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Exploiting the White Space

Russ Klein

a pattern of white bricks with circular black holes throughout

A letter from the CEO of the AMA about the answers that can be drawn from an integrated view of structured and unstructured data

In today’s network-based world, managers are discovering that two forms of thought are critical to decision-making. Design thinking and systems thinking are the twin engines that power critical thinking in the 21st century. Firms are recognizing that customer centricity must be understood in a market-oriented context, that challenges brands to win the consumer’s trust and orchestrate the ecosystems where they compete.

If you were to draw black dots on a sheet of paper to identify every knowledge-based discipline, the first place to look for answers is in the white space that separates them. Just as the problem-solving challenge facing modern enterprises requires an interdisciplinary view of the world, answers to marketing problems do not reside only in strategy, quantitative modeling or consumer behavior. The connections and integration of the three generate managerially relevant answers.

The metamorphosis of data management is generating a pragmatic perspective that improves a manager’s prospects of becoming decision-ready in a world where decisiveness is as important as insight itself.

Although the concept of having a single view of the customer receives ample attention, the more fundamental question is: Do firms have a single view of the data? Structured data alone is too ham-fisted to pick up the nuances of consumer behavior. Conversely, unstructured data alone prevents us from seeing the forest through the trees.

The metamorphosis of data management is generating a pragmatic perspective that improves a manager’s prospects of becoming decision-ready in a world where decisiveness is as important as insight itself. Thanks to technology, once-risky decisions have been de-risked to create a marketplace where firms can learn by doing.

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The answers drawn from an integrated view of structured and unstructured data will turn managers into doers. This elegant integration of facts and feelings finally unshackles enterprises from their heads-down plodding, giving them the freedom to run in an agile learning culture with their eyes fixed on answers.

As CEO for the American Marketing Association, Russ Klein is charged with the transformation of the AMA to become an essential community for marketers. Klein is a five-time award-winning CMO who has quarterbacked teams for many of the world’s foremost brand names, serving as president of Burger King from 2003-2010 and holding top marketing and advertising posts at Dr Pepper/7UP Companies, Gatorade, 7-Eleven Corporation and Arby’s Restaurant Group.