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My love affair with data driven marketing is over

It’s not you data driven marketing. It’s me. I’m tired of hiding behind Excel formula’s, and estimates. Tired of having 60 metrics to measure in detail how many people aren’t converting. Of using machine learning to find .5% of improvement when four in five of my visitors leave without doing anything worth a damn in the long run. 

We measure how deep someone scrolls as if that’s suddenly going to produce an insight in why they’re not buying what we’re selling. Of course that’s not going to happen, because having all that detailed data won’t produce any insights on its own.

Out of the fridge and into the freezer

My family and I were driving home from a ski vacation in Austria. It began to snow. Traffic came to a stand still. We I looked towards technology for the answer. Waze found a route and which was a full two hours quicker! We hastened off the highway and followed our AI overlord… All the way to small snowed in roads that led us nowhere slowly. It turns out AI isn’t that Intelligent after all, failing to understand that small country roads aren’t an alternative for traffic heavy highways when it’s snowing. 

My point is: You still need a — thinking — human to make an assessment of the situation. I will gladly let Google and Facebook run a campaign I set-up, where I carefully selected a conversion, an audience, a message… I will even let them run one version of that message against the other to find the best performer. But I don’t think I will ever let a computer decide what to communicate to a human. 

Data kills the underdog

And that’s where my problem with our current data-driven fad lays. The industry claims that it’s data-driven, but it’s hiding behind loads of data and delaying crucial decisions because of a lack of confidence in the numbers. Even worse: Some agencies make claims of complete confidence based on numbers that couldn’t possibly ensure that.

We all love underdog victories, but the defensive way we’re using data kills any chance that an underdog message or audience might win. It kills the chance we might find a solution for the four out of five visitors who leave immediately. It favours a .5% uptick in conversions over bigger gains elsewhere. 

We’re using data as a way to sell the idea that we’re not in charge. If it doesn’t work: it’s not our fault. The data told us to do it that way. The data is responsible. Just like Waze led me down that snowed-in small road. It wasn’t my fault. I was just following the instructions of something that knows more than me. 

Of course… I was the one who drove the car down them, knowing it was the wrong thing to do. But the data told me to do it.

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