A big conversation about Big Data

Big Data

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to participate in a WBOI Midday Matters segment about Big Data. The podcast is available here, but I’ll summarize a few of the main areas relevant to marketing:

  • Marketing research is nothing new, but what makes Big Data different is the size and scope of the information available to researchers.
  • Even though it’s been around for a long time, marketing research remains fairly unsophisticated. As a result, marketing has historically been more art than science–and that’s led to difficulties in measurement and has restricted ROI. Big Data promises to change that considerably, as it allows for more informed decision making and more precise measurement.
  • One challenge, however, is that Big Data comes with a big price tag–for the time being at least. Big Data seems, therefore, best aligned with the needs of big organizations. That has the potential to create a “haves and have-nots” scenario when it comes to leveraging Big Data for marketing.
  • There’s also the fear of the Minority Report effect, where marketing becomes so pervasive that it runs parallel to all your actions and even your thoughts. I don’t believe, and I don’t think any responsible marketing professional believes, this the right way to use information. However, it’s a legitimate concern as we all leave a greater number of “digital breadcrumbs” behind us.
  • One of the things I enjoyed most about being part of Tuesday’s discussion was hearing comments from Bob Kniskern of Adaptive MicroWare. He made some excellent points about where Big Data can make an impact beyond marketing, and in a sidebar conversation he and I also talked about some of the real benefits the Big Data could have in improving the state of marketing, for both businesses and consumers. In short, it’s about providing more relevant offers and information when consumers need it. That somewhat Utopian vision would benefit both marketers and consumers, but the optimist in me sees that as the real future of Big Data as it applies to marketing.

If nothing else, it’s clear that Big Data is a big deal. Do you have any big ideas–or big questions? If so, post ’em in the comments.

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