Tell us about your role at Equifax and the team/technology that you handle?
The group I look after at Equifax is data-driven marketing, which is a combination of capabilities that Equifax has had for many years. One capability is our credit marketing services business. Let’s say you receive a credit card, home or auto financing offer in the mail or by email. You would know that as credit marketing. We also acquired a business in 2009 called IXI, which operates the IXI Network, a wealth data exchange of anonymized information. Finally, we have our digital capabilities, mostly around custom audiences—again, the data is anonymized. Together, these three capabilities create the Equifax Data-Driven Marketing (DDM) business unit, which sits within the Equifax corporation in the U.S., a $1.2 billion organization.
A lot of people know Equifax only as a credit bureau and that’s accurate up to a point. We are still a credit bureau, of course. In many ways through our credit and risk data we’re helping companies grow and maintain their relationships with consumers. But, there’s another part of our business, DDM, where we help companies use data to engage consumers in more effective, more personalized, and smarter ways. Today, an increasing portion of our business is not so much around legacy credit, but around helping businesses leverage data and analytics.
I joined Equifax because we are seeing an evolution take place with enterprises where data and data analysis is beginning to fuel competitive advantage. Thirty years ago, companies used information technology—servers, the Internet, spreadsheets—as an advantage. But, the arbitrage with IT is mostly gone. Now it’s all about investments in data and data analysis to make smarter, more informed decisions. There are so many industries and sub-sectors—hedge funds, for example—that are getting really good at leveraging information. Equifax has evolved into a data and technology organization to support the transformation of enterprise, with our assets and our skills, to help organizations compete more successfully.
What is the overall state of Data-Driven Marketing in the Marketing Technology Industry?
We’re still in the relatively early stages. When we talk to most organizations about how they market today and how they’re pulling together their technology stack, they have a lot of the right components, and there’s a lot of money—billions of dollars—being invested in the industry to make their capabilities streamlined and get better business outcomes. You have companies like Adobe, Salesforce and Oracle investing in their customer-facing technology suites. But the underlying issues facing our customers are more about the data itself than the technology to use that data.
Consider that most companies still face siloed information. Perhaps they acquired a business whose database can’t talk to theirs or that may not have the same unique identifier for a consumer. Putting that all together is quite complicated and cannot be solved by technology alone. Marketers also have to find ways to use their data to engage a consumer more cost-efficiently. There’s an old adage in marketing: Half of your marketing budget is wasted, you’re just not sure which half.
Data is the way that we begin to solve that problem using analysis.
Tell us more about Equifax’s technology and your target audience?
It’s the data and the data science that we do very well. The world is awash in data, and I’ve seen industry reports that say 1.7MB of data will soon be created every second for every person on earth. Marketers have huge volumes of data constantly spinning off their platforms.
The challenge is the useful analysis of that information. Equifax plays a very important part in bringing quality data outside of what the marketer owns and can create the models that predict what information is most useful to effect a given outcome and action of some kind, whether it’s an individual opening an account, or someone, let’s say, clicking on an ad. It’s that data and the analysis of it, the modeling capability, that is so critical that Equifax brings to the table. As I like to say: Your current customers (from first party data) can tell you a lot, but your potential customers (from second and third party data) can tell you even more.
Being one of the largest credit agencies in the world, how does Equifax handle so much data?
We’re an 118-year-old company with an underlying data capability even back when it was on paper. Data is what we do. Equifax has the most impressive set of data assets and capabilities that I’ve come across in the market, and probably the most under-leveraged as well. Yes, we are a credit bureau and of course we have credit information, but there’s also so much more.
We have gained a substantial understanding of consumer wealth, income and debt through the IXI Network, as well as other models and through the acquisitions we’ve made over the years. Having that full picture helps marketers engage the right people, and eventually, the perfect customer. We have thousands of data attributes around household economics, as well as consumer behaviors, both modeled as well as factual. In many ways, we’re one of the industry’s best-kept secrets in terms of having these extraordinary data assets that can be applied to solving some of the key challenges that marketers face.
With a large range of products which geographical areas are you targeting for growth (APAC, EMEA, Americas)?
The Equifax Data-driven Marketing business is primarily U.S. focused today. The reality is our customers are global, and they’re as excited as us about the opportunities they see around the globe. We work with our various partners in other business units, whether it’s Latin America, Asia-Pac, or Europe. Of course, the data and data analysis of protocols in those different geographies and jurisdictions are and can be very different. But I think there is a terrific opportunity for helping our global customers navigate this ever-evolving landscape.
How important is the role of Artificial Intelligence in the data-based marketing domain?
One of the most exciting things we’re seeing is the evolution from data analysis that informs the decision to the activation, or taking the action that’s required by that decision. That’s where AI starts to come into effect. We’re very excited about AI because it can be used to tweak and adjust activities in real time.
Right now, there’s so much effort going into data wrangling— getting all of the data available to make a decision into a single place—and then getting that data to offer useful recommendations. But what our customers really need is the ability to execute some kind of action, such as a modification to change in a campaign that they can do and do automatically. That’s where AI can be so exciting for marketers. I don’t want to call it the black box, it’s almost as if the black box is becoming transparent. And we can help that black box operate more effectively.
What sales and marketing technology tools does Equifax currently use?
Being in the data business is challenging as this industry grows up. We’ve certainly had to create our own tools to manage the breath and complexity of the data that we work with on an everyday basis. For example, one of those projects enabled us to pull all data assets across Equifax into the same place so that our data scientists could analyze on behalf of our customers and ourselves to inform the best possible decision-making and recommendations. We took that internal platform and productified it because we recognized that our customers had the same challenges. We call the product Ignite, and it’s just one example of where we built our own proprietary technology. Customers using Ignite can bring not only their own first-party data, but also our data and third-party data to the mix so that they can make the best possible decisions.
Ignite is one of the reasons organizations like to engage with us. They can trust that our data is high quality and ethically sourced—this is especially important in light of serious challenges for a number of brands around data provenance. If you’re a CMO, you’re responsible for protecting your customers and your brand; you need to be 100% comfortable with explaining to your board, as well as to consumers, that your data is sourced the right way. Or to speaking with your legal and compliance teams about how this third-party information was obtained and put into the models.
Equifax has a deep background in handling anonymized information and personally identifiable information, or PII, so we’re able to help organizations maneuver through those waters successfully and, because we’re conservative in our approach, make sure our customers are also protected.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
I’m coming to learn how to have Echo, Amazon Echo, Echo Dot embedded in how I work. There’s a great opportunity in streamlining our lives and how we manage information as human beings by using the voice assistants that are out there. It’s early days relatively, and there are a lot of things to be worked out, but my family and I use these tools because we find that this is going to be the way that we interface with data and computing going forward. Those who are Trekkies can remember Scotty talking and interfacing with a computer. The future’s not far off.
With voice marketing, I still think we’re in the first inning, and probably three or four years out from mass adoption. But the numbers are growing quite substantially every year, and there’s no time like the present to get started. Amazon started with e-commerce more than 20 years ago, and of course today Amazon is a very different animal with many offerings, but they began early and learned a lot. They were able to adjust and find opportunities. I think all marketers should be in the voice game and at least be getting their feet wet.
What is the best piece of professional advice that you have received?
The best advice I’ve probably received in my career is to adapt. I suppose change is not easy for many people. And change done poorly is not really worth it. So the advice that I share with others is that when change is going to happen they should try to see the indicators and read the writing on the wall, and to always be aware of what’s going on and look at change not as a risk but as an opportunity to reinvent, reinvest, and to find new pathways to growth for both professional and personal success.
If not in Marketing what would have been your alternate career choice?
I love business, and always have. I was the briefcase-carrying kid. I know that organizations win in business today with data and analysis, and my future is firmly planted in organizations that have great data assets. In fact, I joined Equifax because it had great, under-leveraged data assets. Our customers sometimes tell us that we’re all steak and no sizzle, but for those who know us, there are fantastic assets here. However, if I were not in marketing, I still would be doing something data-related. I have a fascination with being able to make smarter decisions that affect smarter outcomes, using information in various ways. So, whether those decisions are really far afield like space exploration, or in medicine using technology to create better care for patients, I know I’d be around and involved in data—somewhere in the world.ear
Mykolas Rambus is the General Manager of Equifax Data-driven Marketing. He oversees all operations and determines go-to-market strategies for helping Equifax customers leverage data to secure the actionable insights they need to grow their business. An expert on big data, SaaS and financial technology, Rambus brings a wealth of experience in marketing, business development, operations management, information technology, data protection and privacy. He is a frequent contributor to major national and international news outlets for topics related to wealth management, digital marketing, and analytics.