By Alexandre Pelletier October 10, 2018

How Data Can Curse Brand Strategy: 3 Mistakes Marketers Must Avoid

This post appeared first on the Marketo blog.

As a Marketo Platinum Partner that provides martech consulting services to enterprise organizations, we at Perkuto have a very clear appreciation of just how important data is when it comes to making marketing decisions. Understanding how your campaigns are performing, how different visitor segments are interacting with your site and which strategies and tactics are generating the greatest ROI isn’t just nice to know—it’s imperative to your brand and your marketing’s overall success.

There’s no doubt that all of this data can be a huge blessing—when it comes to your brand, it can also be a curse. Why? Because while data can tell you the aggregated story of the people who interact with your brand, it can also entice you to make myopic decisions based on numbers alone. And if you do that, you’re making a big mistake. Here are three mistakes that you need to avoid when it comes to data and your brand strategy.

1. Forgetting that data is made up of emotion-driven human beings

In today’s businesses, we’re driven to quantify any and everything that can be quantified, but don’t mistake correlation with causation. Your data can show you that your visitors chose logo A over logo B and can identify which image at the top of your landing page created the most conversions, but it can’t tell you why—and at the heart of it all, the why matters.

Before any of your customers are numbers in your marketing data, they’re human beings, making emotionally-based decisions—and then perhaps trying to justify them with logical, rational explanations. The numbers in your analytics program, no matter how nicely they’re displayed, can never tell your customer’s whole story.

For example, the reason why Susan completed the lead form on your landing page—the one with the image of the sailboat at the top, versus the skiff—is related to her positive childhood memories of sailing with her Dad as much as her interest in your webinar. However, David’s lifelong fear of water created a strong sense of unease for him as soon as he hit the landing page, causing him to bounce—neither image ultimately would have worked for him. Do either of these make sense? Not necessarily. Welcome to the world of human emotion.

For the best results, remember that data is just one tool in your marketing arsenal. Other activities, like focus groups, customer surveys and even talking to front-line personnel about their experiences can and should inform your brand development or brand refreshment. Don’t get so focused on the data that you lose sight of the human beings that make up the numbers.

2. Ignoring your gut feeling

Imagine this scenario: The data suggests that visitors would prefer choice A for your new website format, but instinct tells you that choice B will ultimately prove to better resonate. In this situation, don’t ignore your inner voice. Remember, your inner voice has been cultivated through years of experience in marketing, working day in and day out with your brand and customers—it too has gathered and analyzed data points and drawn conclusions.

I’m not surprised that full 41% of CEOs admit that they make decisions based on intuition even though they have access to reams of data. I always tell my team that if the data says one thing but their gut doesn’t agree, take a closer look. 

3. Following data to a benign brand

Guess what happens when businesses let data drive all of the branding decisions? The silent majority starts calling the shots and things can start looking (and even sounding) boringly similar to the competition. It’s the online version of design by committee, a phrase that strikes fear in the hearts of designers everywhere.

There is real value to adding personality to your brand’s design, capturing the essence of your brand in a visual manner. Whether it be an unusual font choice, the style of imagery you choose or even a unique background that evokes a very specific vibe, the design choices you make can create a very clear “personality” for your brand. For example, if your site included only pen and ink illustrations—no stock photography—it would “feel” radically different than if it included only highly-saturated color photography. One has a clearly different energy from the other.

Let your data to lead some basic design decisions, but not at the expense of letting your brand personality shine through. Ultimately, it’s these human-driven unique brand features that help make customers feel more connected, and ensure that your brand stands apart from your competition.

Augment Your Data with Your Human Talents

Data plays a huge role in today’s marketing and branding, but savvy marketers realize that data tells only part of the story. To achieve success, marketers must understand that analytics and data are just a tool in a much larger marketing arsenal, ensuring that you dig deeper to find out the why behind the what before making big brand decisions. Additionally, don’t devalue the power of your intuition, and ensure that the human side of your brand can ultimately be seen by your customers. By augmenting your data with your very formidable human talents, you’ll be positioning your business and your brand for continued success.

Alexandre Pelletier

CEO

A serial entrepreneur with more than 20 years of digital marketing experience, Alexandre is CEO and cofounder of Perkuto, a marketing consulting firm. A digital marketing thought leader, Alex often speaks at industry conferences including MarketIng Nation Summit, Search Marketing Expo and others. When he’s not helping clients impact revenue, Alex can be found riding his mountain bike, enjoying other outdoor activities and spending time with his four beautiful children.

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