Is Customer Data the New Marketing Battleground?

Is Customer Data the New Marketing Battleground?

Written by: Peter Lavers

The new marketing battleground: why?

I believe Marketing and CRM are experiencing their most exciting period in history. Certainly since my first involvement with them (over 3 decades ago)!

Why? Because, only now is it becoming economically viable, to unlock the incredible value, that’s often hidden in inaccessible and disconnected company databases.

Improved data management is a tremendous benefit to many corporate disciplines. Supply chain, stock/inventory management, finance, risk/compliance & logistics to name a few. But, my specialism is Customer Management. So, it’s in this field that I’d like to address some opportunities. Ones that will deliver commercial benefits and improved competitiveness for your business.

In this blog, I’ll set out why data is the new Marketing battleground. Then, discuss how analytics is the weapons guidance systems needed to win the battle. I’d like to apologise here to any pacifists reading this blog. I know that marketing isn’t life & death, and do not wish to promote corporate aggression. But, there are some great analogies that I’d like to draw out!

The new marketing battleground: wake up to it

For decades, we marketers, had to rely on Market Research to tell us things that we should already know about our customers. For instance: their value, loyalty and buying patterns. I remember wondering why a company, that stored the date of birth of all its customers, needed to pay an external agency to ask them how old they were!

We did this, of course, because it was easier and cheaper to keep asking ‘dumb’ anonymous questions than to connect our own data. Data which was often jealously guarded in fiefdoms or business silos. This situation can still exist. I’ve seen too many data warehousing projects torpedoed, not because of the technical challenges, but by internal politics.

In my professional lifetime, CRM systems, loyalty programmes, e-commerce, mobile/digital, instant feedback, and social listening have joined our customer engagement arsenals. But, in many instances, bolting them on as new and separate silos. This adds complexity and inconsistency to the customer experience.

It’s time to recognise that all these are about data. Each is both a consumer and producer of customer-related data. Indeed, so are all the ‘traditional’ sales, marketing, and customer service channels. “87% of Marketers believe that data is their most underutilized asset” (Forbes Teradata, 2015).

The new marketing battleground: break down silos

I’ve enjoyed spectating, on opposing arguments about the impact of loyalty programmes. Which improves actual customer retention and value? Yet, both sides agree, these programmes generate useful data! There are lots of similar academic arguments, about the veracity of differing tools and approaches. The truth is that they all could work, if there is the business will to break down the silos and  supply accurate, usable data.

Related: Research Teams: Are You Curating a Big Picture?


This is why I would assert that customer data is the new marketing battleground. I passionately believe, that companies will win more share of attention (and wallet) if they overcome their internal barriers.  Connecting their data and deploying it through all their marketing tools (their arsenal). Thus improving personalisation and immediacy.

It’s also why I’m an IBM Futurist and am going to be attending the SAS Analytics Experience conference in Amsterdam in October. These should help practitioners take big steps towards achieving these goals.

Data isn’t a weapon in itself – it needs to be generating insight that directs deployment. My next blog will consider the Customer Management ‘battlefronts’ (the drivers of value). Plus, the way in which analytics are the ‘weapons guidance systems’, to realise hard commercial benefits.

The new marketing battleground: does that work for you?

Thanks to Peter for those thoughts. I can see the battleground analogy and it leaves me wondering whether AI is the new use of battle drones?

More seriously, I’d concur that often the impact of insight in organisations limited by silos. More often than technology or technical skills being the answer, it’s about people & culture. Perhaps working with people and softer skills is the new peacemaking, in this new world?

Paul Laughlin
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Paul is the founder of Laughlin Consultancy, a business that enables companies to maximize the value of their customer insight. This includes growing their bottom line, improv ... Click for full bio

Here’s Why Bitcoin Won’t Replace Gold So Easily

Here’s Why Bitcoin Won’t Replace Gold So Easily

What a week it was.

First and foremost, I’d like to acknowledge the horrific mass shooting that occurred in Las Vegas, the deadliest in modern American history. On behalf of everyone at U.S. Global Investors, I extend my sincerest and most heartfelt condolences to the victims and their families.

The memory of the shooting was still fresh in people’s minds during last Tuesday’s Hollywood premiere of Blade Runner 2049, which nixed the usual red carpet and other glitz in light of the tragedy. Before the film, producers shared poignant words, saying that in times such as these, the arts are crucial now more than ever.

I had the distinct privilege to attend the premiere. My good friend Frank Giustra, whose production company Thunderbird Entertainment owns a stake in the Blade Runner franchise, was kind enough to invite me along. Despite the somber mood—a pivotal scene in the film even takes place in an irradiated Las Vegas—I thought Blade Runner 2049 was spectacular. Even if you’re not a fan of the original 1982 film, it’s still worth experiencing in theaters. Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch’s synth-heavy score is especially haunting.

CNET recently published an interesting piece examining the accuracy of future tech as depicted in the original Blade Runner, from androids to flying cars to off-world travel read the article here.

Still in the Early Innings of Cryptocurrencies

Speaking of the future, I spoke on the topic of the blockchain last week at the Subscriber Investment Summit in Vancouver. My presentation focused on the future of mining—not just of gold and precious metals but also cryptocurrencies.

Believe it or not, there are upwards of 2,100 digital currencies being traded in the world right now, with a combined market cap of nearly $150 billion, according to

Obviously not all of these cryptos will survive. We’re still in the early innings. Last month I compared this exciting new digital world to the earliest days of the dotcom era, and just as there were winners and losers then, so too will there be winners and losers today. Although bitcoin and Ethereum appear to be the frontrunners right now, recall that only 20 years ago AOL and Yahoo! were poised to dominate the internet. How times have changed!

It will be interesting to see which coins emerge as the “Amazon” and “Google” of cryptocurrencies.

For now, Ethereum has some huge backers. The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA), according to its website, seeks to “learn from and build upon the only smart contract supporting blockchain currently running in real-world production—Ethereum.” The EEA includes several big-name financial and tech firms such as Credit Suisse, Intel, Microsoft and JPMorgan Chase, whose own CEO, Jamie Dimon, knocked cryptos a couple of weeks ago.

To learn more about the blockchain and cryptocurrencies, watch this engaging two-minute video.

Understanding blockchain in two minutes

Will Bitcoin Replace Gold?

Lately I’ve been seeing more and more headlines asking whether cryptos are “killing” gold. Would the gold price be higher today if massive amounts of money weren’t flowing into bitcoin? Both assets, after all, are sometimes favored as safe havens. They’re decentralized and accepted all over the world, 24 hours a day. Transactions are anonymous. Supply is limited.

Have gold and bitcoin peaked for 2017

But I don’t think for a second that cryptocurrencies will ever replace gold, for a number of reasons. For one, cryptos are strictly forms of currency, whereas gold has many other time-tested applications, from jewelry to dentistry to electronics.

Unlike cryptos, gold doesn’t require electricity to trade. This makes it especially useful in situations such as hurricane-ravished Puerto Rico, where 95 percent of people are reportedly still without power. Right now the island’s economy is cash-only. If you have gold jewelry or coins, they can be converted into cash—all without electricity or WiFi.

Finally, gold remains one of the most liquid assets, traded daily in well-established exchanges all around the globe. Every day, some £13.8 billion, or $18 billion, worth of physical gold are traded in London alone, according to the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA). The cryptocurrency market, although expanding rapidly, is not quite there yet.

I will admit, though, that bitcoin is energizing some investors, especially millennials, in ways that gold might have a hard time doing. The proof is all over the internet. You can find a number of TED Talks on bitcoin, cryptocurrencies and the blockchain, but to my knowledge, none is available on gold investing. YouTube is likewise bursting at the seams with videos on cryptos.

Bitcoin is up 350 percent for the year, Ethereum an unbelievable 3,600 percent. Gold, meanwhile, is up around 10 percent. Producers, as measured by the NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index, have gained 11.5 percent in 2017, 23 percent since its 52-week low in December 2016.

Related: Gold and Bitcoin Surge on North Korea Fears

Look Past the Negativity to Find the Good News

The news is filled with negative headlines, and sometimes it’s challenging to stay positive. Take Friday’s jobs report. It showed that the U.S. lost 33,000 jobs in September, the first month in seven years that this happened. A weak report was expected because of Hurricane Irma, but no one could have guessed the losses would be this deep.

The jobs report wasn’t all bad news, however. For one, the decline is very likely temporary. Beyond that, a record 4.88 million Americans who were previously sitting out of the labor force found work last month. This helped the unemployment rate fall to 4.2 percent, a 16-year low.

Have gold and bitcoin peaked for 2017

There’s more that supports a stronger U.S. economy. As I shared with you last week, the Manufacturing ISM Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose to a 13-year high in September, indicating rapid expansion in the manufacturing industry. Factory orders were up during the month. Auto sales were up. Oil has stayed in the relatively low $50-a-barrel range, which is good for transportation and industrials, especially airlines. Small-cap stocks, as measured by the Russell 2000 Index, continue to climb above their 50-day and 200-day moving averages as excitement over tax reform intensifies.

These are among the reasons why I remain bullish.

One final note: Speaking on tax reform, Warren Buffett told CNBC last week that he’s waiting to sell assets until he knows the plan will go through. “I would feel kind of silly if I realized $1 billion worth of gains and paid $350 million in tax on it if I just waited a few months and would have paid $250 million,” he said.

It’s a fair comment, and I imagine other like-minded, forward-thinking investors, buyers and sellers will also wait to make huge transactions if they can help it. Tax reform isn’t a done deal, but I think it has a much better chance of being signed into law than a health care overhaul.

Frank Holmes
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Frank Holmes is the CEO and Chief Investment Officer of U.S. Global Investors. Mr. Holmes purchased a controlling interest in U.S. Global Investors in 1989 and became the firm ... Click for full bio