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Getting to Know: Alex Tenaglio, Manager of Audience Insights & Strategy

I saw Alberto Brea doing something similar to this, so I thought I’d give it a try and put my own spin on it. I found the process of interviewing inspiring, and it provided far more benefit than I expected. Here is what I learned from Alex Tenaglio, an analytics manager at Merkle.

Alex Tenaglio

Why did you want to work in marketing?

That’s a good question. I suppose it found me. I was recruited by a previous coworker to come over to the marketing side with him. My background and training is actually in economic analysis, and while that relates to market research, I always thought I would end up in public policy and program evaluation where I started out. I suppose I made my way into marketing because I wanted to grow my analytic skillset. I’d always assumed, quickly found to be true, that marketing is really a data rich area – it’s everywhere you look – and having so much data available for analysis was fairly alluring.

For a long time, I’ve analyzed baseball data for the same reason. Baseball is kind of the paragon of sports analysis, largely because the sample size is so large. If you look at basketball and hockey, they both only have 82 games in a season, so the data is limited. But, with baseball there are 162 games a year and players have 500 to 600 at-bats a year. So after, I don’t know, even two seasons, you get a really  good feel for the type of player someone is (or is going to be). In some ways, I see marketing in a similar way. I mean, every one of us must make purchases for a living; clothes to buy, food to eat. And over time, the number of data points become so numerous and so varied that, as a field, it’s ripe for analysis. We know this, of course, it’s why we have jobs. But it doesn’t make it or the trends and the patterns it enables you to find any less interesting.

What advice do you have for people that want to get into marketing?

Read, learn, and pay attention! Seriously, read and learn everything you can. I probably say that because I wandered into the industry without knowing anything, so I had to do something to catch up. But it doesn’t make it less true. On-the-job learning and training is the single-most important form of career development a working person can have.

What do you see coming that will disrupt the market?

From a marketing perspective, nine out of 10 times, the goal of gathering data is to help people make decisions, or perhaps more accurately, to help influence how they make decisions. The problem I think we’re facing now is that web and mobile allows those decisions to get made much more quickly and much more efficiently, and so the time we have to influence that decision decreases more and more.

Fortunately, though, we’re starting to have more data to help us, partly because it’s easier to capture than ever before, and partly because it’s easier to store than ever before. And so, I think that over the very near-to-immediate future, we’ll need to find ways to analyze these massive stores of data very quickly, to meet that ever-shrinking moment of influence. We’ll need some mix of AI/automation and machine learning to help scale how we’re making predictions about individual’s behavior, in virtual real-time so that it can be automated to keep up with the market. We’re already doing some of this, certainly, but it’s going to continue to grow.

What good books would you recommend?

Business: Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay. It’s an old book published in the 19th century.  It’s a book on crowd psychology that profiles a series of scandals and crowd mania, and the things that caused them.  It talks about what creates mass group thinking and how trends start, boom, and then crash. I don’t know if it will help your business acumen, but it’ll teach you to think twice before doing what’s popular, especially if what’s popular involves buying tulip bulbs.

Non-business: I’m a big Kurt Vonnegut fan. I’m fairly cynical at heart and have a subversive and irreverent sense of humor, so I found his blend of satire and science fiction quite attractive, even at a young age. He looks at life and the world in a way that’s both trivial and earnest, and sums of a lot of our social ills in a clever way. So it goes. 

What do you like to do for fun?

Well I have a one-year old cattle dog mix that doesn’t seem to require sleep, so a lot of my free time is spent trying to get him tired. I’m lucky enough to bring him to the office every day at Merkle.

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