The blog

Discover smart tips, personal stories and our take on the latest marketing trends
22 December 2014

How marketers, the new pirates, find and unlock their "big data" treasure

Big Data is merely a tool that can create relevance for consumers and gain and keep their trust in your company and your products.

At the 2014 Dublin WebSummit, Big Data was naturally on the agenda multiple times and looked at from different angles. That helped me make up my mind about how Marketers can make good use of it. Yes, I do mean Marketers. One of the first things we saw in Dublin was an increasing shift of Big Data budgets from ICT to Marketing.

A Marketer willing to exploit Big Data is like a pirate hunting for gold. It’s a long, dangerous and stormy journey. When the pirate finally finds the treasure, at least in the movies, it’s usually in a well-protected treasure chest.

So think of this Point of View like a map to guide you toward the treasure and give you the key to unlock the chest. Are you ready for the journey? Then let’s go! As with all great journeys, there are three parts.

Part 1: From Big Data to Info

These days, we generate millions and millions of data elements every day. By “we” I mean men and machines; our cars, houses, fridges, etc. generate just as much information as we do. Twitter alone generates the same number of words found in an average book every second. So how do we get information out of this ocean of Big Data? This brings me to the first clue for Marketers. Back to our pirates: They knew on which islands treasures were most likely to be hidden. We, as Marketers, need to know what information we are looking to find in the data, based on our understanding of the customer. Then data miners can dig the information out of the collected data.

Case: Soggy fries and Twitter – a clever way of turning data into info.
One of Twitter’s clients wanted to find all tweets mentioning soggy fries and their location. Why? The request had come from a frying machine manufacturer looking for places to target for a sales visit…

Part 2: From Info to Relevance

Let’s look at our pirate analogy again. A map of an island is nice to have, but what makes it really relevant is the big red X marked on the map!

Consumers can find information overwhelming. What they want is relevance. If you can create relevance for consumers as a Marketer, you will have the key that opens the treasure chest (with the gold inside).

But be aware, the line between relevance and just information is thinner than you think.

Case: Do I really want to be rewarded with gold coins just for a walk?
Fitness wearables and apps are booming. They give you a virtual gold coin when you have walked 500 steps or they tell you that out of the seven hours you slept, you didn’t move for six hours and 40 minutes.  It’s fun, that’s true, but is it relevant? Relevance, for instance, could be a personal coach who adapts your training plan if records show that you slept three hours less than normal.

Part 3: Close the loop from Relevance back to Big Data

The pirate in you may shout “Back to the ship, we’ve found the treasure!” But in the movies isn’t there always another treasure map hidden inside the original treasure if you look hard enough?

For relevance and Big Data, it’s the same. If you can build relevance for consumers, they will be less bothered about all the data they are giving away. As long as the personal benefit is greater than the “loss” of giving personal data away, then consumers will share their data. This creates an upward spiral. However, you need to take care that relevance and data shared by customers remain in balance; otherwise, you will very quickly find yourself in a downward spiral. If consumers feel their privacy is being abused, they will block their data from you.

Case: Take me back home, quickly!
Having a navigation device that uses your current position to help you get home is normal these days. Having every route you’ve ever driven on a server may sound scarier. About 50 million users share their daily journey with Waze. This allows Waze to detect traffic jams and advise other drivers to take alternative route, helping get us all to and from work faster. The more times you arrive on time at an appointment thanks to Waze, the more you will use it, and the more data Waze will get, making it ever more accurate and thus more relevant for its users. 


As Marketers we live in interesting times! Your new friends will be IT, more specifically data miners, to help you maintain the “upward relevance spiral” from data to information and on to relevance, once again feeding new data into the Big Data. But it’s Marketers who should take the lead in this conquest!
There ya arrrr, now go ‘n look for that treasure matey 😉

I would be happy to discuss this further via a blog or social network, in person or by e-mail.