Data is now an integral part of marketing. It is essential for developing your campaign creatively, knowing which channels to push them through, and for measuring. According to CMO Council Executive Director Donovan Neale-May, 42% of marketers have installed more than ten solutions across marketing, data, analytics or customer engagement technologies, over the course of the last five years, with 9% adopting more than 20.

Analytics tools are readily available and inexpensive. Yet while marketers can invest all the money they like in flash tools that pump out colourful reports, perhaps even with numbers exploding out of the screen and dancing on the desks, if no-one really understands what they’re doing with them, they may as well be grinding them up and using them to make paper mâché models of classic cars.

A new report from the CMO Council and RedPoint Global, has found that often, marketers are far less capable with their data than they might believe. The report notes that, ’While today’s omnichannel customers are more connected than ever before, organizations are failing to keep pace with customer expectations for frictionless experiences, despite the multitude of data, analytics and engagement systems in place.’ Their survey found that 7% of the marketers said they deliver real-time, data-driven engagements across both physical and digital touchpoints.

Simply put, many marketers do not know what data they have at their disposal, and they don’t know how to use it. Marketers in this new environment have to be great consumers and interpreters of data to enable them to make the right calls, and at the moment such practitioners appear to be few and far between. This is not an easy task, and will likely require investment in training and reskilling. Chief Marketing Officers also need to look at changing the make-up of their teams, and looking again at the fundamental criteria they want from prospective employees to put a greater onus on those who are highly numerate and technically minded – those with backgrounds in maths, engineering and sciences.

WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell once said ‘the future of advertising and marketing services belongs as much to Maths Men (and women) as it does to Mad Men.’ Companies need to realize how important data is for the success of their marketing campaigns and invest not just in the tools, but in the people equipped to analyze and use data. We asked five experts from the world’s leading brands to explain how they significant data had been for their marketing efforts.

Chris Grabarkiewicz-Davis PhD, Director of Consumer Insights at Luxottica

Big data has allowed us to collect and analyze more information than ever, which has substantiated marketing’s value in two ways. First, adopting business mix modeling has given the marketing team a seat at the executive table. The finance and marketing teams have a common language and set of expectations about how marketing drives the business. Secondly, analytics has quantified the dollar value of excellent marketing for the C-Suite at Luxottica. While this is not surprising, it has fundamentally changed the way executives view marketing. So, marketing analytics used judiciously should empower marketing teams used poorly can also hurt the team.

Dominic Williamson, Marketing Science Lead at Facebook

The wealth of data available to marketers has allowed for more informed targeting and greater efficiency. This also means more accountability across the board. As marketers come to appreciate the value of this there has been a shift in mindset and a sense of rationalism has swept the industry. Old habits die hard but the inherent value of correctly using data is moving from a competitive advantage to a pre-requisite for marketers.

Eric Farng, Technical Lead Data Scientist at YP

The shift from simple daily automated bidding to real-time bidding has created a wealth of data for advertisers to use to better inform marketing strategies and ways to measure success. There are literally billions of pieces of data that can be analyzed through algorithms that suit an advertiser’s needs. When combined with mobile location data, this information can be used to track the effect of mobile advertising spend on real conversions and in-store revenue. At YP, we share this information via a Store Visit Report, and it’s something that was unimaginable 10 years ago.

George Sadler, Senior Director of Marketing Analytics at eBay

The bar is continually being raised re: demonstrating impact. We used to say that ‘half of our marketing dollars are a waste, I just don’t know which half.’ Now we are asking ‘which dollar is a waste… and why?’ We can’t always answer this question, but that’s the bar.

Jessica Williams, Global Innovation Marketing & Analytics Leader At Visa

Data and analytics has really expanded our understanding of the consumer and had given us the opportunity to make decisions faster when optimizing our marketing efforts. We have brought on some new marketing technology platforms that allow us to have a single source of truth for our data and see all our data in one place. With this, we can see what is working and where we should be spending our money for the most efficient and effective marketing.