November 03, 2012

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Beware of Big Data Hype Big data is no big deal. Big data has been around for years and years dominated by financial services firms, telecom providers and sophisticated retailers And while incremental advancements in computing speed and software design have enabled us to dice and slice data better and faster, don’t expect a groundswell of new activity. Here are three fundamental reasons why. Sensibility. Big data users and believers share a common POV that the cost and trouble of collecting, holding, cleaning and analyzing data is worth it. And while its easy to say, its almost impossible to graph this sensibility onto running companies or agencies who are brand oriented or who have not hired enough numbers guys to influence their go-to-market strategy or the operational aspects of their business. Embracing big data means embracing an ROI-driven numbers-oriented culture where data trumps opinion; even high priced, big ego executive opinion. The best big data users are numbers guys at the core. They believe that if you can’t count it or measure it; it doesn’t exist. It’s a pervasive micro viewpoint where God is in the details. They are skeptical about big ideas and reluctant to embrace the unknowable magic of creative agencies. They will take a base hit over a home run everyday because its predictable. They live for testing, iterations and incrementality. It’s a slow, detailed and often frustrating process. Rarely do the numbers reveal immediate or market-altering insight. Investment. Big data doesn’t come cheap. And while the cost of computers, software and even skilled data analysts or outsourcing solutions has come down in recent years, its still not chickenfeed. Beyond the cash outlay and the intense IT landscape, organizations have to attend to the care and feeding of data guys, who need their toys and need to be managed and motivated differently than employees with other skill sets. The pay-off is rarely immediate and often requires considerable marketing spend to generate enough data to find relevant patterns or to discern the nuances of consumer behavior. You can’t dabble in big data. You have to go all-in. Interpretation. Data guys think, talk and act differently. They need to be nurtured and directed differently by managers who understand them and can translate numbers and geek talk into English and into persuasive arguments for meeting or exceeding business objectives. It’s easy to get lost in the weeds, if you don’t hire, mobilize and motivate the right interpreters. More importantly the interpreters need a seat at the decision-making table so that the analytics pay-off can be recognized and incorporated into the business. Big Data isn’t a passing fancy. The current hype will wane. Some verticals, like CPG, will dabble a little more or a little less, but don’t expect a mad rush to embrace these tools. In a short while big data will slip below the line, where its always been.
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Alvin Ailey's Digital Dance Modern dance is like olives. It’s an acquired taste. And in this socio-economic environment dance troupes are underfunded, searching for new audiences and competing for each and every discretionary entertainment dollar. What’s a company to do? Differentiate, target and make it easy for customers and prospects to engage with dancers and dancing. That’s what the famous Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is doing by using digital media to expose their new Artistic Director, engage new audience members and help tentative ticket buyers find the programs that might suit them best. It’s a trifecta performance that leverages promotion, apps, e-mail and search in concert. The promotion starts with a simple compelling idea. Robert Battle, my friend and upstairs neighbor, is the new Artistic Director. He was selected by and who replaced the legendary dancer and choreographer Judith Jamison last year and his influence and direction is first being felt at scale this season. So they start by using the news and awareness of the new face driving the company. Next they target artistic sensibility. On a dedicated landing page, his image fronts four questions, which assess a person’s interest, familiarity, experience and tastes in dance and with the Alvin Ailey company. Prospects are instantly included and engaged and the conversation sidesteps questions about if you’ll go and jumps right to which performances will suit you best. The answers to the questions are instantly mapped to four of the thirty-nine specific performances. Ideally “Robert” recommends programs that a person is most likely to enjoy. The interface is easy to use and graphically interesting. The whole experience takes 45 seconds. And the prospect then has a simple choice to make. The five key lessons here are … Understand the consumer mindset Anticipate your audience needs Take the message to those most likely to respond Do the math for them Make it easy and fast. It’s a muscular, agile, inventive and bravura performance in a category that is often sleepy when it comes to digital marketing and innovative thinking.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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