The Big Data Divide 26th March, 2013

Data – the four letter word that has been uttered over and over again in recent years.  Mentioning the word data has the ability to cast confusion, spread fear and ignite inspiration throughout brands and agencies alike, all in two syllables.  Indeed, the influx of data has left marketers confused at the best of times, yet slowly but surely more and more are coming to realise its true potential. Yet despite the many upsides to the use of data, a shadow has been cast over it, flagging debate within the industry over its ‘Orwellian’ nature and its misuse by brands. Indeed, there is no denying that Big Data has become a hotbed of conversation, and in many instances has divided opinion.  But there is one thing that everyone is able to agree upon, the era of Big Data is here.

The prominence of Big Data in our ever more interconnected world is something that retailers and marketers are unable to continue to ignore.   The internet has become a single space through which hundreds of millions of individuals are able to congregate and where their every action is recorded.  The development of social media within this has added another level to this experience.  Communication channels such as Twitter and Facebook allow the consumer to like, share and engage with brands and products on a personal level like never before.

Indeed Big Data and social CRM provide brands and agencies with bountiful information about the consumer allowing them to direct campaigns, communicate messages and market new products to consumers that really want to engage with them.  In many cases, the use of data and CRM has allowed brands that have the ability to react fast and use Big Data intelligently to create some truly creative content.  Take for example, Samsung and their ‘The Next Big Thing is Already Here’ campaign which saw the brand use real time social listening software.  This enabled Samsung to track consumer reaction to the unveiling of the iPhone 5 as it happened which led them to create a campaign based upon the comments it was seeing.  The campaign featured adverts mocking Apple customers queuing outside the iStore – an advert that was viewed more than 70 million times online.

However, the use of data sets such as these has led to a considerable debate within the industry.  Speaking at Advertising Week Europe this month, Sir John Hegarty, founder of BBH warned brands over their reliance upon collecting data and basing campaigns around it.  Hegarty explains that brand use of personal behaviour data in some instances, verges on the inappropriate.  Taking example from tools such as Nike Fuelband, a devise which tracks and stores individuals running patterns which Nike in turn uses, Hegerty continues, could be viewed as taking away from our personal freedom and too much of an intrusion into our daily lives.

Indeed, it is not only the data itself that has been criticised, but the means through which brands are choosing to use this data.  Speaking at the DataIQ Conference, Jon Cano-Lopez expressed that if brands choose to use Big Data, they must be able to decipher what is useful, what is accurate and most importantly what is acceptable.  Furthermore, the means through which brands choose to transfer this data and communicate it back to the consumer is also critical. It may also be said that brands that have an abundance of data sets lose site of their overall brand picture whilst trying too hard to react to the data at hand and predict behavioural patterns.

It is becoming ever more apparent that Big Data is playing a critical role in marketing and sponsorship industries alike.  Despite the aforementioned pit falls, the benefits that can be gained through the correct use of data are endless.  Big Data allows marketers to identify, measure and manage what is impacting their brand in a way that has never been previously been possible.  However, no matter how much data is available, the overwhelming factor resides upon how a brand chooses to use and communicate it.