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Former Member

Big Data is buzz worthy right now, so I sampled some fellow marketing colleagues across agencies, customers, partners, etc. asking them how they were approaching it. The answer in a nutshell was: “Big data? I have so many normal data challenges right now, there is no time to worry about big data.”

Don’t let normal data distract you from big data.

At face value this response made sense. Marketing data is tough enough with all of the processing required to cleanse, normalize, de-duplicate and more. On and on the data work list goes. Having managed data processing teams in the past, I’ll never fault anyone for saying, “We’re too busy to discuss that.”

Then I started thinking about mobile phone towers. I recalled a conversation 15 years ago with a friend who was building private cell phone towers in emerging markets. When I asked him why the traditional phone companies weren’t involved, he said, “They’re too busy trying to install landlines to worry about cell phones.”

That’s when it hit me: Could marketers not prepared for big data go the way of the landline?

Time to dig in deeper! So I started looking around, especially from a chief marketing officer’s point of view. Big data is already transforming the marketing industry -- the ground is shifting beneath our feet.

Think about it: Last year $88 billion was spent in online ads. That’s almost 20 percent of all global advertising, and the pace of online growth is faster than any other form of media.

Driving that growth is the niche targeting and direct ROI measures provided by the Facebook, Google and the like. But better targeting and reporting, albeit powerful, is not the only reason digital dollars are growing so fast -- it’s about big data.

Digital advertising provides a tiny glimpse into the marketing platform of the future. Whole marketing suites based on big data will enable CMOs to engage, educate, sell and service their customers like never before.

Like cell towers’ impact on landlines, it will be a step change for the marketing industry. Similar changes include:

  • What real-time ad bidding has done to bulk media discounts
  • What Twitter has done to the customer service hotline
  • What real-time chat has done to the “contact us” form
  • What search marketing has done to classified ads
  • What social media has done for public relations

The list goes on and on with each of the new tools leapfrogging their predecessor and generating an exponential amount of data in the process. For example, when a customer service rang, the problem was logged, ideally solved for the customer, and the case closed.

Today that exact same process happens on Twitter, providing the company more data than it can manage -- geolocation, date and time, time to response, customer’s device, IP address (and everything that reveals), service agent response, tonality, plus the wider public’s sentiment to the reported problem – all available in real time and sitting on a server forever.

That is big data. Marketers who know how to harness it can provide better products and services in the future. They have a leg up on their industry.

The ones who don’t? Well, at least my grandparents still have a landline.

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