Gartner: ‘Are CMOs expecting “too much” of data?’

Are marketers at risk of relying too much on big data. That’s a question Gartner analysts Jake Sorofman and Andrew Frank raised this week in a post on the HBR Blog network.

They also revealed a new toolkit for CMOs that they call the Intelligent Brand Framework which Sorofman writes on his Gartner blog, is designed to help marketers “identify their power center, flex zones and areas of weakness as the foundation for purposeful, balanced thinking.”


On the earlier HBR Blog Sorofman and Frank describe an over reliance on data as “an artifact of our big data obsession

They say that while data is critical to developing strategy and bringing precision to execution it is content that makes the emotional connection with customers and consumers.

“That’s why we believe today’s data-obsessed marketers are at risk of cultivating only half a brain. Marketing leaders must remember that true brand intelligence lives at the intersection of head and heart, where the emotional self meets the analytical self.”

It’s a theme Sorofman pursued further a few days later. “Why is this so important? Because high-performing marketing organizations lead by both head and heart, exhibiting strength in a broad range of data-centric and human-centric competencies across both strategic and operational domains. “

Gartner’s Framework covers four competencies;

  • Data-centric is where data sources come together to help us see patterns, make predictions, take action, measure results, and correct courses to optimize strategies.
  • Human-centric is where data may play a role, but patterns are discerned and action is taken primarily through human judgment, emotion, intellect, and moments of inspiration.
  • Strategic is the domain of the “what” and the “why,” where marketers use a combination of data- and human-centric practices to hone in on the best ideas.
  • Operational is the domain of the “how,” where marketers use automation and human beings to deliver the right offers and experiences to the right customer at the right time toward the goal of optimizing engagement and conversion rates.

And the analysts stress that it is the intersection of these competencies where the real magic is found. The HBR piece explains these intersections in some detail.

As to the need for the framework, Sorofman suggests that marketers like everyone else in life are susceptible to what he describes as the inexorable force of the shiny object.

“It’s human nature to bow our heads faithfully to the gravitational pull of shiny and new. Social. Mobile. Big Data. The next new thing can become like the broaching humpback drawing overzealous whale watchers blindly to the starboard rail, as each passenger’s good-intentioned enthusiasm adds up to a precarious loss of balance.”

He suggests the same thing happens in marketing organizations pretty much all the time. “These shiny objects may not measure up to the majesty of mega fauna in full breach, but they do capture our collective attention and imagination perhaps more than you realize.”

The risk says Sorofman is irrational exuberance and inflated expectations for the areas of active investment,  and the corollary; under investment in the not so shiny and new.

“This imbalance is a silent threat to sustained marketing performance”

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