By Mariama Holman
Pierre DeBois is a digital marketing strategist, writer and founder of Zimana, a web analytics and digital marketing strategy services company based in Gary, Indiana.
DeBois has written for AllAnalytics.com, CMS Wire and a variety of other business publications on best practices in digital analytics. As an industry thought leader, he is considered one of the top Big Data Executives and Experts to Follow on Twitter by CEO World.
Given how informed Pierre is on anything and everything concerning digital marketing analytics, we wanted to share his thoughts on the future of marketing with you.
PA.O: Thanks for your time, Pierre. What triggered your interest in marketing and analytics?
Pierre DeBois: Happy accidents. I always wanted to start a business, but my initial idea was a venture capital firm that specialized in serving minority businesses. When I had an opportunity to help a relative’s contract firm several years ago through analytics, I learned how Web analytics held a potential to catch small businesses (and large) at a critical moment – in executing marketing strategy.
PA.O: From your point of view, how is programmatic advertising changing the world?
Pierre DeBois: It is forcing marketers to rethink strategy for the long term. Developing a programmatic strategy infers a sensibility of which customer behaviors and company activities are consistent. This means evaluating not only customer response to marketing, but how your business will respond. That’s changing how businesses seek to grow. Acquisitions are still a part of business strategy, but developing robust internal operations to support a market is increasingly expected to remain profitable. Analytics and data mining are essential in this instance.
PA.O: What systems and ways of thinking are being completely disrupted by the prevalence of big data and digital analytics?
Pierre DeBois: I think expectations of how a business should grow has changed. Business growth through acquisition is not the only way a business can scale. Robust analytics is proving that it is key for a business to scale. One look at the retail sector tells the tale. One of my writer colleagues at All Analytics noted in an article how Amazon and Walmart are in a price war using software solutions to monitor financial performance. More retail competitors are spending on similar solutions to keep up. So, it’s not about the acquisition, it’s about deploying smart software strategically to scale your business well.
PA.O: I see, it is not just acquiring smarter, but operating smarter. How are marketing and analytics affecting our culture?
Pierre DeBois: I think we are considering how privacy should be best managed. No, I am not going to say privacy is gone. I am saying it’s now managed.
As a society, we are starting to question when the opt-in is not available. That is a good outlook, because we start to question why we do something. Chris Rock once joked that you can learn to drive with your feet, but that doesn’t make it a good idea.
PA.O: What might be some of the largest growth areas for digital advertising?
Pierre DeBois: The growth will correlate with where digital media will appear. Contextual marketing will be used as beacons and become more widespread. Having advertising trigger by proximity will bring new branding opportunities, as well as challenge companies in highlighting the tipping point where they are becoming too invasive.
PA.O: In your opinion, what are some significant trends emblematic of how today’s advertising philosophy is changing? Do they align with what you believe to be the most effective methods of communicating?
Pierre DeBois: I think companies are becoming less pushy or biased in their salesmanship. There will be more questions as to how to best deploy a campaign, though some of the perceived pushiness will remain. At the end of the day, achieving sales is about a call to action to the customer. I like the strategy development that goes into analytics, and I’ve found that the rethinking of how to connect meshes well with what I hope to accomplish.
PA.O: Can you tell us about any campaigns over the past year that have caught your attention? Why did they stand out to you?
Pierre DeBois: I really liked how Oreo found a way to engage fans with social media. Many brands have, but the difference is that Oreo was still benefiting long after the brief blackout in Super Bowl XLVII with their Dunk in the Dark. They were spot on with using Vine effectively.
NASA found a way to leverage the selfie craze with a #GlobalSelfie campaign. It’s not a rocket, but it did re-inject the organization into social circles as a way to extending interest.
Twitter mishandles, like the New England Patriots Jersey incident and DiGiorno Pizza inserting itself into the #WhyIStayed campaign, are reminders for brands to really be in sync with social media dialogue.
PA.O: Who are those individuals/companies who are really on the edge, pushing the envelope in digital advertising from an analytics standpoint?
Pierre DeBois: If I had to pick, I’d say I like Stéphane Hamel of Cardinal Path. He is a favorite in the digital analytics space because of his WASP plugin. But he, along with others, has helped the Google Analytics Plus page flourish into a vibrant community.
There are a lot of people that make a difference in analytics. Thomas Davenport and Avinash Kaushik are great. I am eternally grateful to Google’s Justin Cutroni. He, along with Dave Winslow and the EpikOne team, trained me years ago. Gabrielle Endress-Balhiser crushes Adobe Analytics. That community spirit is the beauty of it.
PA.O: Wearable tech is really starting to take off this year – we’re seeing everything from iWatch hype to mood-changing clothing, activity monitors and beyond. Do you have any favorites?
Pierre DeBois: I don’t have a favorite yet. I’m watching the developer community to see how any wearable-related SDKs (software development kits) are influencing frameworks and coding inspirations. That part excites me more. There are a ton of developer happenings, and I’ve attended some nice meet-ups in the Chicago area in which developers display what they have learned.
PA.O: What do you think the digital marketing industry might be like 50 years from now?
PA.O: What excites you about the future? What are you looking forward to?
Pierre DeBois: Good question. I think it’s about figuring out how to solve social problems and understanding how things are correlated. Or, if they even are. We may be living longer, but we’ll start to have tools that make managing our lives a bit easier. Or we’ll have Skynet. But I’d rather stay optimistic.
PA.O: What are some of your concerns about the future?
Pierre DeBois: I am very concerned about ensuring that small businesses have affordable access to a marketing strategy that will help their businesses flourish.
I am also worried about how technology has influenced social issues. I am keeping up with digital events related to Ferguson and the #Blacklivesmatter movement. There was news this year about the Supreme Court’s consideration of how a mobile phone is treated in a police search. These issues and how they are challenged will impact how the public views technology, and that will influence the kind of behavior brands have.
I am also interested in Sony – how a hacking has aired all their dirty laundry and changed a business decision (The Interview). I’m not losing sleep on Sony, but it does fascinate me.
PA.O: Every generation has its game changers – those people like the Steve Jobs’ of the world. What would you like to tell our next generation of marketing and analytics innovation?
Pierre DeBois: Have a sense of how things shift and how issues are nuanced, because those nuances will be key in solving problems – be it branding or social causes.