Kaitlin Dunn Troutman
VP, Marketing & Customer Experience
Originally featured on Association of National Advertisers (ANA)
Brands are aware of the need to be first-party data-driven, yet many of their data strategies have not progressed far enough in this direction. Google's plans to end third-party cookie support have put brands on the clock. The larger privacy trend, of which cookie deprecation is just one component, should have brands exploring solutions that will allow them to maintain and evolve their marketing data strategies with the changing times.
With a limited amount of time until the foundational technology of online ad targeting largely disappears, many brands have waited.
While there are many reasons for the delay, one may be so common that it's probably not getting enough attention ― high turnover. Data strategy execution develops over time, and marketing departments simply aren't sticking around long enough to see plans through.
High turnover leads to lock in
The unfortunate truth of a fast-moving industry is that turnover in the marketing department can sometimes outpace the rate of marketing strategy implementation. Leadership churn is accelerating, as median CMO tenure at top advertisers was just 25.5 months in 2020, down from 30 months in 2019.
Even before the great resignation, which further empowered qualified employees to look for a new job that aligned with their wants and needs, marketing jobs had the highest turnover rate at 17 percent back in 2018. Another 4As study in 2016 found that the advertising industry had a net talent loss of 25 percent, year-over-year, compared to competitive industries.
What does this have to do with data? When someone joins a marketing organization, that team likely already had a data strategy in place, complete with vendors and approved internal data management practices. The decisions may have been made by the new employee's predecessor, or even that person's predecessor, creating an uphill battle.
New team members were hired for a reason and will be well-versed in effective data practices, but they may not have the ability to sell their ideas internally. If the execs holding the purse strings feel that they've already checked the boxes when it comes to first-party data, it's hard to create a sense of urgency for change.
From the marketers' perspective, it might be possible to create change, but the task is too hard. Burnout is real, and the pandemic has exacerbated things. It may be easier to try to make it work within the current framework rather than fight, especially if it comes at the cost of other strategic initiatives.
What brands end up with is data lock-in, where the strategy, tech, partners, and the data itself is all beholden to agreements that may have been in place long before any existing team members joined. Imagine if your data strategy stopped evolving past 2016. That makes innovation and evolution feel out of reach.
Turnover is an organization challenge, affecting new hires entering at the leadership level, mid-level managers, and day to day marketing operations. Leadership is ultimately accountable for creating clarity on a brand's first-party data goals, but finding and vetting partners and managing integration is often the role of mid-level managers.
Whether it's a new hire, or a more established team member who has inherited a stale data strategy, leadership owns the critical first step of clearly understanding, defining, and communicating brand data strategy.
New and experienced leaders should take it upon themselves to dig in on current state, existing partners, and the long-term organizational goals. There's a long list of questions to answer: Do those partners offer solutions that meet data strategy needs? Is the structure of the team aligned to fully utilize those tools? Does the team have knowledge and resources to execute both short- and long-term strategies to remain agile when facing marketing challenges, while keeping future goals in mind?
Once leadership understands what they have in place already, they can align data services and support with current market challenges. Leadership must communicate the ideal state and empower teams to meet goals. Direct managers and senior leadership need to work together to understand the greater business goals that marketing is supporting, and then how marketing data supports those goals.
Selling through change
Armed with a clear understanding, the marketing department can better allocate budget to the partners and systems that will support the organization with its wider goals. With strong leadership and rationale to back it up, new team members can more easily identify opportunities for adjustment and bring fresh ideas.
Mid-level managers and day-to-day operational team members should explore with colleagues and peers how the current data partners and systems are working. Assess the level of day-to-day support, annual expense, compliance, and security measures.
The next step is getting to know the partner directly. New and existing hires should ask for a capabilities overview, ensuring the partners address market issues like the loss of cookies and any new product initiatives that are available.
Digging in may uncover that the current data partner is exactly what the brand needs, but the partnership is underutilized due to turnover. Of course, the opposite could be true, and the current platform may not provide the modernized capabilities for marketing in 2022 and beyond.
Empowering people and strategy
Next steps could include additional investment in existing partners or identifying and integrating with new partners. Either way, continuing to empower teams to meet modern data goals is imperative. Brands that feel like they're behind the times with future-proofing their data strategy need to put systems in place where the marketing department can drive change from the bottom up.
In the end, brands need to remember that their marketing is reliant upon data partnerships, and not simply data service providers. When marketing teams are simply expected to use the systems that previous regimes put in place, with little incentive to change, then it becomes that much harder to get teams to stay in place. Turnover makes it even harder to update a strategy and make sure it aligns with not only the current needs, but the future as well. It's in brands best interest to be flexible with their data providers and empower their marketing departments to start making the changes needed to modernize their strategy.
Interested in learning about how Alliant solutions can assist in your brand's data strategy? Reach out to us to gain insights for ensuring future-proofed data strategies.