What Mad Men Can Tell Us About Big Data

2015 has been hailed the year of Big Data. Its promise of personalized targeting and visual insights have been flouted as the shiniest new toy bursting onto the marketing scene. But the data-based personalization strategy has been used on Madison Avenue for decades – now we just have a modern set of tools.

In season five of Mad Men, Lane Pryce, a finance man, landed a dinner meeting with a prospective client. Unfamiliar with handling accounts, he turned to Roger Sterling for advice on closing a deal.

“It’s kind of like being on a date.”

“It’s kind of like being on a date,” advises Roger. He tells Lane to be friendly but non-assuming, wait for the opportune moment to place the bait, and ‘find out everything you can about him before you get there.’

Roger Sterling just described the strategy of Big Data.

From martial status, to hobbies, to buying habits – everything in a person’s life influences decisions. Roger uses all of that information to sharpen the pitch into a sales strategy so elegant–the client doesn’t even know he is being sold to.

Big Data gathers consumer information on a massive scale and uses it to find the opportune moment to place the pitch. For Roger Sterling, it was sometime during dessert; but for a marketer, it is when the consumer is the most receptive.

Just when is that precise moment? This could be after a user has left your website and later sees an ad on social media. Perhaps if they regularly read their emails at 9 a.m., you send them marketing emails at that time—so your message appears at the top of their inbox. Or, as they are consuming content on their favorite website—your ad or relevant content appears. Maybe you show a 10% off coupon as they are about to exit your website.

Now that you understand the ‘where’ you need to nail the ‘when’ and ‘how.’

The second part of Roger’s strategy is to find out as much about the prospective client as possible. This concept’s benefit is self-evident. Small talk never leaves a lasting impression. What influences people is establishing a connection based on mutual interest. If a user has a pattern of viewing real estate listings you can custom target ads to appear for home ownership loans. Twitter users who follow a large amount of musicians will see promotional tweet for local concert venues.

And the final part of Roger’s approach is preparing for the way a prospective client will react or respond. For Big Data, that is trends. It could be as simple as seeing that on average, women are 35% more likely to research hotels than men and so a resort should showcase the spa over the golf-course. Looking at trends across specific ages, demographics and locations show exactly where your marketing dollars should be allocated.

Capitalizing on the exact moment a user is most receptive and in the manor that best speaks to them is the essence of data-driven marketing. Because, while you can’t always take them out to dinner, you can talk directly to them. Effective marketers are embracing data-driven methods because it isn’t a shiny new fad – it’s a strategy that has worked for decades.