Goafest 2023: Data is a double-edged sword, say marketing professionals

While data has democratised the marketing functions of brands, it is just another tool to make better decisions or even for building the right context, however, if not enriched or used properly, the same can act as a tool for good and bad alike, as per leaders from FMCG, banking, travel and content companies

Shreya Negi
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Goafest 2023: Data is a double-edged sword, say marketing professionals

With the third-party cookies slated to begin phasing out in 2024, most businesses have been giving their best shot to build and strengthen their first-party data pool. While building data set is essential, getting the right signals out of it and using it in the right way is even more important as it can bring good returns when the right signals come out of it, but there’s also a chance of it turning problematic if used poorly.

The session titled “Data-Driven Marketing: Are We Walking The Talk?” had panellists such as Chandan Mukherji, Director and Executive VP, Nestle India; Priyanka Gill, Group Co-Founder, Good Glamm Group and CEO - Good Media Co; Ravi Santhanam, CMO, HDFC and Vipul Prakash, COO, MakeMyTrip and was moderated by Vikram Sakhuja, Group CEO, Madison Media and OOH.

Kickstarting the session, Madison’s Sakhuja shared the reference of an early 2006 sentiment - wherein the industry first referred to data as the ‘new oil’, and then went on to add that ‘oil is only useful when refined over time’.

“Now that the oil (herein data) refineries have been in place for years, it is actually the tech giants who monetise the data in exchange for free applications, or other use cases,” he said. Having said that, Sakhuja also emphasised that one of the most important questions for marketers today is whether or not they are processing data to make decisions in the right manner.

Sharing a glimpse into his journey from the analogue days to now, and the impact of data in marketing, HDFC’s Santhanam stated that in the early days when data was not available to marketers, it was always the boss who was calling all the shots and the team blindly followed after hearing the “been there, done that” dialogues. But with data coming into the picture, every person can today figure out what’s actually happening and on the basis of that make a suggestion and decide on the right way to go about things.

“What data has done in today’s day and age is that it has democratised the marketing function, which is why it is no more the CMO who is calling the shots, but the people who have a good understanding of data coupled with a little bit of consumer understanding. This can be in the form of which campaign, cohort or segment is working and how to converse with the consumer amongst others,” Santhanam said.

Commenting as to what has changed from his early PepsiCo days to now, MakeMyTrip’s Prakash pointed out that data as a word is extremely fascinating as it connotes fear in anybody- be it in terms of not having enough data or even to an extent wherein having lots of data is also confusing.

In Prakash’s opinion, data is just another tool to make better decisions and therefore, while some organisations may require data in today’s day and age to prepare for the cookie-less world, some may need it just for building the context for various things.

“For the advertising industry, the single best thing that data will do today is that it will get more advertisers into the fold who couldn’t do mass advertising maybe a decade ago, but now with proper targeting, they will be able to see the returns and, therefore, the management of data will lead one to take much better and informed decisions,” he said.

As per Good Glamm Group’s Gill as well, data is a tool for good, however, when used poorly, the same data can turn out to be a blunt one. She also shared the opinion that having too much data is a problem, because in such cases how to use that data well becomes one of the key issues.

“The idea is that when we are talking to brands and agencies who come to us saying that they want to do performance marketing basis the metrics they want to look at, conversion doesn’t happen. This is because, what we generally forget in this journey is that in the first time, the customer is an untrained cookie and the second time when you’re able to build the feedback loop between the brand and the digital media partner, then are you able to train the cookie and help them make informed decisions,” she said.

She also opined that generally, the second time when a brand hits the right cohort, conversions begin happening and therefore, data is a blunt tool because there can be miscommunication and mistrust between the brand and the media house executing the campaign.

As per the FMCG industry, which has a relatively small dependence on online, Nestle’s Mukherji stated that the 150-year-old company uses data in an appropriate manner that makes business sense to it and starting with brand love, equity and connect, the company uses data to enhance or compliment the three.

“We look at two kinds of data- aggregated and personalised, because in the FMCG space, it is highly important to realise the value of personalised data since ours is mainly a low-unit price model, shampoos, etc. The main challenge is that data is very siloed which is why we need to connect it in order to draw the next level of mileage out of it, because the promise of data is big,” he said.

Upon being questioned as to why the industry is still stuck on age, gender and the other substitutes for the NCCS despite all the magic of digital, he replied that while the journey has begun, there is still a long way to go which is why the data points that businesses use today are still preliminary because data enrichment can only come after the collection stage.

On the other hand, Gill mentioned that digital media houses have a lot more attributes to add apart from the age, gender and NCCS parameters because they are the ones who are actually seeing content consumption patterns which can make for an informed hypothesis and build robust cohorts.

Moving on, Santhanam emphasised that while businesses do use signals today, it is not very predominant because the biggest challenge for every marketer today is to separate the signal from the noise, because there is huge amount of information available out of first-party data.

Additionally, MakeMyTrip’s Prakash also pointed out that while data may portray all the shiny things, it all starts with the customer’s problems, and therefore, having a minimum amount of first-party data is going to become extremely critical.

Commenting on what would be the ideal way-to-go for businesses post the third-party cookie demise and to get the right signals, Mukherji betted big on partnerships and enrichment of first-party data alongwith Santham and Prakash expressing big hopes from the collaborative efforts of businesses through or on Customer Data Platforms.

Ravi Santhanam third-party cookies first party data Vikram Sakhuja Priyanka Gill context democratisation data-driven marketing customer data platforms brand partnerships data usage in marketing marketing cohorts Chandan Mukherji Vipul Prakash