Chief Marketing Technologist, 28 January 2013] His new visualization places the customer at the center of three activities: customer analytics; customer experiences; and customer communications.




Although the customer is not shown at the nexus of these three activities, he or she is clearly present. Brinker’s activities surround the customer with personalization, targeting, and a broader community. It’s clear from his writing that Brinker is a very smart guy. It’s also clear that he believes targeted marketing is going to be one of the defining characteristics of the modern business landscape. He starts his discussion about his three epicenters with customer communication. He writes:

“The first [epicenter] is customer communications and the revolution brought about by social media. Marketing communications has, rather quickly, moved from being a one-way broadcast to a more personal, two-way interaction with customers, prospects, and influencers, all interconnected together. Organizations have had to embrace operational and cultural changes to adapt — many are still wrestling with those changes. But while technology certainly triggered this wave of innovation in customer communications, the software in this space is probably the least technically challenging for marketers to adopt. There is great innovation in this sphere, but it’s not primarily technical in nature.”

Since customer communications can have such a significant impact on a company, Brinker is justified in making it one of his marketing epicenters. Although he appears to be a bit dismissive about technologies involved in customer communications, it should be remembered that he is only writing about the technologies involved in the communications not in the collection and analysis of the data involved. Dealing with that kind of unstructured data is not a trivial challenge; which is why customer analytics is the next epicenter he discusses. He writes:

“The second [epicenter] is customer analytics, using analytics and big data to better understand and measure customer opportunities. There is unquestionably a lot of value to be unlocked here, which is why the ‘data revolution’ in marketing is so big right now. However, these innovations are generally much more technical in nature. While there are some easy first steps here — high-level dashboards, basic web analytics, and data visualization tools such as Tableau — the technical water quickly gets deep. I picture it like a ‘continental shelf’ of shallow data analytics. Once you drop off the edge into the deep data ocean, the software is considerably more complicated and isn’t nearly as plug-and-play. To really master customer analytics requires harder skills, such as statistics, modeling, predictive analytics, programming, data mining, etc. Acquiring these skills and integrating them into the marketing team will likely take more time and effort than the adoption curve associated with social media.”

To highlight how challenging it is to deal with unstructured data, Amazon just awarded its grand prize in innovation to a Utah-based start-up company named ContactPoint. Last year the company “launched LogMyCalls, software that records incoming phone calls from customers and generates data that companies can analyze to update their marketing, develop sales leads, chart close rates and improve customer service.” [“Utah’s ContactPoint wins Amazon grand prize for innovation,” by Paul Beebe, Salt Lake Tribune, 30 January 2013] The final epicenter discussed by Brinker is customer experience. He writes:

“The third [epicenter] is customer experience, delivering remarkable customer experiences at every touchpoint in the customer lifecycle. In our digitally-malleable world, marketers can now wield technology to craft customer experiences that are powerfully differentiated — on a scale that was impossible to conceive not too many years ago. I believe that the scale of this ‘experience revolution’ will dwarf the other two.”

Providing an extraordinary customer experience is important whether or not that experience takes place online or in a traditional store setting. A Deloitte report entitled, The Next Evolution: Store 3.0, concludes that, in order to keep brick-and-mortar stores relevant and inviting for consumers, retailers must “deliver a tailored experience” for shoppers. The report states:

“It is an experience that begins before customers enter the physical store and continues long after they leave. Through the lens of the desired future customer experience, retailers should step back and ask themselves hard questions about where they are and where they need to go.”

One of the reasons that experience is important is because brick-and-mortar stores have been suffering from a malady called “showrooming” that involves consumers going into stores specifically to examine products that they later purchase online. Allen Weiner, Research Vice President with Gartner, believes that content marketing is one way that traditional stores can provide shoppers with experiences and counter the showrooming trend. [“Can Content Marketing Beat Showrooming?, Gartner, 25 January 2013] He writes:

“For those businesses with adequate capital budgets, solutions such as Nearbuy Systems allow you to turn your Wi-Fi network into a proprietary content delivery mechanism which offers customers a personalized in-store shopping experience (like Barnes and Noble offers for customers who bring their Nooks to the store) via their mobile devices. Even better is the ability to track a customer’s in-store behavior such as how long he spent in a particular aisle.”

Brinker believes that customer experience is so critical that the remainder of his article focuses primarily on that subject. He writes:

“There’s already a growing customer experience movement in the marketing department — with the embrace of user experience and design (not just art/graphic design) professionals. But ultimately code is the clay from which most of these experiences are sculpted. It’s with a mix of pre-packaged marketing software, custom developed applications, technical configuration, and plenty of ‘script’ glue to tie everything together that these experiences are actually built and delivered — leveraging the state-of-the-art in hardware technologies (e.g., the latest smartphones and tablets) and major web services (e.g., the latest capabilities in Facebook). Understanding how these technologies can be synthesized into compelling customer experiences — and having the technical capabilities to execute on those visions — presents a significant challenge for most marketing teams. But the opportunity is huge, strategically elevating marketing from communications to experiences. Marketing is still the champion of the brand. But the brand is now fully a direct function of customer experience.”

Analysts at TIBCO Software agree with Brinker that technology lies at the heart of targeted marketing and the experiences it can provide. “Today,” they write, “customer intent clues are widely available via comments on social networks, previous browsing behavior, email open rates, call center and sales department interactions and past receptiveness to offers and promotions. But this big data gold mine is spread across multiple channels that often fall outside a company’s internal network landscape. And that means determining customer intent requires data analysis to mine for the insight that can bolster sales.” [“4 Ways to Use Data Analysis to Pinpoint Customer Intent,” Trends and Outliers, 30 January 2013] TIBCO analysts recommend four steps to help identify customer intent using data analysis. They are:


  • Identify where the customer journey begins. ‘Is it on the search engine or email message, or is it on the landing page? Often, the path to the source prior to the website visit is crucial to understand intent,’ notes the ClickZ post. ‘Were they on a competitor’s site? Were they reading an industry article? Were they searching for free shipping offers?’
  • Collect all data from customer actions. Capture data from kiosks, call centers, mobile apps and web data. Hone in on product views, shopping basket additions, comments, searches, video views and help requests.
  • Study patterns. Determine which customers are reading or writing product reviews. When do they look at shipping information. What products are being compared or which product bundles are studied? After analytics uncovers patterns, companies can then tailor offers.
  • Use data as research in lieu of expensive surveys. ‘Use your web data to assess what people actually do. Look for patterns in segments as well as feedback behavior – do reviews feature certain product characteristics? Highlight those in your marketing and up-selling, ‘according to ClickZ. ‘Web data can also improve your segmentation strategy, because it lets you segment on how (and potentially why) customers shop, not where they shop or who they are.'”


Brinker believes the end result (i.e., the “mission”) is the “big experience.” He concludes:

“Big experience is nearly unlimited in the innovations that lie ahead. They’re not all technical in nature, but a significant portion of them are rooted in technology. To pursue these opportunities, marketing must expand its technical capabilities beyond data analytics. This is why marketing technologists, not just data scientists, should be a part of every marketing team’s growth plans moving forward. Of course, some of the most fascinating areas in marketing are at the intersections of these three domains. For instance, the intersection between customer analytics and customer experience, where personalization and big testing are sprouting. Fundamentally, modern marketing is about combining all these innovations into a cohesive strategy and operational structure. That is why, although big data is big, it shouldn’t distract marketing leaders from constructing an organization that is capable of orchestrating all of these innovations together into a powerful and differentiated brand for the 21st century.”

In previous posts about innovation, I have made the point that a lot of (if not most) innovation takes place at the intersections of disciplines. Along these boundaries is where you find differing perspectives and new ways of combining existing ideas and technologies to create something entirely new — like a big experience.

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