Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Between Kandinsky and Greenspan

Nowadays the practice of Data is oscillating between two application extremes that I call the “Kandinsky” and the “Greenspan” paradigm. The “Kandinksy” paradigm focuses on the visual beauty and artful representation of data insights to democratize them across a multitude of recipients. The “Greenspan” paradigm focuses on the ultimate questions of marketing ROI and effectiveness. Both paradigms need to be able to live productively in any successful data practice. Unfortunately they rarely do.

Let me first explain briefly both paradigms before attempting a recommended approach of how to integrate them productively. The “Kandinsky” paradigm focuses primarily on visualization aspects of our data work. The emphasis is on designing the right composition of different data insights to unveil the hidden value across a vast amount of available information - all with the focus on impactful visual representation, therefore called Kandinsky. The “Greenspan” paradigm focuses on understanding of how any dollar spend on marketing activities can show a truly incremental margin that is equal the invested dollar. Unfortunately most marketing activities still don’t have this level of transparent accountability, therefore we need to rely quite often on directional proxies that build the best possible correlation between spend and positive financial impact.

Both very dichotic behaving paradigms can be integrated within one marketing team by following some simple sounding learnings:
  • Both paradigm practitioners can only start working on something if they have clearly identified a business issue or challenge. Too many marketers work on issues for which there is no well defined problem
  • Every paradigm outcome needs to have the power of changing something in our marketing strategy or tactics. If the outcome of our work will not change anything, then we should not start doing the work. Unfortunately most of our work is targeted at outcomes that change nothing
  • Every practitioner in both paradigms needs to strive for expanding the power of the particular paradigm systems instead of engaging into political useless debates of the merits of the individual paradigm. It’s all about improving and inventing, not about arguing.
  • The leader of the marketing team with both paradigms has to realize that there is no right or wrong, better or worse between both paradigms but the right paradigm for a particular challenge in specific situation. It’s about relevance, not about a philosophical truth

There are only a few marketers who enjoy working within both paradigms. The challenge is to always consider both paradigms as a particular unique discourse with its own rules, belief systems, and methodologies. It’s not about a dogmatic decision for one but about the interplay of very different and very useful systems.


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