The “Post-Data” Era Has Arrived

big data

For the past few years, we’ve heard about how technology can provide marketers with intelligent connectivity and data, as well as new ways to engage & interact with their customers. We’ve heard from every marketer, agency, platform and vendor talking about the importance of “Big Data” over the past five years. It’s become a cliché. A joke. Noise.

So let’s all stipulate now, once and for all, that, yes, data is important. But let’s first clear up a myth – or perception – that data is some panacea solution to all of our challenges. Every company needs data, but attention and revenue don’t scale proportionately to how much data you can get your hands on. Data can very much be at the heart of it all as driven, purposeful, transformational change, but we first must address some of the challenges with data.

Challenges with Big Data:

  • Volume: We have, and can find, much MORE data than we need already. By 2025, the volume of all data created will exceed 163ZB (that’s “zettabytes”). Now I don’t know what a zettabyte is, but it sounds like a futuristic Kelloggs’ breakfast cereal.
  • Operationalization: All businesses have analytics tools, just not the right ones. Understanding how to aggregate all these tools into a common data model – and then use that to run the business – is the operationalization strategy that most companies miss. Companies collect and have access to a ton of data. Businesses and enterprises will experience a 50-fold increase in data they must manage in the next 5 years. Most of that will be stored in disparate systems waiting to be processed.
  • Bad Data: It Happens. The era of “big data” brought bad data to 40% average in enterprises, according to the Harvard Business Review. There’s an inherent risk in aggregating data poorly — and the tools we’re using are not focused on solving that problem… but rather in increasing the size of the data stored.
  • Resources: Most organizations we work with or listen to have the same initial challenge: Not enough qualified resources (people, money, technology, time) to do the work they need with data.
  • Comprehension: Value comes from aggregating the right data from multiple sources and using it efficiently and effectively to solve business challenges and optimize processes… and to do that, we need to understand what the data shows, what’s it saying… and what to do about it… not just having the data itself.

So What? Now What?

Post-data doesn’t mean we’re PAST needing data, it means being smarter with data. In a post-data mindset, the data collected, processed, stored and used must align with a purpose. It used to be the company determined what the purpose was, but it is clear that consumers and culture are driving commerce, demanding specific outcomes that change how much data is processed, stored and used.

For strategists and creatives who make the work that directly addresses those consumers, bad data results in bad creativity and innovation.  Poor input yields poor output.

Better Decision-Making

During WWII, the Navy tried to determine where they needed to armor their aircraft to ensure greater survival rates. They analyzed where planes had been shot on every single plane when they returned from missions. To them, it was obvious that the places that needed to be up-armored were the wingtips, the central body, and the elevators. That’s where the planes were all getting shot up.  But one statistician challenged the data, suggesting that the armor would help more in the nose area, engines and mid-body. Why? Because the planes WERE getting shot there too, but they weren’t making it home… and that data was even more valuable. By considering the right data, the Navy invested in armor in the RIGHT places and saved more lives.

Marketers and their agency partners must determine the actual usefulness of the data and figure out what to do with all of it. Organizations need to understand what the data represents, where it came from, where it’s going, and how it’s used, but more importantly, what is the value proposition of the data. Here are some things they can do with it:

  1. Make better decisions. Data should inform insights. Insights guide recommendations up and down the organizational chart. But incorporating more and better data into decision making can be difficult. Data provides brands – as manufacturers, as marketers, publishers, storytellers and technologists – with the ability to address quality by finding and eliminating the root causes of errors.
  1. Make better products and services. Use data to uncover hidden insights, and use those insights to create or improve products, services, and processes. This one seems obvious – and may have less to do with marketing – but better products are always easier to market. Car companies do this as well as any company, with the luxury of annual new product releases and required innovation. This is where the addition of lane departure notifications, GPS, distance-to-empty gas tank alerts and other features feel natural to consumers.
  1. Make better content. Do I even need to say more here? Communicating product benefits is where good content makes a difference.
  1. Make the process better. Innovation isn’t always in what you make or in how it is communicated. With better creativity and content, innovation can also come in HOW it is made. How you get there. While data, analytics, AI, IOT, OTT, ABC, BBD and the East Coast Family garner the lion’s share of media attention, using data to its full potential is much more about integration than it is about automation. This marketing convergence of insights, strategy, creative, production, amplification and optimization for companies and brands is where and how most innovation can improve.
  1. Make the conversion easier. Brands with the right data can exploit the asymmetries that arise when one side of a transaction knows something that the other doesn’t. This knowledge helps brands drive a better deal. Airlines like Delta and Norwegian use variable pricing to capture maximum revenue from consumers. And we already know how Amazon is leveraging years worth of search data to surface and improve product offerings throughout the consumer experience.

Brands and companies that master these improvements will see their bottom lines grow. But those that excel at these improvements can further advance in maturity and profitability by selling (or licensing) valuable data. Information about products, services and consumers can be valuable to other brands or industries. Just because some brands are ready for a post-data landscape doesn’t mean everyone is, and infomediation can connect data providers and those who need the data.