Data Data Everywhere…   

For many, big data projects proved to be big problems, but it opened minds to a new universe. Bankers were led to believe there was a data point for everything—accessible for just one high-high fee. 

We knew what was possible. We heard stories of tools that promised to easily find the needle in the haystack. To this, we added our hopes and dreams. 

But a strange translation happened. Both because of our own leanings and promises of vendors, we began to think “if we can’t use our own data, let’s just see what we can buy—the same data must exist out there somewhere.” 

Surely, we can analyze our data and predict when someone’s about to leave our bank.

If that’s true, we should be able to determine when someone is leaving another bank.

I bet we can buy a list of people looking for mortgages right now! 

Most of us have to fight for every marketing dollar we’re entrusted with. We’re looking for budget efficiency wherever possible. We want to avoid the situation articulated in John Wanamaker’s famous quote: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” 

The lure of a magical process that can ensure we’re making the most of every dollar is irresistible. 

Digital Snake Oil 

Marketers weren’t just assuming this data was available. We were actively being misled. 

A few years ago, I interviewed Cassie Giovanni on the Marketing Money Podcast. When we spoke, Cassie was Head of Marketing for Savings Institute Bank & Trust Company in Connecticut. She’d just ended a contract with a service that claimed to provide an artificial intelligence engine powered by machine learning that would deliver ads to very specific potential clients. It promised to dynamically design ads individually targeted to a person’s financial needs. After a look behind the curtain, Cassie determined this system was powered by hopes and dreams, but nothing was actually happening. 

You can listen to the podcast here.

This is an egregious example of a bad actor misleading a client. But we fall for these bad actors all the time. We want to avoid waste, and our well-meaning attempts to do so can unwittingly undermine our potential success. 

Echoes of Efficiency

Not all data promises were lies, but many marketers were led astray. It boggles the mind to speculate how many marketing dollars were wasted between 2012 and 2019 chasing unicorns. 

Why do brand advertising when my cable outlet promises 1:1 data on folks looking to switch bank accounts? 

Why build name-i.d. and awareness when we can buy a list of high-net worth individuals looking to buy CDs? 

Instead of playing to win, banks played to avoid losing. We were promised easy-to-justify campaigns. It all sounded too good to be true, and it was. 

As in all things, it’s best to find a balance—which we’ll cover in the third and final chapter.