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Often this question is a snicker by marketers, supported by the trade press who seems to love reporting on CMO surveys that find big data falling short.

Yet, without big data, there would be no Facebook, no Google, no Amazon recommendation engines, no behavioral targeting of digital advertising, no Billy Beane revolutionizing baseball player selection via Moneyball.

So given the impressive impact on media businesses enabled by big data, I prefer to interpret this question as a call to action…what can big data tell us that we do not already now?  How can we not know the answer to this question…we must find out.

Just like someone in most marketing research departments owns effective management of syndicated data because it is so different from survey data, research should create a team who owns big data…mastering high volume, unstructured and semi-structured data to enable high yield marketing actions.

How might a newly created big data team begin its work?

Create roadmaps for the 4 ways that big data makes its contribution to marketing:

  1. Improve the productivity of marketing spending
  2. Create stronger offerings and experiences
  3. Provide insights and measurements about the brand and consumer that are unique
  4. Allow us to sense early signals about the future

Identify data streams where you feel the organization is not currently taking full advantage.

This will probably include:

A. Customer transactional data
B. Digital data from your website  and apps and location/movement from geo-sensing via your app that customers have downloaded into their smartphones
C. Social media data conversations and profile information
D. Third party data: from weather and mapping APIs; profiling from Experian/Acxiom; data from media companies and aggregators that match customer data to media and shopping behaviors
E. Your own media impression delivery data related to conversions, tagged and organized for reanalysis

Develop a big data databasing and analytics engine

The real magic will come from connecting these data streams:

  1. A+B+D gives us path to purchase, conversion rates, and targeting based on predictive analytics
  2. A+B+C tells us what key customer segments say and share about our brand and their lives.  The big breakthrough here will come from matching public social media profiles with customer data to create listening by customer segment (now available in what I call listening 2.0)
  3. A+B+C+E and survey data give us a powerful way of tracking the multi-dimensionality of brand health
  4. A+B+E tells us what worked

Changing the way marketing works

When big data infrastructures are put in place, it will change the way marketing works.  First party data is the number one priority to fuel a big data effort.  Your brand must generate consumer use of its website, newsletter and promotion mailing lists, apps, etc. You will realize that this is one of the most important creative assignments you will work on with a digital agency.

Secondly, you will turn every ad campaign and piece of first party content into a naturally occurring experiment that will enable real time tools to adjust your media efforts in-flight.

Third, your organization will house results for reanalysis about what works using deep data mining and predictive analytics.

Fourth, you will start thinking about markets as the compilation of micro-segments and individual users so you are always oriented to optimizing each touch between brand and consumer.

Finally, a commitment to big data will change the marketing research mindset.  We will move away from thinking of projects as disjointed, with beginnings and ends. There will be more surveys to clickstream panels to match behavior and attitudes, more matching in of third party data, and more analysis of consumers across lots of profiling data accumulated over time via questioning, customer behaviors, and social media profiles.

What can big data tell us that we don’t already know? Let’s commit the talent and money to find out.

Acknowledgement: I would like to thank Frank Cotignola for a valuable discussion that led to a number of points made in this blog


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One Response to “What can big data tell us that we do not already know?”

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    If we can Moneyball baseball, why not marketing and marketing research? | Joel Rubinson on Marketing Research