By Stephen Zorio
For Chris Matyszczyk, the intersection of marketing and technology is very familiar ground.
The “multi award-winning executive creative director with some of the most celebrated advertising agencies in the world” is also a prominent CNET contributor. His Technically Incorrect column has provided an “irreverent, sarcastic, and sometimes ironic” take on technology since 2008.
So, when we wanted an opinion on the rise of data in marketing, Matyszczyk was a natural choice. Except … it wasn’t totally “natural”: We ran a query for content marketing influencers on Appinions and Mr. Matyszczyk was the first name on the list.
That happy outcome only reinforced the idea that he was someone we wanted to hear from — and he was kind enough to answer our questions. Read on for his thoughts on what data can reveal, what readers are clamoring for and how he uses data.
Q: How is the rise of data (and both its increasing accuracy and immediacy) beneficial for content strategy and marketing?
Oh, data can be immediate. I wonder, though, about accuracy. It’s beneficial only when those who are looking at it interpret it in an accurate way, rather than treating it as some deep picture of fact. It can help in uncovering ways in which people think and act that might be unexpected. It can direct you to understand that your own assumptions might be false. It can also show you more immediately the reactions of people to your work.
Q: What do you think content creators and marketers will be able to do better, and how will readers and consumers benefit?
Readers and consumers have so much more choice than they used to. Once upon a time, editors and creators could dictate what would be seen and where. Some of this might have been ignored by readers, but they didn’t have too many options.Now, there is a greater chance to not only track where and how readers go about their daily lives (which may be logical or not) and to show them that the creator or marketer respects them enough to understand that.
Q: Alternately, what risks does the rise of data present? What does that mean for readers and consumers?
As with any data, the biggest risk is to slavishly believe that numbers are the whole story. The data would have never suggested that ’50 Shades Of Grey’ would be some stellar human exercise. I wonder whether it would have immediately declared that ‘Harry Potter’ would capture the imaginations of kids worldwide. If you slavishly follow the data, you’ll produce fodder.
Indeed, the biggest risk of all is that the prevalence of data will (and already does) absolve executives from making actual decisions. Data gives them an excuse. It gives them a post-rationalization for why things went wrong. And they know it before they even go into a project, which means they’re more likely to be dictated to by the numbers from the start.
Q: Has data played a larger role in your work as a consultant and, if so, have you found it to be useful?
I tend to work mostly outside of the data, in an area where new ideas are needed, current ideas need to be evaluated for their ineffectiveness. I’ll listen to what the data’s offering. But there are always questions that come out of it. A classic example of the limitations of data are dating sites. You’d think that with the relevant information, you could find a perfect match with little trouble. It seems, though, that people largely look at the pictures and create their own version of what this person must be like.
Q: How can marketers and content creators set themselves up to take advantage of what data offers and avoid its potential pitfalls?
As with any piece of information, it’s up to those who are creating to use it for enlightenment, not as an excuse for decision-making. Perhaps one day (even soon) we’ll be living in an instant gratification world entirely constructed around robotic principles. It hasn’t quite arrived yet.