Why Big Data is a Big Deal

Big data might just save the world. Certainly, that is, in the field of healthcare and science.  I really admire the work that the Gates Foundation is doing to eradicate diseases and improve conditions for those living in poverty, but what I love more is how they are using their background in information technology to do this.  All projects they fund must adhere to a policy of open data, in the knowledge that by sharing, we can achieve together what we might not alone.

Now, relating this noble use of big data to marketing programs may seem shallow in comparison.  Depending on what you’re marketing, you might not be saving the world.  But we’re certainly helping to explain it.

Marketing has always been about distilling research into meaningful insights about people.  And numbers have always been needed to justify spending and show ROI.  So, is big data really all that new?  Is it just that there’s now so much more of it?

The stats we hear about the sheer quantity of data being collected can be overwhelming.  Many feel that it should be relegated to the work of computer scientist or statisticians.  But as someone keen to specialize in analytics, I also know how much my experience, cultural insights, and gut instincts will complement the numbers.

As with all market research, the results are only as good as the questions asked in the first place.  Now the situation seems to be reversed.  If in theory we have all the answers within the data in front of us, we just need to know what we’re looking for before getting lost in all the information available.  Simple right?

Well, the tools we use to compress all this data is going to be the key for maketeers to be able to keep on top of the volumes of information being collected in real-time.  Analytics experts will be the link to extracting the right insights, in management-bite-size pieces, to justify business decisions.

Netflix is rightly cited as a champion in how to use big data to grow a successful business, and I can only imagine how the shift from ratings to algorithms is going to affect the future television.  I was also impressed to hear Tommy Page of Pandora talk recently about the insights they have on their listeners, and how they are able to share this extremely valuable information with their advertisers and partners – something that we were never really able to do in traditional print or radio advertising.  This  I believe is the future of media, where advertisers expect more for their CPMs, and media platforms are once again the conduit between brands and buyers.

Big data has helped many companies meet new consumer needs, and therefore have raised customer expectations all around.  As much as we protest about data privacy, which is of course important, we continue to give away our details in exchange for better service and convenience.  And I don’t see that changing anytime soon or for the upcoming generation who were born into a digital world.

Above all, the pace of change in society today makes data itself so quickly outdated, affected by fast-moving trends, industry disruption and technological innovations.  Therefore the need for marketeers who understand where data ends and human insights take over, is as important as ever.

 

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