Of all things that keep CMOs up at night, data is the worst culprit. More CMOs felt unprepared for the "data explosion" more than any other marketing challenge, according to an IBM Global CMO Study. Under pressure to "personalize" marketing, CMOs now toss and turn at night thinking about the data that should allow them to target relevant content to the right person via the right channel.

Here's the problem: Scale and relevancy don't mix. The more people marketers try to reach—the more consumer segments they carve from data—the harder it becomes to deliver relevant content to each person.

So how far should CMOs take personalization? At what point do the extra creatives, ad placements, and billable hours stop delivering a return on investment?

To personalize on a scale that makes sense, CMOs need to look at the blind spots in data that can cause collisions between scale and relevancy. CMOs must also look at the nature of each brand and product to determine whether personalized marketing is worth the investment.

Social Media

Social media is one of the most promising avenues to personalization, but it has a blind spot that can wreak havoc at scale: "dark social."

Alexis Madrigal, contributing editor at The Atlantic, coined the term "dark social" to refer to all the social sharing that can't be measured by Web analytics. In text messages, emails, Skype conversations, Facebook messages, and other private channels, people talk about products, and brands can't listen in.

Dark social accounts for 69% of all digital sharing, according to Madrigal's calculation and a more recent study by the ad platform RadiumOne. That means that public data on Facebook, Twitter, and other networks is less than a third of the conversation. Over-reliance on this data can lead marketers to misjudge their audience and scale irrelevant content.

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image of Matt Goddard

Matt Goddard is CEO of R2integrated, a full-service digital marketing and technology agency.

LinkedIn: Matt Goddard