Some reflectations during #mkttour: Big data: Is it “awesome” or “creepy”?

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There’s no doubt about it: going on an inspiration journey with twenty top entrepreneurs, managers and politicians is absolutely awesome. I’m spending this week travelling around in Silicon Valley in the company of Peter Hinssen to immerse ourselves and our travel companions in the fascinating stories of the American West Coast.

One of the buzzwords is undoubtedly “big data”. Thanks to their social command center, the popular fast food chain Taco Bell is able to predict the success of product innovations with 90% accuracy. Every year, some 18 million messages on Taco Bell are posted online and the real-time analysis of these data helps them predict success or failure with eerie precision.

Data is the new weapon of choice of the marketing department. Data can not only be used to predict the chances of success but also to make the right message appear at the right time. Evernote, a free app to create notes and record voice memos, is convincing consumers to switch to their paying version by presenting commercial messages in the appropriate context. Nowadays a modern marketer looks for ways of using data to boost his sales figures.

Nike’s Fuelband is another example of a big data tool. Users of this digital bracelet provide Nike with tons of free personal info. Nike knows where you are, how far you walk, how often you work out and what your heart rate is. In theory, Nike could have a new pair of trainers delivered to your doorstep at exactly the right time. It would be the ultimate proactive service a brand could offer its customers. Thanks to big data, companies know what you need before you do.

So here’s the thing: should we find this “awesome” or is it just plain “creepy”? The line between the two is pretty thin.

Many marketers today are asking the wrong question, viz. “How far can we take big data?”. The question they should be asking is “How far should we go?”. Only the consumer can answer this last question.

While data is invaluable if used properly, it is absolutely worthless when used in a creepy way. Over the next few years many companies will get burned when they cross that line.

After just one day in Silicon Valley it’s quite clear: the future of marketing has a crucial role in store for data. Data can provide powerful insights and can generate more impact on customers. In both cases the main goal should be the enhancement of the customer experience. In addition, we are also trying to create a positive effect for the organization through higher profits or more efficiency. More than ever, the customer should be given center stage to avoid burning the data. Today’s marketers are faced with a daily search for “awesome” instead of “creepy” applications.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steven Van Belleghem
Steven Van Belleghem is inspirator at B-Conversational. He is an inspirator, a coach and gives strategic advice to help companies better understand the world of conversations, social media and digital marketing. In 2010, he published his first book The Conversation Manager, which became a management literature bestseller and was awarded with the Marketing Literature Prize. In 2012, The Conversation Company was published. Steven is also part time Marketing Professor at the Vlerick Management School. He is a former managing partner of the innovative research agency InSites Consulting.

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