MILAN: “Data is the beacon that should light up an audience-driven world,” according to Rob Norman – and the insights that can be derived from data can help brands succeed in the current environment of disruption and institution building.

Speaking at the recent IAB Europe Interact conference in Milan, Norman, the former head of GroupM and now advisor to WPP, assessed how marketers need to respond to the dominance of businesses like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Alphabet and Facebook – the five most valuable companies in the world, as measured by market capitalisation.

These five together employ fewer people than Walmart, he pointed out. “What’s happened is there is now an asymmetry of economic and technical power between these giant, data-driven enterprises and the rest of the world.”

These companies have become gatekeepers of both transactions and customer relationships, and can often know more about the behaviour of customers of enterprises than the enterprises do themselves, Norman said.  

And for all the concerns over data and privacy, he suggested that the value exchange between these companies and consumers is such that consumers are not asking for them to be regulated. (For more details, read WARC’s report: Surviving the Cloudburst: how marketers can take on the tech giants.)

Surviving and prospering in this environment requires marketers outside these giants to examine their own approach to data, Norman argued.

“The corporations that succeed are the ones that organise data about their brand, their category, their consumers and their prospects,” he said. “No company does not need to have insight into its consumers, competitors, channels, and customers.”

At the same time, brands have to consider how they can use such data to maintain relevance in a constantly changing world, especially in a communications world increasingly mediated by algorithms.

“They [algorithms] will surface the things most important to the consumer, the ones most likely to be used and acted on by the consumer, and most likely to generate outcome for the platform itself,” he stated.

And with voice interfaces becoming increasingly popular, “the idea that people don’t know how to ask for your brand by name sounds like a very dangerous place to be”.

Brands also will need to address the revolution in customer service and think about what their direct-to-consumer models might look like, Norman added.

If they don’t, then “[they] will not survive the Cloudburst that is the disruption and institution building at a scale we’ve never seen before”.

Sourced from WARC