Are you using expired data for marketing? Do you know how to tell if you are?


Just like a banana, data expires as it gets older. Just like a banana, data eventually becomes too old to use. Unfortunately for marketers, expired data doesn’t turn black, moldy or soft to signal it has passed it’s useful life. That’s why so many marketers still use it.

Whether or not data is expired depends on its intended use. Consider two simple examples:

Email open rates: If you are trying to benchmark your email open rates, using the last three years of historical data is safe. Assuming the frequency of your outbound emails hasn’t changed, your promotional cadence is the same and your customer target hasn’t dramatically changed, your email open data is not expired.

Market share: If you are asked what’s your share vs. your largest competitor, using an average of the last three years is not advised. Market share data beyond the past 12 months is expired.



Now, here are three less obvious examples where expired data routinely still gets used by too many marketers:


1. Ad Effectiveness: Studies have shown that differences in advertising creative are the biggest determinant in whether an ad successfully drives new sales. Ad creative includes a lot: strategy, benefit messaging, featured products and more. Even ads which are meant to be similar to past successful ads can have subtle differences that drive a different consumer response. Given the importance of ad effectiveness in driving sales, data from old campaigns is should be considered expired in relation to new campaign effectiveness.

2. Campaign Optimization: If you use MTA or MMM for short term media optimization, you are using expired data. By using data from the last two years of campaigns, you will be optimizing for a type of weighted average of what’s happened in the past. Historical data will include a wide range of different circumstances, including different competitive activity and promotions, that are irrelevant to your current campaign.

3. Context/Publishers: At P&G, we talked about the goal of media being to reach people when and where they are receptive. For a lot of retailers, digital marketing can do just that. But changing context can impact whether an ad drives sales or not. For example, if your fashion ad is running next to an article about Taylor Swift or Marilyn Manson, the results can be much different.  Thus, the only way to know whether the context is supporting your message is to use fresh data.



To ensure your data is fresh, match the time period between the business question being asked and the data being used to supply the answer. If business question is “What do my campaigns typically do in market” an answer using three years of data is a good match. If the business question is “What’s working in my current campaign?”, an answer using data only from the current campaign is a match.


One tip in searching for fresh data is to get your data straight from the source, whenever possible. 3rd party data with unclear origins may be older than expected. As one example, payment data aggregators can take 45 days to pull together purchase data from their many disaggregated sources.


Remember that all data has an expiration date. Consider the brand that is still serving you retargeting ads six months after a website visit. Most uses of expired data are less in your face, but waste resources all the same.

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