Much has been said about data—customer data, data privacy, data integration. The list goes on. It has its place, like helping marketers more intelligently target their ads—I for one am grateful for fewer Cialis ads. It can also be instrumental in helping those leading customer experience to better design and execute those experiences on behalf of customers. I mean, the person who came up with the seemingly simple idea of adding movie tickets to my mobile wallet and scanning a barcode rather than printing tickets at home or waiting in line at the theater—genius!

For all of the good that data does, a hyper focus on data can also be our undoing as a society, and certainly as marketing leaders. When you focus strictly on the data, you risk losing sight of the numbers that really matter.


That’s the SAT score she’s trying to hit to get into her dream school. But, data doesn’t see that. All it sees is an in-store order for a double-shot espresso—an order that got mixed up with a decaf Americano and became part of the day’s waste log. It doesn’t see that she felt a little off during her test and is worried she won’t get the score she needs and won’t get admitted.


That’s the number of trips he makes to the school in a month to pick up her kids and take them to soccer practice. But, data doesn’t see that. All it sees is mobile user who logs into Facebook every day at 3:15. It doesn’t know that he’s waiting in the school pick up line and could probably use a reminder to put the phone down and pay attention to his driving—and his kids.

There are people behind our data. Lives and aspirations, struggles and hopes. You may think you sell coffee, but each day millions of people invite your product and employees into their lives. Some days and for some people, it may just be a cup of coffee. But other days and for other people—and you won’t know which is which—it will mean more, much more.

You think you make a mobile phone, but when someone is operating a 5,000 pound vehicle at 45 miles per hour with three kids in the backseat, what you make is a distraction. The data would suggest more device sales, application downloads and terabytes of data used is good. But there’s unseen (or easily ignored) risk when it happens behind the wheel.

But what does this have to do with marketing?

Marketing leaders are taking more responsibility for customer experience. Sometimes they own it. Other times they manage the front-end design, giving them greater accountability for it. In both cases, they, we, have unprecedented access to customers and ability to architect their interactions with our companies, brands, products and services.

We can do that based solely on data and likely achieve greater revenue and profits through sleek CX design, streamlined execution and frictionless operations. And if near term, top and bottom line growth is your main objective, stop reading this and go read about data integration. But, if you seek to affect change in the lives of customers—and you have the power to do—move beyond data to insight.

At this year’s Digital Marketing Conference, Gartner for Marketing Leaders will share research and advice on all of the above and more. My session, Marketing GPS: How to Measure Each Point in Your Customer Journey, will most certainly talk about data—where to find it and how to use to it track customers along their journey. But it will also seek to remind us all about the people behind the data.

I hope to see you there. #GartnerDMC

1 Comment
  1. February 23, 2017 at 10:10 am
    Luke says:

    A single data source will leave you blind but multiple data sources would be able to imply you were at the school pick up – 2 minutes later your phone is joined by two others that seem to live in the same location as you; you follow the route and stop at the place that other people that are known to be parents stop at. #DataDesignedBusiness takes all data and reimagines what it does and how it delivers and how customers engage.

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