In Praise of a ‘Workhorse’ — by Identifying One
What’s a workhorse?
I found this reference in a 2016 article on tech startups and private finance:
“Workhorses are smart, tough, sturdy, dependable, docile and patient. They are strong, even in the presence of a storm. Workhorses are durable and adaptable. Oh, and workhorses aren’t mythical.
Think of the workhorse as an evolved unicorn. The unicorn is of mythical value. The horn was useless and the magic isn’t real. Workhorses are evolved in that they are producers of fundamental value. They do real work and solve real problems.”
In aviation, for example, the “workhorse” of global and transcontinental passenger travel just had its U.S. retirement: the only Boeing 747 still at work with a U.S. carrier is Air Force One. As much as I love 777s and Dreamliners, I’m actually going to miss the iconic jet. Check out this experiential marketing event in December from Delta, that’s quite a sendoff.
Jump to advertising — and we’re quick to see last night’s televised Super Bowl and this month’s Olympics as workhorses for mass marketing … even as they have their more targeted digital and social brand extensions.
Then there’s data-driven marketing.
According to eMarketer, digital overtook television in total media spending for the first time in 2017 — with digital capturing $4 of every $10 spent on all media … and what’s the “new” workhorse within digital?
Well, if measured by total spend, the answer is display advertising — which overtook search spending as the largest digital format last year. Both display and search are data-driven, with behavioral and contextual data providing the targeting parameters, but video display has come on the scene fast and is three-fourths as large as banner display. Mobile is also a significant driver — mobile spend is twice as high as desktop/laptop, says eMarketer. Programmatic drives the bulk of digital display purchasing.
Media spend on digital display also will overtake total direct mail spending this year, says Winterberry Group — with $42.3 billion to be spent on mail advertising, and $47.2 billion to be spent on digital display. Debates are welcome on which of these categories produce greater response, greater ROI and more efficient cost-per-action.These metrics matter — so test, test and test.
My take-away from all this media-this-and-that is that the real workhorse of data-driven marketing — and perhaps soon all of advertising (or branded storytelling, some industry folks now eschew the term “advertising”) — is neither digital display, television or direct mail at all ... it is data itself, as in data-driven.
Po-tay-to, po-tah-to. Media preferences may come and go, ebb and flow, but a reverence for data keeps the whole industry flying high, getting brands and customers from Point A to Point B, together, and creating value and experiences in the process. Like a Boeing 747.
Yes, data is today’s — and tomorrow’s — workhorse. And workhorses demand recognition and respect. The entire advertising ecosystem must embrace this concept, protect and preserve how and why data serves the customer, build and protect consumer trust, and prevent artificial barriers that impugn on the brand-customer value exchange.
Let workhorses work.