MAD Perspectives Blog

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 Finding the Story in the Data

Peggy Dau - Monday, June 09, 2014

Batting averages. Market share. Global warming. Presidential front-runner. What do all of these statements have in common? They are statements based on data. They are the beginning of a story. Whether it is a journalist reporting or an analyst writing or a brand positioning, the basis of the story is in the data. It's little wonder that big data analytics has become the catchphrase for every marketer (myself included!).

We've always been data driven. The only difference now, is that we have MORE data. It has always been able to find the data to support any type of debate. However, now individuals are voluntarily sharing their thoughts and opinions on the internet and social networks. It is the power of this unstructured data, especially when combined with existing structured data from existing systems, that is attractive to brands. They have the opportunity to tailor a story to meet specific, self-defined customer needs. But the challenge lies in how to sift through all that data.

Enter - big data analytics. Analytics is now big business. Every IT company has jumped on the bandwagon. IBM and its Watson supercomputer are positioned to provide personalized advice to doctors, financial analysts or online shippers. While HP Vertica is sifting subscriber data at telecommunications companies around the globe and analyzing social data feeds for NASCAR.  Not to be outdone, Teradata is providing greater customer insight to the hospitality industry and food suppliers.  Each of these vendors is providing the 'secret sauce' to help their customers connect with their customers by telling the most relevant story. And, it all comes from the data.

A report from Columbia's TOW Center for Digital Journalism, speaks to data-driven journalism. But, hasn't journalism always been data driven? Yes, but instead of having staff researchers manually scour files and reports, or spend hours online searching for the right data, there are an increasing number of tools to help them uncover the data to create or support the story.  They are not alone. The term data scientist has gained great cache in the past few years. Whether it is for advertising firms or for financial services, the value of data has never been higher. 

One only needs to look at the history of US presidential elections.  Remember the predictions Dewey defeating Truman in the 1948 US Presidential election? Newspapers had determined that they had their story and went to print with "Dewey Defeats Truman" on the front page. Perhaps access to more data would have prevented that now famous error.  Today's pollsters have many more tools available to them today as proven by Nate Silver's eerily accurate predictions in the 2012 US Presidential race.

Brands are learning how to tell their stories with a deeper understanding of their customer base. Dove has hit home runs with their ads reflecting real women rather than models. Telecommunications vendors are modifying their marketing outreach to reflect the knowledge they have about subscriber consumption. Advertising conglomerates, perhaps the kings of storytelling, have invested in analytics to improve ROI for their clients. Big Data Analytics is not a passing fad, it is a logical step on the journey for meaningful, measurable communication between individuals and businesses. Have you found your story in the data?

What's your perspective?