Star Rota, Insights Director, and Kenneth Kinney, VP of Marketing and Digital Strategy, discuss leveraging data to create actionable insights for better use in marketing and advertising.

Kenneth Kinney 0:13
Alright, Star, welcome to the Advanced Intelligence Show. We’re going to talk a lot about data and insights today. Really excited because we’re very heavy as a technology-enabled, data-centric company. But tell me what do you think insights means and should mean to the modern marketer today?

Star Rota 0:32
Well, first, thanks for having me. Insights definitely means a lot of things to different people. It’s become a buzzword so I’m glad you asked that question. Insights is really about a deeper understanding from data. I think sometimes there’s a misconception that it’s these little nuggets of information that are magical and will change your whole business, but it’s really about a holistic, deeper understanding. For modern marketers, that really means having something that is actionable and that can shape your strategy. It’s not enough, just to have an understanding of the data but what you do with it. It’s kind of like when you’re in school, and you have bottom of the essay and the conclusion. It’s the “so what.” You want to go beyond recapping everything, but how can it transform the business.

Kenneth Kinney 1:18
How do insights help tell and really build that story, especially with data? Because for us to glean anything from just what is going to be a large data dump, it really needs to help tell a story for marketers and how they view their measurement of their campaigns as well.

Star Rota 1:35
I think insights really are the story. Storytelling is a little subjective and you always hear it paired with insights. But it’s important to be objective. The process of deriving those insights allows you to be able to tell that story in two ways. You want to look at it from different perspectives, You can’t just look at it, the data, the way you normally do. And the other thing is, you have to take multiple sources of information into consideration because that helps you really build upon that “so what” analysis. Between those two factors, that helps you uncover what is happening and then from there, we can simplify.

Kenneth Kinney 2:13
How do you specifically do this in your role and help do that for clients?

Star Rota 2:19
Great question. It starts with the objective. You have to know what you’re doing before you get into it because it’s very easy to get lost in all the data. Part of that is asking a lot of questions. Clients don’t always know what they want to find out. It’s really important to understand the business goals. Then specifically, if they do know what they’re trying to do, what are the KPIs that surround that so you measured it. There are a lot of metrics. Everything seems important. You need to stay focused. From there, you want to do top-line exploratory analysis; look for outliers; make sure your data is correct; and then it requires a little creativity and sitting with the data so you can start to read it like another language.

Kenneth Kinney 2:57
Where do you see many marketers failing when leveraging this kind of data?

Star Rota 3:03
Good question. There are a few areas. I think the worst offender is shying away from data that they didn’t expect to see. There isn’t really bad data. Here’s what it is. So if it doesn’t look good, then that’s a learning. You want to use that to your advantage early on. Not mask it. Other than that, there’s a lot of requests for more data, but people don’t always leverage what’s at their disposal. Being able to really sort through everything you have helps, because more data can complicate the situation sometimes.

Kenneth Kinney 3:35
Another big concern that comes up is CCPA, GDPR conversations and all the different legislation going on with all the different states. What are really the concerns that you look at from a privacy standpoint, because this is becoming more the forefront of our industry. It’s it’s not going away?

Star Rota 3:53
Yeah, that’s a loaded topic. I think the biggest concern that people don’t really talk about, especially in the industry side, is the actual education piece. A lot of consumers don’t know how it works. Some ignore it and some care, but they don’t understand what’s happening. That goes into transparency. You want a way to see where all of your data is; who has it; and what they’re doing with it. That alone is a big feat. Then within that the supply chain is so complex, it makes it hard to track where data is going. Then there’s potential for leaks or hacks. So it’s scary, but on the same side the industry is evolving. There are things like going cookieless or informed consent that can help with that, but I think the biggest problem is that the industry isn’t regulated, not universally anyway. It varies globally and US companies are taking their own initiatives and approaches to solve it, but it’s not unified. So you never really know what you’re getting.

Kenneth Kinney 4:54
Even more so with Apple and Google and the changes they’re making a lot of that we become reliant, if you’re on the brand side, on good stewards in the industry like what we’re doing from a data privacy and compliance standpoint and making certain that you are good stewards with people’s data. Not enough is really being done with that. How can others really employ these insights that they create to use in a best practice setting?

Star Rota 5:27
It goes back to understanding objectives. That’s the most important thing. From there, you want to make sure you’re looking at everything available to you because it’s like you’re protected asset. You have to put together multiple pieces of information; really sit on it; think about it; and then poke holes in it. You want to play devil’s advocate. Being impartial is important. It’s confirmation bias, if you will. You can easily manipulate numbers to tell the story you want to tell. So it’s important to really take an objective approach and get other people’s input too on it.

Kenneth Kinney 6:00
What do you wish people would know more about insights, whether it’s on the brand side, on the agency side, the general public side that are the people that are consuming this data? What do you want people to know more about insights with data?

Star Rota 6:15
Great question. It takes some time, if done right. If it’s a quick turnaround, I’d be skeptical. Also, any numbers that look too good, I’d be skeptical. There’s always going to be little good and a little bad. You really have to take time to think about does this make sense and consider all factors because that analysis uses critical thinking. It’s not just the data in front of you. Those are numbers. To put it together to make an actionable decision, you really need to think about what are the implications of what you’re finding. The other thing is that it’s not always going to be 100% accurate. There’s a lot of challenges. We just spoke about it with data privacy. There’s a complex supply chain. It might not always be 100% accurate, but it’s always going to be more accurate than going off your intuition if it’s from data.

Kenneth Kinney 7:07
What’s your advice to the modern marketer as they start to build with all the different channels and tactics that we deal with if you think of Facebook and search, and all the other different channels? There a lot of walled gardens there. What’s your advice to someone on how to start building together that story so that you can create actionable steps out of the data and insights that we stitch together?

Star Rota 7:32
Great question. Stay out of the weeds. You’re going to want to look at every piece individually and that’s important, especially for the day to day campaign operationsm, but keep your business goals in mind. Look at things in aggregate. Something I like to do is you could use different statistical modeling, but very simple, just look at what’s happened for the quarter or the year and how has that changed year-over-year, quarter-over-quarter. Those growth trends correspond to your business goals and it’s an indicator of how are you doing. You’re never going to fully know, at least at this stage I shouldn’t say never, which individual piece is most impactful, but you can say holistically are we progressing towards our goals?

Kenneth Kinney 8:11
Especially when you consider that most models are broken considering the last couple of years of data that we’ve been looking at with the 2020 pandemic and everything else. It’s been been an interesting year of data and insights all together. Well, Star, thank you so much for being with us today on the Advanced Intelligence Show.

Star Rota 8:33
Thank you so much for having me.