Tom Benton is the Data & Marketing Association’s CEO

Tom Benton 318x318 v2In just six weeks’ time, a new Administration and a new Senate and House will take office. And beyond that, new Governors and new state lawmakers will take office.

It would be easy enough for many of us in the data and marketing industry to turn back to our day to day jobs now that the campaign advertising is over.

But, it is far from over.

I’m not talking about the views you have on social issues or whether you’re a Democrat or Republican. I’m appealing to your role as a steward of the data and marketing industry. I’m appealing to you as someone whose livelihood depends on the ability to responsible use data and someone whose greater aim in your vocation is to responsibly use that data to make lives better.

We face two challenges as stewards of the marketing industry. One is the rapidly increasing rate at which data are being generated. The second is keeping up with the rate at which disruptive technological capabilities are being developed that enable marketers to transform that data into actionable insight.

With those capabilities comes tremendous responsibility that all DMA marketers take very seriously. Marketing, like most things in life is all about relationships: relationships with a purpose beyond profit. A successful marketer, regardless of his or her product, service, solution or cause, believes that what he or she brings to market fundamentally improves lives. It’s marketing 101: identify a need and fulfill that need better than anyone else. And the DMA marketing community which is comprised of data inspired designers, storytellers, creative experts, data scientists, technologists and data-driven marketers believes that if we do that responsibly, and with authenticity, then we will build lasting relationships with our customers and donors based on truth, results and trust.

This fundamental principle of relationships is not always understood or appreciated by all legislators and regulators – that marketers want lasting relationships with their customers and donors and their actions are guided by that commitment to a mutually-beneficial relationship over time. Many legislators and regulators feel that the use of data and data technology is invasive and should be significantly constrained.

Yet without data driven insight, value to consumers is diminished. And without data science, innovation is suppressed. I continue to be surprised that many executives, even rising young executives in our industry either are unaware of or choose to ignore the importance of strong data & marketing advocacy and government relations. Without those relationships our ability to transform data into actionable customer insight and nurture lasting relationships with our customers is at high risk.

DMA has four strategic pillars that guide us in helping our members deepen customer connections and drive business value: Advocate, Innovate, Educate and Connect. The first pillar, Advocate, is probably better described as the foundation upon which the other pillars stand. Our advocacy and accountability efforts are intensely focused on ensuring that legislators and regulators understand that the data & marketing community has an intense interest in doing the right thing. Without customer relationships based on truth, results and trust there is no marketing success.

Many DMA members – and many from major brands – are working with DMA’s Advocacy team and attorneys on Data Standards 2.0 a DMA industry-wide initiative to develop the standards that will govern the marketing industry’s accountability in this new era of data-driven marketing. These new standards come alongside DMA’s marketing compliance standards – DMA’s Guidelines for Ethical Business Practice – focusing them to be more relevant for today’s data practices.

Despite our community’s vigilant self-regulation efforts, our responsible use of data and innovative data technology is at risk. At any moment with the stroke of a pen, a single state or a federal agency could suppress innovation and eliminate marketers’ ability to responsibly access, exchange and use data and data technology. An example of DMA’s protection and advocacy of the marketing industry is last year’s unanimous Supreme Court victory, in addition to ongoing efforts on behalf of the data and marketing industry.

The role of data in marketing has always been present in marketing but today it is more pronounced. Data and data technology are at the strategic epicenter of marketing – identifying needs, informing design, creativity, channels, messaging and more. These are just a few of the reasons that DMA re-branded this fall to become the Data & Marketing Association and why we are leading the DS 2.0 initiative.

Have you been to Washington and walked the halls of Congress? Have your compliance officers toured any of the Cabinet Departments that impact the future of our industry?

Now is the time. Engage. Be a part of our industry’s future.

Send a note to me and Emmett O’Keefe, DMA’s Senior Vice President of Advocacy, and we’ll gladly include you in our events in Washington, DC, in early 2017 when DMA hosts “Capitol Hill Day” to meet with the lawmakers who are influencing our industry’s future.

Tom Benton

Tom Benton