If you, like me, have heard these two little words, Big Data, in the last month, then this post is for you. Let me take you on a quick ride involving Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, David, Goliath, IBM and Marketers in general.


Some of the first words that come out of a Marketing Director’s mouth these days are, “yes, we’re harnessing the power of Big Data”.


How exactly are you “harnessing” it, and what “power” have you unleashed on the market to drive your business objectives? And what do you exactly mean by Big Data?

IBM claims we all create approximately 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day. So much that 90% of the digital data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone! And here’s how much digital data is generated every minute:

big data

Now that’s Big.

Dead end

Data dead end

However when I dig deep with marketers I tend to find the conversation heading down a dead end road as ‘Big Data’ discussions draw big blanks when it comes to transforming business results.

IBM and Gartner talk about Big Data on 4 levels, however there are some critical questions that I would pose:

1. Volume: “Enterprises are awash with ever-growing data of all types, easily amassing terabytes—even petabytes—of information” from social media, e-commerce, stock management, salesforce activity, sales, and mobile to name a few. Question: How are you using this immense volume of data to actually generate business value? Or have you simply paid Big amounts of money to technology vendors to use massive parallel-processing (MPP) databases to try and aggregate it all?

2. Velocity: “Sometimes 2 minutes is too late.” Digital data is moving at the speed of light. And with speed comes opportunity. Opportunity to identify fraud, identify customer purchase patters or even identify and overcome customer churn patters. Question: However speed also kills, especially if you can’t handle the conditions. So how have you proofed your entire business for super fast Big Data analysis?

3. Variety: “Big data is structured and unstructured, such as text, sensor data, audio, video, click streams, log files and more.” Therefore it’s an art and science to mine this data and pull out insights. Question: I often ask managers what are the 3 golden nuggets that you have found in Big Data that have moved your business forward? I rarely get an answer.

4. Veracity: (I love this one) “1 in 3 business leaders don’t trust the information they use to make decisions”, as there is too much data variety from too many channels. How on earth can you build a Big Data strategy if the head honchos don’t trust it! Question: What are you doing to earn company wide trust, beyond the data and marketing departments?

So size does matter! Big is b#*%$^!t

In my opinion, the only ‘Bigs’ you should be using in a data driven business context are these 4:

  1. BIG INSIGHTS – focus on the big wins, not the fact that you have a truckload of data. After all Ali beat Foreman in the famous ‘Rumble In the Jungle’ fight in Zaire, and David beat Goliath. So you can lose big time if you think big is best.
  2. BIG OPPORTUNITIES – focus on the opportunities to move customers effectively through your segmentation strategy. I hear a lot about customers clustered in a segmentation. The point is not to keep people in a box. It’s to migrate them through a lifecycle as they in turn move through theirs.
  3. BIG TRANSFORMATION – focus on data trends that will generate a significant business shift, or better still, a transformation!
  4. BIG ALIGNMENT – and most importantly earn trust across your business by engaging and aligning all levels of management around your data strategy.

I wonder if JC Penny’s ‘Hitler-esque’ Tea Kettle was based on a Big Data insight. It sold out within 4 hours! http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/05/jc-penneys-hitler-tea-kettle-sold-out-in-hours-because-this-is-the-internet/276334/

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