Have to start somewhere

I’ve been staring at this blank blog template for weeks, ever since my friend Brad Burnham told me to stop pestering him with my crazy theories and start blogging about them. That’s what the internet is for, isn’t it? Peppering the world with your crazy theories?

Procrastination set in.

Then I saw the Hal Varian interview in the Journal. Key quote: “marketing is the new finance.” Now that marketers have started to accumulate a vast amount of data, someone needs to make sense of it. More importantly, someone needs to systematize a way of making sense of it.

This isn’t a new problem. I remember talking to an exec at Accrue back in ’97, he told me the primary feedback he got on the product was that there was too much data for the customer to make sense of. Actually, the problem wasn’t even close to new then, either.

The flip side of the coin: the primary cliche of the advertising industry goes back to department store pioneer John Wanamaker: “I know I waste half the money I spend on advertising. The problem is, I don’t know which half.” More than a hundred years and some $20 trillion (I’m guessing here) of marketing spend later, this is still true, as far as anyone knows. Why is it true? Why is the marketing department the only place in the corporation that doesn’t have an automated quantify, report and improve system?

And, more to the point, if half of the $600 billion or so spent on marketing every year is wasted, the companies that can eliminate that waste can earn some piece of the savings.

This, generally, is what I’m going to write about. I don’t believe that marketing twenty years from now will resemble today’s marketing at all, not even a little bit. With the disclaimer that (i) I sincerely dislike most of today’s marketing, and (ii) I’m an optimist, I want to talk about what I think it will look like.