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Scaling Marketing’s Big Rocks: Big Data, Big Deal

Jed MoleNovember 06, 2014

The X Factor is a global phenomenon driving fundamental shifts in entertainment and the music industry. Some love it, some loathe it. That’s a big argument right there but something I loathe is the fact we seem to have lost the generic term ‘X-factor’ to it. There are many occasions when I’d like to use that phrase and I hesitate and, now, just when I’m used to the term Big Data, it seems this too as a term is under threat.

When I first wrote about Scaling Marketing’s Big Rocks, the 7 persistent or significant challenges and almost surely just as equally, opportunities for marketers today, I could not resist including Big Data. Everyone is talking about it; so why the derision and disaffection?

There’s little chance Big Data will go from ‘hero to zero’ but there’s every chance those of us talking of Big Data will face narrowing eyes and tight lips from our audiences and an overall sense of ‘did I just say the wrong thing?’ I believe this is not because Big Data is not real; it is. I believe this is not because Big Data can’t help us; it can. I believe it is because the term has been hijacked, overused and abused.

Ok, in writing this blog I’m guilty of furthering the issue, but I am here to defend it, if not those who talk about it.

When I say Big Data has been hijacked I mean people are not being specific to Big Data, they’re taking almost every aspect of marketing and making it about Big Data. It’s not analytics anymore, it’s big data analytics. It’s not data storage anymore it’s big data storage and so on. Big Data has become a buzzword, great for spreading awareness but often at the expense of clarity.

Now you might think I’m the sort of person who feels Big Data needs to be very tightly defined. Across numerous definitions, there seems to be agreement on 3Vs: Volume, Velocity and Variability. So for anyone, if there is anyone, who has read this far and has not had Big Data defined, here goes. Volume: colossal, unimaginable amounts of data being created by today’s technology and millions upon millions of devices we use every day. Velocity: the fact today’s consumer demands real time experiences and the brand must respond in kind. Variability: the fact that this tsunami of data, travelling at the speed of light, inconveniently lacks structure or consistency. Some claim Big Data conditions only exist when all three factors are present, some only one.

Despite all of the rhetoric, the reality is this. Big Data is real and I believe the biggest complaint we have, the biggest reason we’re becoming rather tired of hearing about it is the debate on what it is rather than how it really is being ‘tamed’ and put to use. We’re all affected by Big Data, whether as marketers or consumers. The marketer who can talk about what has changed and what has got better as a direct result of Big Data, will be the marketer who can help us all talk again about Big Data without the occasional snort of derision ringing in our ears.

To find out more about how Acxiom is talking Big Data read our whitepaper.