George Musi is chief data, analytics and insights officer at Blue 449. Ahead of his appearance at IBM CDO Summit Fall we caught up with him to find out why he believes data is like a crude oil and how AI can help marketers to reach the right person with the right message at the right time in the right place under the right context, every time.
George Musi will be taking part in a keynote panel Getting Smart about AI - Strategies for Success in the Cognitive Era at IBM CDO Summit Fall which takes place from 14-15 November in Boston.
Can you tell us more about your role at Blue 449 and the agency itself?
“Blue 449 is a global boutique media agency that speciailizes in integrated marketing and communications strategies. Within that I run a multi-discipline capability that serves as an ongoing trusted advisor to clients and internal teams. Our Data and Analytics practice is supported by our Advanced Analytics Group, a highly skilled team with advanced degrees in fields ranging from statistics and applied mathematics to computer science, who apply state-of-the-art techniques, tools and technology to ensure that you derive powerful insights from your data.
We develop collaborative relationships with key decision makers based upon credibility, trust and value-creation. Our ultimate goal is to enlighten, empower and enable our clients to make timely, smarter decisions across the campaign life cycle & consumer decision journey to drive relevance, scale and performance.
We work with our clients to establish a finely tuned balance of investment styles that enable trade-offs (portfolio) of marketing activities. This provides a foundation of stable investments, while managing our client’s risk marketing tolerance and ensuring their long-term brand equity is not eroding, to help accomplish specific goals.”
You call yourself apart marketing scientist and part data alchemist. What do you believe are the essential ingredients around data and the best reaction that combining those ingredients can have?
“While Blue 449 believes in the ‘science’ of marketing analytics, ‘art’ (creative) retains an important role. We understand that the key is to find the right balance between the art and science of marketing, successfully blending creativity and the insights from marketing analytics and modeling to support sound and rational marketing decisions to help achieve specific business goals.
Blue 449 provides our clients with an effective mix of “right-brain/left-brain” (bringing a strategic and practical perspective on what will work for our clients) and operates at the intersection of data and ideas.
Marketers should not let the data or model learnings completely overrule their human instincts and experience. They should use data and model insights to inform their strategic, tactical and operational decision-making. The human factor should remain one of the most critical parts. Marketing leaders need to strike the right balance between and art and science of marketing (which is a journey of balance that requires continuous practice, continuous study) to fuel decisions, which in turn leads to sustainable improvements in marketing performance. Marketers need to be both artist and scientist, intuitive and analytical, strategic and tactical, brazen experimenter and reliable accountant. “
How important is it to not only collect data but actually connect the dots on it and get fully behind it and how often do companies fail on this?
“We understand that data is just that – data. Alone, it is not an insight. Data is like crude oil. It’s valuable but needs to be refined, enriched and analyzed to extract the most value from it (and ultimately fueling decisioning).
Data is basically worthless unless you turn that data into insight – and that intelligence into action. We help our clients realize the vision of data as a strategic business asset, a transformative marketing agent and true competitive advantage.”
You are taking part in a keynote panel on getting smart about AI. What is the most important thing that companies need to consider in this space?
“The maturation of technologies such as machine learning, deep learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced neural networks, coupled with a boundless supply of data and new ways of interacting with systems, is creating entirely new capabilities and opportunities.
We see opportunities to leverage AI – which allows us to tap into the alchemy of technology, data and machine learning – to make data-driven decisions and embrace the power of precision, to improve the effectiveness and efficacy of marketing across all phases of the consumer journey.
Specifically, we see AI’s potential to improve planning, segmentation (allowing for top-down segments to evolve and be enriched with bottom-up data-informed signals), activation (including programmatic advertising and media buying), targeting (and retargeting) audiences, personalization / relevancy (creating dynamic landing pages and websites), content marketing (producing personally tailored content based on personas), campaign optimizations (real-time adjustments towards an audience more likely to convert) and forecasting (leveraging algorithms to helps marketers identify the propensity that a consumer will do something).
For marketing intelligence, in particular, AI plays a role in every step of the analytics process. AI makes it easier to connect and unify disparate (1st-, 2nd- and 3rd-party) data, automate data (predictive or propensity) models for scale, and shrink optimization (data to decisions) cycles by automating insights.
AI can sift through massive amounts of data to identify patterns with increased speed and accuracy (and learn continually), and then apply it intelligently to improve the relevancy of ad campaigns, leading to better performance and improved efficiency. With AI, we can help marketers get closer to attaining the holy grail of reaching the right person with the right message at the right time in the right place under the right context, every time.”
You are also taking part in a discussion on using data driven marketing to improve customer acquisition – how important is data for winning new customers?
“One of the greatest marketing challenges is to keep the sales funnel full. However, it is even more important to know the prospects entering that funnel are the highest quality possible. Therefore, to optimize their marketing spend, businesses are turning to data analytics to power more personalized, relevant and timely interactions with prospects to drive their customer acquisition strategies.
Data-driven marketing is about using data and analytics to (micro)segment prospects in more relevant and pinpoint moments of influence — the exact point where the person, the device, the context, the intent, and the mindset come together with the highest probability of conversion – across all physical and digital touchpoints.
There are several advanced analytical techniques to reduce risk with performance-based acquisition models to ensure a strong ROI - clustering models (to build segments and prioritize targeting), response propensity models (to target in-market segments), profile ‘best customer’ look-a-like modeling (to expand reach of valuable prospect segments), lead scoring modeling (to predict future product fit and interest to deliver relevant messaging and timing models (predicts when a prospect in be in-market to purchase).”
What role does data have in storytelling?
“Once businesses has started collecting and combining all kinds of data, the next elusive step is to extract value from it. Data may hold tremendous amounts of potential value, but not an ounce of value can be created unless insights are uncovered and translated into actions and opportunities.
The ability to extract value from data by processing it, visualizing it, and communicating it is critically important. Numbers have an important story to tell. They rely on someone to give them a clear and convincing voice. Too often data storytelling is interpreted as just visualizing data effectively, however, it is much more than just creating visually-appealing data charts. Data storytelling is a structured approach for communicating data insights, and it involves a combination of three key elements: data, visuals, and narrative.”
If you could be someone else for one day who would it be?
“In a world ripe with historical, fictional and contemporary figures of prominent significance, there is one person who I have continued to look up to throughout my life, and who served as a source of inspiration that I can only hope to emulate one day. That person is my father. I deeply admire my father’s positive contributions to the lives of anyone who knew him. My father was a hard worker who was resilient in the face of adversity, and the type of person who dedicated their life, however subtly, to serving others.”
How did you get into the data and analytics industry originally?
“I must confess that data & analytics (at the least the why we think about it today) wasn’t exactly on my radar when I started my career. My formal education (college) was in Applied Sociology, Cultural Anthropology and Consumer Psychology. I started my career in consumer research (doing both quantitative and qualitative work). I’ve always wanted to have a career that would allow me to learn and leverage strategic, tactical skill and operational sets, intellectual curiosity, proficiency at problem solving, multi-dimensional strategic thinking, innovative drive, consultative nature, and a critical understanding of business dynamics.”
What was your biggest ambition when you were a child?
“As far as I can remember I have always wanted to play soccer (which I did from the ages of 5 to 17) and become a medical doctor (more specifically, a surgeon). “
What’s your biggest ambition as an adult?
“To have the determination to live my ambitions despite challenges, fear, anxiety, mistakes and failures.“