Marketing, By the Numbers

By Ginger Conlon

When it comes to taking action based on data, it’s not always about internal customer data. Sometimes just one piece of data from a trend report or one key industry statistic is enough to give marketers pause—or drive them to take action or think differently. Since January tends to be a time of reflection and prediction, we asked industry insiders to take a look back, and forward, at data points that were the most, well, pointed. They provided their view of findings from 2016 or predictions from 2017 that resonated most, and caught their attention enough to drive change.


Moving forward by looking back—on 2016

Looking back on 2016, what data point resonated most and what actions have you taken as a result?


Ryan Phelan, VP of Marketing Insights


The findings in Adestra's Consumer Adoption and Usage Study on teens’ use email surprised and delighted us because the rest of the email industry said it wasn't possible.

Two key data points back us up when we refute people who say teens are only on texting and chat apps: 73% of teens told us that email is part of their everyday lives and 68% prefer email over texting and apps to get commercial messages.

Nobody in the industry predicted that. Statistics are great, but they need to be validated. You can't buy into the hype that an age group doesn't use one particular channel because they're using another one.

Teens show us they see the email channel as a necessary part of their lives and use it with purpose. They don't ignore it because it's "not cool." For that, they're better at looking at the channel than a lot of marketers. The worst thing we as

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marketers can do is to exist in our own echo chambers that make us deaf and blind to the intelligence of the consumer.


Holly Pavlika, SVP of Marketing & Content

Collective Bias

In March of 2016 we conducted a consumer survey on influencers only to find that A-lister endorsements seemed to be getting an “F” with most consumers—nearly a third of shoppers were more likely to purchase a product endorsed by a non-celebrity influencer than by a celebrity. Millennials in particular showed even greater aversion toward traditional celebrity endorsement; nearly 70% of this demographic reported feeling more influenced by non-celebrity influencers. In fact, only about 2% of all consumers found celebrities to be the most influential source when it came to making a purchase decision.

These were eye-opening findings for us, especially when considering how often we tend to see and associate celebrities as company spokespeople—and that brands shell out millions of dollars every year to align themselves with famous personalities.

This data helped validate what we’ve been advising clients on for years: To maximize influencer ROI—leverage the “power middle” sweet spot of influencer marketing, where reach and engagement can work together at optimal performance. As reach increases, engagement naturally declines, so we encourage clients to be strategic and opt for measurable outcomes rather than solely name recognition.


Nancy Harhut, Chief Creative Officer

Wilde Agency

My most resonating data point came courtesy of the “Godfather of Influence.”

Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., a behavioral scientist known for his research into the psychology of influence, published his newest book “Pre-suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade” in September 2016. In the book Cialdini reveals how critical the moment is before marketers deliver our message, as well as what we can do first to increase our target’s receptivity.

He cites as an example a study with an online furniture store that displayed either pictures of fluffy clouds in the background of the landing page or pictures of coins.

People exposed to the clouds searched for comfortable furniture, and preferred more comfortable couches to the more inexpensive ones. However, the people who first saw the coins conducted cost-related searches on the site, and preferred inexpensive furniture.

Importantly, not a single person believed the landing page background influenced their decisions.

As a result of reading the research, our agency has intensified our focus on priming, timing, and context for our clients’

marketing messages. Of course, we do not recommend they lose focus on the offer, list, and creative as major drivers of response. However, we do encourage them to factor in these additional considerations, given the impact Cialdini’s research shows they have.

We appreciate that marketers today live and die based on results. And given that so much decision-making occurs subconsciously, anything we can test to put prospective customers into a receptive frame of mind prior to “the ask”

just makes sense.


Rob Daleman, VP, Corporate Marketing

GMC Software

Gartner marked 2016 as the year in which technology shifted from the hands of the CIO into the hands of the CMO. More dollars are now spent on technology by marketing than by any other function, and the number and scope of platforms available to marketing continues to grow. The big challenge facing CMOs in 2017 and beyond is how to create, deliver, and maintain a consistent and meaningful customer journey across an increasing number of divergent channels. Customer journey maps were meant to ease this burden, but traditional customer journey maps have been problematic for two reasons: they’re generally static and they’re not actionable.

Marketing decision-makers need more than a static map. They need the ability to capture all communications that customers receive along the journey, understand the experiences involved in each step, and improve the experience as a result. A success-based approach connects the customer’s actual journey to specific communications or campaigns, making it possible to identify how each communication component affects the customer experience. Without these capabilities, a customer journey map is just an expensive piece of art to hang on the wall, rather than an interactive interface.

As the torch is passed from IT to marketing and CMOs gain control over their ever-growing marketing technology stack, we encourage CMOs in to include interactive customer journey mapping as a critical step to ensuring the company’s messaging remains consistent and relevant across the entire cross-channel ecosystem.


Kathy Menis, SVP of Marketing


Accenture and Forrester jointly published a report last year that uncovered a vast and growing chasm between the relevant experiences that marketers know are important to deliver, and the disconnected communications consumers actually encounter. The findings highlight the urgency in resolving customer identity for constant recognition and relevant engagement across human, physical, and digital touchpoints.

The research found that while almost all marketers understand that digital is changing the customer experience, the number who feel they’re meeting or exceeding customer expectations is on the decline. What’s more, of those who don’t believe they meet their customers’ expectations, one in four have a false sense of security that what they’re offering is “good enough.” In other words, companies realize that they aren’t keeping up with rapidly evolving customer expectations, and some are even complacent about it.

We’re encouraging our clients to create a complete view of each customer’s identity to fuel more relevant marketing. I expect that marketers will only continue to prioritize identity resolution as the foundation for creating transformative customer experiences that relate to consumers with immediacy and context.

Rob Lennon, Senior Product Marketing Manager,


Last year the proliferation in ad blocker adoption reached a tipping point. eMarketer reported penetration was at 26% in 2016 and expected to rise to 32% in 2017.

Ad blocker monetization implications to publishers are huge. So is the loss of inventory to advertisers. The industry responded with a big shift in IAB standards. Major players formed the Coalition for Better Ads to figure out how to avoid mass disruption.

Yet the status quo has been humming along. Most digital ads have had minimal noticeable change from a consumer standpoint.

It’s up to advertisers to embrace pro-consumer formats and strategies. To that point, we have encouraged all our clients to focus on messaging. Help combat the outcry by making ads that are relevant to their audiences.

Audience-based marketing works because it captures attention while providing value to consumers. This is the future of performance campaign creative. It’s also one of the most needed changes to avoid losing even more advertising opportunity to ad blockers.

What’s next? A view of 2017

Looking to 2017, what prediction has you concerned or excited and what do you plan to do as a result?


Dave O’Flanagan, CEO


Only 28% of marketers strongly agree that they have adequate data scientists on staff right now, according to a recent survey we conducted. This highlights the need for companies to deepen their data scientist bench—relying on staff, outsourcing, or automated technology—to accurately analyze customer data and build a personalized customer experience.

Machine learning and predictive intelligence are examples of how data scientists gain that bench strength—by weaving artificial intelligence in particular into data aggregation and analytics across the enterprise. But we’ve discovered that marketers still need education on what AI really is and all that they can achieve with it. In 2017, marketers will need to gain a better understanding of what AI can do to support their data scientists and add to their bench strength. And companies will need to invest in their AI initiatives to develop a “single customer view,” streamlining activation across all channels.


Ruth P. Stevens, President, eMarketing Strategy, and

Author, B2B Data-Driven Marketing

One of my favorite 2017 predictions for B2B marketers came from James Thomas, writing in Marketing Profs.

Thomas said that the true data challenge for B2B marketers is “context.” Meaning that the data we’re looking at needs to be related to something that drives business value. He was talking about the need for campaign planners to have access to campaign results data—a worthy point. It relates to a larger issue that B2B marketers need to work on: Identifying, collecting, and maintaining data that supports sales and marketing business decisions across the board. 

We marketers are a curious lot, and with data access and storage so cheap and plentiful, we go crazy bringing in all kinds of information, thinking it might be useful one day. 

But we need to be thinking about data more strategically. We need to such ask questions as: What data elements do I need to capture about each customer and prospect, at the account level and the contact level? Where will I get it? How will I keep it fresh and clean? How does it apply to my objectives? These questions need to be asked and answered before we find ourselves drowning in a sea of data. 

With this in mind, I’m advising clients and students to create a data strategy for their companies, or at least their business units. It’s better to have the right data than a lot of data. And it’s important to budget for data hygiene, because making business decisions on incorrect data elements not only offends customers, it also leaves money on the table. 


Shlomi Gian, CEO


We’re already seeing the buzz from the iOS11 launch expected later this year, highlighting the important of weaving mobile seamlessly into the marketing mix. An exciting but challenging trend will be the integration of VR/AR support for mobile devices.

Current content providers are still mitigating network delivery issues for mobile video content. Graduating to VR/AR will introduce another layer of performance challenges for wireless networks that are not ready to support this level of technology. This could negatively impact customers’ perception of a brand’s app, because mobile users don’t necessarily know where the performance disruption comes from when using a mobile app and tend to attribute it to the app itself.

The key will be for developers to optimize content delivery within their apps to mitigate the amount of pressure from the wireless network by removing roadblocks that affect performance on cellular and Wi-Fi networks.

Accelerating the performance of the actual app will be a key to experiencing the least amount of disruption from any mobile application, relying less on the delivery of the wireless network and maximizing the mobile user experience. 2017 will present a transitional period for mobile content delivery as developers and networks alike will need to tackle the new challenge and learn how to manage this new capacity of content.


Erik Matlick, Founder and CEO


With marketers set to make a significant investment in programmatic in 2017 and beyond—eMarketer forecasts programmatic spending to rise by 82% by 2018 to $37.8 billion—verification that they’re reaching the right audience will be imperative.

This means viewability is now especially relevant. But knowing that an ad was viewed or clicked on by a human is just the first step. What’s next is having an independent, third-party verification of the audience each campaign was supposed to reach, as well as the data-set behind the targeting.

Traditionally tracked through tags that provide specific information about whether an ad was visible and how long it was in view, the evolution of viewability is audience verification. Audience verification goes a step farther by using tags to validate whether the campaign was actually viewed by the target audience. Marketers making big bets on programmatic in 2017 need to ensure that those investments pay off, so audience verification will become table stakes.

About the Author

Ginger Conlon, chief editor and marketing alchemist at MKTGinsight, catalyzes change in marketing organizations. She is a frequent speaker on marketing and customer experience, and serves in advisory or leadership roles for several industry organizations. Ginger was honored with a Silver Apple lifetime achievement award for her contributions to the marketing industry.

Find her at @customeralchemy and on LinkedIn.