Loving BIG DATA, but what about BIG INSIGHT!!

Muzeable Thinking No. 2 from Tim Brooks 22th OCTOBER 2012

‘BIG DATA’ is this year’s black! Truth is we’ve had too much data for a long time, almost from the moment Gutenberg started up in business, but to state the bleedin’ obvious, the digital age is magnifying this exponentially. This current manifestation of ‘data obesity’ is not just about scale it is also driving change in ways that matter to brands, businesses and marketers.

The rapid growth in potentially meaningful, real time, transactional data perhaps most epitomises this change. Few would deny that this data can be powerful and it gives organisations the ability to understand what specific customers or consumers are doing. It also creates dialogue opportunities that are rapidly changing marcomms. We can experiment, learn and adapt our activity in ways previously unimagined. The next few years will demand a huge growth in our analytic capabilities – genuinely data driven marketers will be in high demand and companies will be able to make ‘real time’ decisions and create targeted offers and added value for their audiences.

BUT… [there had to be one eh?]

A couple of watch outs or opportunities immediately strike me…
• Too many people don’t know the meaning of the word insight. Only strategy is a more abused word in the business lexicon. They talk about insight when they mean data. Of course there is insight in this transactional soup, but it is mainly ‘know what’ not ‘know why’… so OPPORTUNITY 1: we must [and quick] develop better ways of finding and using real time BIG INSIGHT and BIG INTUITION alongside BIG DATA.
• Lots of the data is powerful and will support improved operational efficiency and commercial opportunity, but… I sometimes wonder where it drives competitive advantage? It’s difficult to see that the millions of records captured by phone company A will be very different from those generated by phone company B – so the data itself is NOT the source of difference. OPPORTUNITY 2: will be using it creatively and mastering the ‘mash up’ of different [sometimes apparently disconnected] data sources to find BIG INSIGHT… sadly this will create another dark art to bamboozle marketing teams the world over. This is despite the rhetoric, as yet, a nascent capability.
• There is also another area that fascinates… there is a deep contradiction inherent in the digital landscape. It in one moment generates the huge numbers of records that are the making of the BIG DATA world and at the same time the whole point of digital is that it is ultimately a one to one, two-way medium… so OPPORTUNITY 3: marketing needs to grapple with MACRO forces of the environment and the NANO forces of communication/dialogue. This is exciting, but REALLY COMPLEX… and history proves marketing and big biz don’t readily embrace complexity… who’s going to simplify it for us?

So BIG DATA really is a big, game changing, yes, but whilst too many people see it as a panacea – hail the new messiah – for most organisations it’s value will take too long to arrive [like so many digital innovations] and will be too much about potential unless we – marketers and data experts – collaborate more innovatively and closely to create the AGE OF BIG INSIGHT… at the moment we are mainly just staring at it each other across the dance floor!

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