She walked into my office with a well tailored spreadsheet, a handkerchief dabbing at tears and desperation in her eye.  She was a beauty all right – a real marketing dame.   I knew right away we had trouble.

See, I’m just a data analytics man, a gum shoe predicting behavior across channels and playing a supporting role in the business of driving marketing ROI.  Do they invite me to lunch?  Never.  Am I on the “A” list for handing out the vendor swag? Nope.  But you know it…. whenever there’s a numbers question, I’m the go-to guy for answers.

I give ’em the truth by the numbers.  I just don’t always like it.

Once she settles down, this one tells me she thinks she lost all the data from our latest conference.  I still twinge at the headache I got at the after party, so that event is not a welcome memory.  I refocus and listen.  She’s sure she had the data this morning when she was running segmentations.    She says the data was gone when she got back from a lunch meeting.  She gave a quick gasp when I asked who was at the lunch, and the tears hardened into a glare for a long moment.  I changed the subject.  She can’t remember her movements in between, but there seems to have been quite a bit of toggling between applications and some hasty button clicks.  Which buttons – the red, green or black?  She doesn’t know.

More tears. This I don’t handle well.  I give her the tissue box and back out the door to get a coffee so I can think.  I smoke a cigarette on the street corner with the rest of the lumps, and contemplate the reason I work for a group that has no shred of a data governance practice.  We’re out of compliance with industry standards – no doubt about it.  A guy like me has fewer options – after the time I predicted the plaid pants would sell and we ended up having to send the massive excess inventory to a Tartan Day parade headquarters.  But there is no reason a smart dame like that should work unprotected.

I rub out the cigarette under my boot, nod to the guy from Finance hunched over his phone, and saunter back to my office.  The tears are gone.  Replaced by a look of abject fear.  She claims holy hell will break if she can’t find that data – or worse, if it somehow got hacked.  I nod twice.  She’s right.  Our loose data protections and early 20th Century privacy practices put us in a bind.

I log in to check the damage.  The data is, indeed, gone from the marketing database.  I put in a call to my pal in IT — he’s a smoker and never gets any free swag either.  He says there have been no breach alerts, but he’ll check deeper.  I log out and log back in as the administrator.  Don’t ask how.  A guy has to have some secrets.

I smell her perfume as she leans over my shoulder to peer at the screen.  Back up a bit, baby, I warn her.  This is no place for a creative type like you.  She bumps my chair with her hip and snorts quietly at me.  I remember who is boss and turn back to the application.

I find the data in the archives and restore it.  Our IT pal confirms there was no data loss.  She tosses me a grateful smile over her shoulder as she rushes out, but I know what that will get me.  Nothing but a dramatic scene the next time someone acts out of ignorance or willful non-compliance.  I decide life is too short.  I contact our competitor and wow him with stories of my analytic gymnastics.  Before I accept the offer, I get in writing their data governance rules, enforcement code and acceptable use policy.

I know I’m a sucker for a smart marketing dame in trouble.  I just prefer to partner on new initiatives rather than pull ’em from the brink of disaster.


(With all due respect and necessary apologies to Dashiell Hammett, all detective novelists the world over and authentic marketing data analytics professionals everywhere, this is the third installment of the DMA “See Data Differently” series as part of our newly relaunched National Center for Data-Driven Marketing (NCDM).

Join us at our annual “big data” conference, NCDM: Where Marketing Meets Big Data, and SEE DATA DIFFERENTLY.

The National Center for Data-Driven Marketing program features new keynotes and exceptional speakers.  Join us at NCDM: Where Marketing Meets Big Data. December 9-11, 2013, Las Vegas, NV.


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