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BW Businessworld

They Say ‘Data Is The

New Oil’ As cliché as this statement is about to become, it is imperative to understand where marketing and branding stand in a data-driven world…

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It made headlines when Mukesh Ambani, at a recent Nasscom Leadership Forum, said data is the new oil. The insight and the rationale the comment is rooted in, is itself not new — data has been touted as the new fuel for the longest time. However, when one of the sharpest minds in business, not just in India but globally, makes such a statement, after having already backed it in his company’s investments and business plans, there is a reminder of the role that data and information will play, as a quantifiable asset, for businesses in India.

Businesses and management consultancy firms are predicting that those in the valuation business, including equity analysts, will be compelled to consider information as a key component to value a company. But even as many corporates have prioritised data and built robust systems to capture and analyse data in meaningful ways — which is also where analytics comes into play — the information gathered is still not seen as a tangible business asset.

This is expected to change, as more formal practices come into play to enable that. In short, the game is set to go to a whole new level, leading to the question, what does this change in business mean for a brand. Over the years, information has helped in unlocking insurmountable value, and it has only accelerated lately. Information has helped brands in knowing their consumers well, and has created a path leading to better engagement. But as companies up their information game, branding and marketing professionals will have to gear up to go toe-to-toe in the solutions they bring.

Branding and marketing experts are already facing threat, not only from unlikely quarters such as startups and consultancy firms but from within the company as well. In the latter case, while this may well be the decade of chief marketing officers (CMO), their biggest foe, or friend, is the person in charge of data.
Hiring chief data officers (CDO) has already become a key agenda for companies that do not already have one. For many, the decade ahead will belong to the CDO. Arguably, for a short period, the CMO had seen similar challenge from the chief technology officer (CTO). That battle, or partnership, however, did not pan out in line with industry predictions. Companies continued to be comfortable with structures they knew, the old handbooks were tweaked to stay relevant, and if anything, the CMO’s role became more central.

But with time, CDO is slated to be a more evolved breed because unlike the cold and factual-sided technology, data can also be soft, creative and enterprising. Unless the CMO finds a way to continue playing the central role of stitching it all together, which would include sales, finance and technology, the future CMOs will not have much of a handbook to look at. There would be no more tricks to the trade; the trade itself will have to be unlearned and re-learned.

Data is akin to oil; data will play the role that electricity has played in powering a whole new life. In more absolute terms, it will become something that a company can capitalise on, in things such as valuation. The CMO will have to find a way to go deeper in that data lake, which is usually the domain of people who sound like they wear lab coats to work. The data scientists will have to sit with the CMOs team. And the CMO will need a degree more than just in marketing, while marketing nuances would have to be redefined once again.

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Magazine 08 March 2017 data centre opinion mukesh ambani