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The rise of the data scientist / Francis Wallinger, Chairman, Alchemetrics

by on September 19, 2013 in Apps, FaceBook, featured item, Google, iPhone, Lead story, LinkedIn, Metrics, Mobile Marketing, Pinterest, Research, Retail, Retail News, Social Media, Twitter

Everyone in today’s world lives and breathes data, whether they know it or not. Every time someone ventures online to peruse the latest fashion lines or checks on the football scores. Updating Facebook when out and about? Yep, data. Every single action one takes in the online sphere (a sphere ever-expanding into our lives day by day) leaves a data trail.

Some are private and confidential, as they should be, but some are less so. Cookies are the arch-example of the latter, tracking online movements and, in doing so, allowing advertisers to target customers with highly relevant product offerings. Whether you agree with this style of marketing is not the point – the point is that every single person creates trails of data through natural online activity as well as active engagement with brands and companies.

The size of these data trails is something that has been widely publicised of late; figures from a quick Google reveal that 90% of data in the world has been produced in the past two years alone. From the 204,000,000 emails that are sent every minute to the 684,000 posts uploaded to Facebook and 100,000 tweets, one could argue that we are drowning in data. Yet it is the recent emergence of a new role, especially relevant to the marketing industry, which is keeping our collective heads above the water – the Data Scientist. The creative industry is renowned for its free thinking innovations, yet the growth of digital marketing has thrown a spanner in the works for those who rely on brain power alone to engage with the modern consumer. Even today, when digital is a thoroughly established tenet of advertising, one will still find a distinct lack of crossover between creative and data driven marketing. It is the data scientist who is integral in bridging this gap for the benefit of agencies, brands and customers themselves.

The role requires a unique skill set, one that includes the ability to collate data effectively, analyse it in detail and report it succinctly. Yet it is the latter that set’s the data scientist apart from other experts in the field. Much like science communicators, the data scientist has the ability to effectively translate any results into actions that can drastically improve the creative marketing process, providing insights and information on a target audience that would otherwise have gone amiss. In no way is this to say that creative marketers can’t understand data results unless spoon-fed – rather it is crediting the data scientist with an uncanny knack for picking out the key stats that will allow a brand or an agency to home in on how to engage a customer.

The positive impact of such effective communication between two distinct marketing disciplines should not be underestimated. It provides the creative team with a far more in-depth idea of who their target customers really are. What are their passions and motives in life? What do they actually spend their time doing? How do they communicate and how often? These and a myriad of other questions can be answered with far more accuracy than ever before and it is this accuracy that can focus the creative process to a targeted end goal and produce something truly original and compelling.

Placing a data scientist amongst the ranks of strategists, copywriters, designers, creative directors and numerous other trades that make up modern marketing brands and agencies creates a far more intelligent and informed marketing process. Effective database use can achieve so much more than number crunching and statistical proof. Understanding this is the first step on the path to modern marketing practices. It will allow one to accurately determine when your audience really does log on to check the football results and how long they actually browse for clothes online. Once this point has been reached we won’t be drowning in data anymore, we’ll be thriving because of it.

Francis Wallinger, Chairman, Alchemetrics

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