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Data can make marketing cool

Ask the bean counters or the geeks (accountants or IT department) what they think of marketing and they will snort with derision, muttering phrases like 'the colouring in department' under their breath.

The reason for their antipathy is two-fold: it's part wilful failure to understand what marketers and marketing does, but also it's tinged with a degree of envy. Of all the key professions that make a business tick, marketing is the only one with the potential to be cool. The phenomena that is the TV show ‘Mad Men’ is the ultimate incarnation of this.

But the obvious problem with ‘Mad Men’, as an illustration of the cool value of marketing, is that it's set in the age of advertising. At that time, socio-economic forces and evolution in media combined to create a perfect storm where the creative impact of print advertising could profoundly influence how people behave.

For reasons that are well documented, these days print advertising has dramatically less impact on our lives. But that's not to say that marketing is any less important or influential. The direct marketing revolution of the 80s introduced new levels of targeting and measurement, which are being taken to new heights in the digital age. But format constraints mean that creative, as we used to know it, is distinctly less relevant – there simply isn't the space for it on an email or a Facebook page. Images still play a role, but there is a better balance with content, format, message and incentive.

While we may mourn the gradual passing of traditional techniques, we must celebrate what this revolution has brought us – data. Data can validate our actions and prove our worth to the unbelievers across the organisation. Data can achieve what no amount of glamorous TV shows could: to make marketing cool in the eyes of accounting and finance (even sales). And for that, we must celebrate it and embrace it.