OPINION: Marketing Society - Luck of Magic 8 Ball can't match examining data

Measuring marketing campaigns needn't be magic. On my desk is a Magic 8 Ball, which, I was reliably informed, could answer all my questions about the future.

Apparently, with a shake of this ball, the answer to my question will appear in a little window in its side. I asked the ball a question and was told "Ask again later".

This little toy reminded me of the concern expressed by many marketing directors at a recent conference as to how they could measure the effectiveness of their campaigns. From the trouble they were having, it seems they were willing to try anything for an answer. Maybe I've found a new market for the ball. I asked my Magic 8 Ball another question. "Reply hazy, try again".

Measuring marketing effectiveness should never result from predictions based on luck, however attractive the Magic 8 Ball. But there is a trend here. The one thing the ball represented in its answers was the hallmark of the current economic environment: uncertainty.

In this climate, most companies can't see more than three months ahead.

Markets are more competitive and risky as customers become more fickle.

This is the very time when companies are turning to their marketers to help them make the right choices, be effective and ensure they stay ahead of the competition and gain market share.

To understand the key near-term challenges faced by senior marketers, IBM commissioned some research. From this, solutions have been developed by Kevin Bishop at IBM Business Consultancy Services and Nigel Howlett at OgilvyOne.

Measuring marketing effectiveness is the top near-term challenge for 70% of senior marketers. A number of activities that contribute to achieving this also came high up the list of business challenges.

Interestingly, managing and executing campaigns and building a customer-centric information system are causing distinct concern. Of the respondents, 41% were concerned with improving their return on marketing technology.

This is surprisingly low, considering the importance of analytical tools to crunch customer data. How else can the secrets of customer spending habits be unlocked?

In a turbulent market, the same marketing challenges appear again and again, but few companies seem to have a clear sense of how to build a constantly adaptive marketing function. Many companies recognise the need for marketing effectiveness, but aren't sure where to start.

When the spotlight is on the marketing function, it's hard to step back and assess how things can be done better. But if the customer data had been a little more accurate, the campaign response rate could have doubled.

Success in this complex world is about being smarter and adapting the marketing function as the pressures of the day change and evolve. The answer is in their own organisations. Interrogate the customer data as much as the board of the company interrogates the marketing function - then use the insight to shape the campaigns.

I asked the ball another question and it answered "Definitely yes".

Pure luck, but I was willing to believe its answer, as the business I represent didn't depend on it.

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