Is Big Data The Future of Marketing?
Our Future of Marketing interview series continues with Steve McKee. Steve is the author of When Growth Stalls, the accompanying blog, Stalled, Stuck or Stale. He is also President of marketing agency McKee Wallwork. You can follow Steve on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
In our last interview, Doug Kessler talked about creating a content culture. Before that, Todd Wheatland predicted that content and technology would combine to drive the future of marketing. Mark Schaefer discussed culture and the future of search. Marcus Starke predicted the rise of the science of marketing. Ann Handley called for more brands to become Content Brands. And Alan See reiterated that the customer and the content is king.
Now let’s hear what Steve thinks about the present and future of marketing.
Tell us about yourself?
I’m an author, columnist, blogger, entrepreneur and head of an integrated marketing agency. I’ve been an agency guy from day one, starting my career working on the Pizza Hut business for a terrific Southern California firm. Fast forward to today–having spent the past twenty-five years in five different agencies (from global to local) working on a wide variety of accounts, I’m partner in my own shop. Along the way I discovered a love of writing (hence my book, blog and Businessweek column) and a knack for finding niches (we recently launched a startup tech firm in the Bay Area).
Tell us about a tough or interesting challenge you face?
The biggest challenge we face is maintaining our agency’s focus while staying ahead of change in a rapidly evolving environment. We specialize in working with stalled, stuck and stale brands, which there are no shortage of these days. But turnover in the c-suite, changing marketplace dynamics and an increasingly confusing environment can easily knock an agency off its game.
How are you approaching those challenges?
We continually remind ourselves to take our own medicine, deepening the capabilities we consider unique and maintaining focus on the essentials (our core competency of helping struggling companies understand and address their true challenges) while being nimble in our offering (new/different services including things like social media strategy consulting and data visualization). That has helped us remain consistent while staying relevant—an interesting balancing act.
What is your prediction for the future of marketing?
I am fascinated with the rapid escalation of “big data” and the tools available to analyze it. I think it may increase the polarization between the analytical and creative sides of marketing. More and better-understood data will give the analysts more influence, but since data, by definition, can provide only a view of the past (even if it’s the immediate past), we’ll need forward-thinking creative capabilities more than ever. This may raise tension not only between the analytical and creative players within clients and agencies, but within the mind of the individual strategist as well. It will put an even higher premium on planners who can comfortably operate using both sides of their brains. I find that personally exciting, if a bit intimidating.