Data Analytics: The Pandora’s Box Of Marketing


According to Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman created. Zeus, the king of the Greek gods, asked Hephaestus to make her out of earth and water. She was given many gifts by the mighty Greek gods, but not all of these gifts were considered “good.” (Note: the Greek gods were a bit mean-spirited) One such gift was curiosity.

Zeus, knowing of Pandora’s curiosity, gave her a locked jar (later mistranslated as a box) full of all the world’s evils. This present came with a key and a note, which read, “Do not open.” Alas, Pandora’s was overcome with curiosity and opened the jar releasing all the ills into the world. She quickly closed the lid, but only hope was left in the jar.

This myth, of course, was a fully loaded origin story. Do you recognize any parallels between this myth and the biblical story of Adam and Eve? On the surface, the myth of Pandora’s Box was a way of explaining how human beings came to be… our creation or origin. It also explained why bad things happen to us. Why is there evil in the world? Our ills are caused by the curiosity and disobedience of Pandora.

I have read several translations and interpretations of this myth, but there has not been mention of another seemingly obvious implication: the jar represented knowledge.

The creator of this myth wrote of a relationship between knowledge and evil, which has been a common theme of myths, fables and parables throughout the course of time. We have been taught that it is good to be obedient and bad to be curious.

Curiosity killed the cat?

Why would purveyors of information want to keep people in the dark? Preaching the virtuosity of obedience and against the acquisition of knowledge is a great way to keep us in line. It is no coincidence that totalitarian regimes burn books, censor communication and suppress competing ideology. It’s easier to influence the masses when no opposing opinions are expressed.

So, what do Greek mythology and the dark side of political strategy have to do with big data analytics? Everything.

Simply put, knowledge is power. Why do you think government and business entities are amassing petabytes of data on consumer behavior and communication? The cautionary theme of Pandora’s Box is to avoid being overwhelmed by the “evil” that comes from opening the box and overwhelmed is the term I hear people use to describe how they feel about all the data available to them today. That’s why we call it BIG DATA instead of just… data. It sounds more intimidating, doesn’t it?

We all accept the idea that data analyzed properly helps us make better decisions. And, better decisions lead to better outcomes. Until recently there has not been an easy and reliable way to gather data from all its sources and properly analyze it with solid metrics. We are truly in the golden age of information.

As a marketer, I’m interested in finding the answer to John Wanamaker’s famous quandary: "Half my advertising is wasted, I just don't know which half." Which marketing or communications tactics are really moving the needle?

More than ever before, marketers are expected to provide ROI or at least quantify the results of their marketing spend. This is just good business as the marketing budget is an investment the company makes to achieve certain business goals. Historically, every other department has been expected to report quantifiable results. Marketing was the only outlier... reporting soft metrics like awareness, preference and intent to purchase. Now, marketing has the ability (through the latest technology) to provide solid metrics, including ROI.

As a marketer, the good news is having access to accurate data and analysis makes your job easier. It makes you a better decision-maker and could quantifiably prove the age-old argument, “we need more budget!” Knowledge is power. It is time to commit and invest in data gathering and analytics technology.

There are a few good software options to assist marketers with harnessing and analyzing marketing and advertising data. I have partnered with Domino Decisions to help me with marketing intelligence and performance management, but as the old late-night commercials used to say: if you don’t get help here, get help somewhere.

Don’t be afraid to open Pandora’s Box. That’s where hope is.

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