For McDonald's, the concern around freely sharing data with platform companies has less to do with competitive concerns than self-determination.
"When you have those requests from Facebook and Google to have all the data, that would be giving away our decision-making capabilities," said CMO Wahl. "That's where companies like ours have to get really creative."
As a counterpoint to the data protection alarmism, the same group of panelists stipulated there is often an overreliance on data in marketing circles.
"I say data is overrated," DeVard said. "I sit in meetings all the time where people present data and I sit back and say, ‘So what?’ It's not the data, it's the insights."
As an example, she said ADT's messaging has recently shifted toward a story around home automation. The company's performance data from direct marketing television and other channels shows these ads don't resonate as well as the company's security-themed ads. However, that's beside the point because the company is positioning itself for a future where it serves the holistic home automation needs of its customers, including thermostat, connected appliances and other functions.
Dunkin’ Brands' Costello describes the condition of over-measurement as "analysis paralysis."
"Big data is not a strategy, it's a tool," he said. From a product development standpoint, Dunkin’ relies as much on its culinary experts as it does on third-party data and external market research.
"If they see a trend coming, you may need to trust the experts in the field. If you become too data-driven you spend all your time looking at the rear-view mirror as opposed to looking through the windshield," he said. "It's important to be very analytical, but don't downplay your judgment if you see trends emerging or if consumers are having difficulty explaining what they want."
Costello's comment was echoed by another speaker at the conference, GE chief marketing officer Linda Boff, who said it's sometimes important to allocate dollars on a wing and a prayer.
"We're proud of the fact that we sometimes drive mindshare before we drive market share," Boff said. "Are we chasing the shiny object? Maybe a little bit. You only get one chance to be in front, the moment passes quickly and platforms get saturated.