Humanize Big Data into Smart Data that marketing professionals can use

Are we data, or are we human?
Finance and stock market data graph
Martin Guo 2015

Editor in Chief, Kantar China Insights, China

The difficulty with having a mountain of data is the possibility that it may turn into an avalanche.

It is one of the biggest challenges facing marketing professionals – knowing what to pay attention to and installing the right processes to make sure that the data we have is a help, not a hindrance.

Tempting, as it is, to think that technology solves all of this, it also brings with it a new set of challenges. There is data pouring through the corridors of every organisation, unless it is approached and utilised in the right way, then it’s a case of water, water everywhere – but not a drop to drink.

Use it the wrong way and it ends up stored in different silos and structured in different ways. It actually becomes quite complex to make sense of and shape into a single view of the customer that an organisation can galvanise itself around. It is a complex task, then, and no wonder some businesses are struggling with it.

Get it wrong and you end up with the right customers being served the wrong content, at the wrong time. We will all have experienced this unintended consequence of our personal data-fuelled echo chamber. Apparently, I am still looking for a flight to the Greek Islands and it is nearly December.

To tackle this businesses need to:

  • swap a big data mentality for a smart data mentality, and that means being much more selective about which data sets we bring together. Not all data is born equal, some cast a more illuminating light on customers than others and we need to be more selective about it
  • move from a perspective of data being available on a need-to-know basis to data being much more open source. Break down the silos in organisations and create a much more collaborative context
  • use technology to give us a continuous, on-going understanding of consumers rather than a one-off snapshot as has previously tended to be the case.

An example. We’ve worked over the last 18 months with one of Asia’s largest financial institutions, a big insurance group.

They rely on a huge team of door-to-door sales people and they have fused multiple different data sets to build a single view of their customer base, divided into a series of different audience groups. And every one of those audience groups has then been used to tag every single customer on their customer database.

So literally millions of customers have been identified as belonging to a particular group with a specific set of needs, based on interest, attitudes to money, risk and so on.

And that means that when that salesman knocks on your door with his iPad, he knows instantly to which group you belong, what you care about, the products you might be interested in and how he ought to talk to you.

That can only benefit the customer with a much more personal and informed salesperson seeking to serve them something far more relevant.

We live in the age of speed, and businesses want to change at the speed of light. The above example took around 12 months, end-to-end. Adapting to this new age of data takes time, to fuse the data in a smart way and then embed it in an organisation, but the rewards will be exponential (and the process will get quicker).

A final thought. Marketing professionals talk increasingly about the ability to use technology to personalise marketing.  But we also have to humanise it (and there’s a difference). Issues of privacy and consumers’ concern about the use of data has to be at the forefront of our minds and we have to be transparent about why we use data. We do this by acknowledging that this is a value exchange between the company and the customer. Yes, we want to be more successful but will only do that if we use data to meet people’s needs better, anticipating their needs rather than looking back to what they were doing two weeks ago (no, I still don’t want to go back to Greece, just yet).

On a broader point, we have reached the stage now where we know a lot about our customers. We need to make sure that we are using that knowledge in a way that is quite diverse. None of us is one dimensional, we have a variety of different interests and therefore we may be open to a variety of different solutions. And businesses need to demonstrate that they understand the whole human, and not just the individual data point. That means making a mixed diet of content, programmatic. If we offer choice and diversity in order to engage our customers, then they will feel that we are understanding them better and delivering them more value and more relevance.

To paraphrase that old Killers song, are we data, or are we human?


* The article was initially published on Kantar Added Value official website as "How integrated data ecosystems make marketing more personal and more effective"; 
* To reach the author, or to know more information, data and analysis of branding consultancy, please contact us.