NEW YORK: Successfully tapping into data can help marketing shed its image as a "cost centre" by more completely validating its contribution to business results, a leading executive from E*TRADE has argued.

Kerry Bianchi, the organisation's vp/media and acquisition, discussed this topic while speaking at Advertising Age's latest Data Conference.

And she revealed that the financial services provider – which is best known for its online brokerage platform – has, over the last two years or so, undergone a "sea change" in its approach to communications.

"That was to really get more analytical and quantitative about the way that we're approaching our marketing and advertising," Bianchi told the conference delegates.

One crucial driver of this process, she further ventured, was enthusiasm from high up inside the company for its marketers to make greater use of the swathes of statistics now on offer.

"The real impetus was the arrival of a new leadership team," said Bianchi. "And it was where they were willing to put their bets."

As an example of how this numerically inclined mindset has reshaped the landscape, she pointed to the use of data in budgeting, which through sophisticated modelling can incorporate a wide range of possibilities.

"You do lots of 'what if' scenarios," said Bianci, meaning that the models, among other things, can factor in increases or decreases in spending, or adding new channels into the mix.

And such a solution promises to add an enhanced element of flexibility into what, at many companies, can be a rather static undertaking.

"Typically, that's been a top-down discussion: we either have this much or we don't have this much," said Bianchi.

More broadly, adding these rigorous – and increasingly "scientific" – underpinnings to marketing could assist in altering negative perceptions of the discipline.

"Marketing is often looked at as a cost centre: it's part of the P&L that is an expense, a really, really big one," said Bianchi.

"And I think it's reframed the discussion because we've come to the table not only with what the expense is, but with different levels of expenditure investment, this is actually what we expect to return in terms of new accounts [and] new revenues.

"So we can say, 'Here's the impact. Here's the impact to the top line and the bottom line' when we have that discussion."

Data sourced from Warc