We are in an age of information and connectivity. The amount of available data that a marketer can access is incalculable. With enough dedication, data, and creativity, marketers can drill down into the minutiae of a person's online behavior and send highly targeted marketing messages. (One of my favorite data and marketing stories is of the guy who pranked his flatmate by placing highly targeted ads in his Facebook feed that only his flatmate would see.)

Moreover, a recent IBM study revealed that "every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data—so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone."

So if we already create that volume of data today (just by being online), what happens when the Internet of Things becomes as much a part of normal life as the Internet has become. What happens when everything we do anywhere becomes an available part of the data set? What happens when we can see that not only does our prospects like watching Doctor Who and outdoor sports but that they also make a cup of coffee at 5:30AM every week day, run the same 3 mile route every Wednesday morning, and get their shopping delivered at 7PM on the first Monday of each month?

Stalky ads aside, there is a fast approaching problem that promises to overwhelm marketers—and it's not data as such. It's what the data provides us. Lots and lots of insights.

Knowing Too Much

I am sure that like me, you have suffered from analysis paralysis, the act of overanalyzing information to such a depth that you become unable to reach an outcome. It is both overwhelming and demoralizing when it happens. You think you are making progress before realizing that correlation does not imply causation.

The marketing industry, specifically the digital marketing industry, is going through huge disruption, in part to deal with this problem. The data is fantastic to have, but there is too much of it for us to get any real value from it. We either can't use all of it or we can't analyze all of it properly.

So technology and data are combining to create software platforms that can make sense of large volumes of data and turn them into actionable insights. In fact, the savvier and more forward-thinking agencies are creating proprietary platforms to continue providing their services. But those platforms risk causing a new and unique problem.

If we have access to an unending flow of data and we also have software capable of turning that data into insights, do we risk the situation that instead of drowning in data, we drown in insights instead?

The Problem With Doing Just One Thing

Imagine this. Every day when you get to work you are provided with a list of every single task that needs to be done for your role to be successful. Now imagine that each day that list grows based on what you ticked off from yesterday's list, changes to the environment, and changes made by competitors or third parties. What is the first task you are going to do?

If you are anything like me, your first task would be to prioritize your list. To prioritize your growing list each and every day means that you are going to have to spend a growing amount of time prioritizing rather than doing. And so nothing will get done. Or some things will get done, but they might not be the right things, at that time. So as good as nothing.

It may sound ludicrous, but the reality is that this is almost upon us. Technology, specifically AI, is advancing so fast that instead of drowning under too much data, we may, in fact, be drowning under too many insights.

Instead of suffering from analysis paralysis, we are suffering paralysis from overexposure. We know so much that we risk not knowing where to start!

The Hierarchy of Algorithms

Technology has come so far that the age of robots and artificial intelligence is upon us. For the marketing industry, that means that those with the right software platforms can provide their services with a degree of efficacy never before realized.

But in doing so, a new problem has been created. Those software platforms are providing so much valuable insight that we need new functionality to make sense of it all. We arrive at a point where we need intelligent algorithms whose sole job is to manage other algorithms. It's a hierarchy of algorithms that needs to match existing human management hierarchies.

When you think about it, there is a kind of delicious irony to it all. Technology has come so far that it has swung past being useful to being another unmanageable noise.

On the one hand, we are liberated from the daily drudgery and free to take our lead from software and get the job done. But which job? There are too many, and technology works faster than even the best person on his or her best day. 

It's a form of evolution when you think about it, and I am certain that survival of the fittest is as relevant today as it's always been. However, in this case, the fittest are those who not only realize the need for intelligent technology but also further development of algorithmic layers.

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image of Chris Pitt

Chris Pitt is head of Marketing at Vertical Leap, a cross between a traditional digital agency and a software service, combining specialist experts with its own deep data platform to improve marketing intelligence and increase visibility and revenue.

LinkedIn: Chris Pitt