Posted by Michael Colombo

Maark was born into a digital world. Back in 2000, the project that formed the company was for a home builder who was struggling to turn the process of making McMansions into something as repeatable and efficient as making Happy Meals. We believed the Internet held the answer. If we could bring every function of the business along with every customer and laborer into a single online system, then we could keep the whole operation on the same page in real time. At the time, the concept was incredible.

In the years since, it’s become obvious. Connectivity is ubiquitous. Nearly every activity, whether personal or professional, that we engage in involves the Internet in some way. The Internet has transformed us, and we are just now learning how to harness that transformation. As with most breakthroughs, the answer lies in the data. The activity of individuals and machines connected to the Internet is storable, parseable…even predictable. If connectivity was the first breakthrough, this Asimovian calculus on the Internet’s data is at the heart of the next wave of breakthroughs.

We already see this wave taking shape. While hype around big data, the Internet of Things, machine learning, and artificial intelligence is at a fever pitch, the surprising reality is that we are already seeing real-world execution. Enhancements in autonomous vehicles, AI-driven cancer diagnoses, industrial robotics, and, of course, advertising are just a few areas where we are glimpsing the future of data-driven automation.

For Maark, that’s an exciting shift. At our core, we have always wanted to solve the business problems that would deliver the biggest impact for our clients. And in the digital world that Maark grew up in, we have always solved those problems with creative thinking and technology innovation. A better story, a simpler interface, a new digital product or service, a more relevant brand, a better experience. Creatives and technologists working together – literally side-by-side – to make a real impact. This was, and continues to be, the vision.

Marketing, to us, has never been about ad-making - it’s always been about innovating. And yet, as we look at this next wave of data-driven innovation, we see a new paradigm emerging. Our clients have the opportunity to rethink what it means to run a digital operation in a world that’s gone from mobile-first to data-first. Nowhere do we see this innovation opportunity more clearly than, ironically, in ad-making.

In a data-first world, every advertising tactic should be judged in terms of its capacity for real-time measurement and improvement. Will it help you better understand your customer? Your story? Your solution? Can you connect it to the rest of your data to create a complete profile of your customer or to build a better mousetrap? If not, don’t do it.

That’s not to say that in a data-first world the creative “first principles” of marketing no longer apply. They do. A relevant brand, a narrative built rigorously and used consistently across all channels, and engaging interactive content are more necessary than ever to rise above the din of competing messages. However, the strategies for driving engagement with those messages should now have at their core the channels that deliver the best data.

A great story and world class creative that ends up in a glossy, where the best metric is ‘impressions’, represents spend that cannot be optimized. Whereas true digital channels – search and social media – combine the power of data-rich platforms with direct customer engagement to deliver better insights about segmentation, efficacy, customer intent, and corrective market feedback. Better data will lead to better outcomes in the hands of the real-time, analytics-driven marketing operation.

What that really means for our B2B clients is that, ultimately, the return on their marketing investments is determined to a growing degree by their success in these true digital channels. Search engines offer insight into the mind of the customer; how they think about their needs, and where they are in the buying cycle. And social media is the marketplace of ideas where every brand needs to compete for space in the minds of their customers. Getting these channels wrong means lots of wasted resources. It also means a wasted opportunity to make data mastery a core capability of their digital organizations.

That’s why we’re so excited to help them get it right. We want to help drive digital operations. We want to help make a big impact. By bringing together integrated strategy, creative, technology, advertising, and analytics SWAT teams, we want to help our clients create the engaging content that tells their story, distribute it effectively in the search and social channels, collect and interpret the data that matters most, and respond in real time to the market’s feedback. We believe this is the opportunity for our clients. Creating the operation that executes on this opportunity is challenging. It’s this type of challenge that created our business.

It’s the reason we’re here.

Michael Colombo is the founder and CEO of Maark where he oversees the overall direction and development of the agency as it continues to build its brand as a leading marketing and innovation engine for its customers. He has served as the executive lead in programs including corporate rebranding, solution marketing, sales enablement, digital transformation, and new product design for Fortune 500 companies around the world.

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Photo credit: Paul Sableman