“Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz”, must be a tune hummed in a few helmets during the lead up to the new season of Formula 1.
This week I suggested to a friend that F1 drivers represent the very pinnacle of sportsmen; and increasingly women such as Suzie Wolff. My reasons are that they not only have to be supremely fit, they have to be massively selfish in the car while a consummate team player out of it. They need to be part-engineers yet excellent with sponsors. They need to prove themselves against monitoring to the thousandth of a second, they risk death every time they step into the car and to top it all, even if you do have the best car of the season, you have a teammate with the same car and who you will be compared to incessantly. Those at the very top may make millions but boy, do they have to be at the top of their game!
My friend countered my position asserting it’s all about the car. Best car wins. He is of course, talking rubbish. Last time I checked, cars don’t build themselves, people do. Teams of brilliant, hard-working people design, build, maintain, monitor and drive these incredible engineering feats.
Just as Red Bull dominated for four seasons, just as Schumacher earlier did with Ferrari and both Williams and McLaren have had days in the sun, things change, great drivers, great cars and great teams come and go. Most recently, Red Bull have boasted the best designer in Adrian Newey, perhaps Ferrari have just lost the best driver in Fernando Alonso and we know who has the best engine. But even if ‘our Lewis’ is the best driver, combining him with the best engine is still not enough to guarantee success.
Last season, Mercedes weren’t the only team with the Mercedes engine, Williams, McLaren and Force India all enjoyed its advantage but were still a good way behind the Mercs. The thing is, in winning, to be the best, you need the best package overall, the combination of driver, engine, chassis, aerodynamics, engineers, pit crew, support staff to keep all these talented folk focused on making cars go fast not on whether they’d washed their sponsored T-shirt. And so it’s true of delivering great marketing results through technology and data.
At Acxiom, we’re largely neutral when it comes to marketing technology. If one platform or piece of software is right for the client, we’ll use it. Perhaps it’s from the Adobe ‘stack’ or IBM’s or others, we know that if this is the Mercedes engine, it will still only lap as fast as a Force India if the rest of the solution is not integrated and optimised. There is a tendency in some to focus on the most visible part of the marketing technology universe such as the campaign management tool but that in itself is only one part of the puzzle. Having implemented and operated thousands of marketing solutions, we know the critical importance of designing to fix the whole problem followed by great execution.
Data and technology may be everywhere now in F1, from design calculations, to lap times to the mass of data we can look at as fans; but as marketers, we need to remember the big picture as integrated, high-performance, multi-channel marketing solutions do not win races on the back of one component. As in F1, the whole needs to be more than the sum of the parts.