But if you haven't got your finger lightly pressed to the pulse of what it truly is to be connected with your consumer, and with what's salient to him or her, and with all the outlets they reach for or that reach for them on a given day, then what have you got? You've got a quantifiable past and, at best, a marginally speculative future.
Granted, you can never really tell for sure what's going to catch your audience's fancy. But if you can tap into what's closest to home and do so in an authentic way, you significantly improve your chances.
A great marketer needs to remember she's as much a consumer as an accomplice in the sales process. What catches her eye, what stirs a sense of relevance deep inside? How does the product feel in her hand, what does she think of it? Our senses are an immense resource, and they can only add to the numbers we've written out, looked up and stored in the banks of memory.
Due diligence is a critical aspect of the profession. It keeps us out of a lot of trouble, protects us from making ancient mistakes. But one's own experience is also a unique and information-rich resource. Hone your intuition, and you've got a weapon that can't be replicated by any competitor.
At the same time, we need to learn to freely cross the line dividing the self-titled "marketer" and consumer. Consumers today are, more than ever, all marketers - they're hawking their lifestyles and opinions off to us, and we're as hungry for their attention as they are for ours. They know now that the images and personalities we wrap around their products are reflections of themselves - and they want to contribute to the canvas. I can't think of a more exciting time for the profession.