Big and Even Bigger Data

Posted by Kate Jurras on Tue, Oct 2, 2012


singer resized 600This October, we're all about Big Data. We asked a group of exceptional data experts to enlighten us. They answered this tough question: “How will the recent explosion of big data affect marketing & advertising innovation and productivity in the future?” This post is by Gary I. Singer. Gary is the founding partner and CEO of Buyology Inc, a leading neuro-insight firm based in New York City, focused on understanding the non-conscious. Prior to founding Buyology, Gary served as the Chief Strategy Officer at Interbrand, where he co-led the development of Interbrand’s global intellectual property. Before joining Interbrand, Gary was a Partner at McKinsey & Company, where he was a leader of the Branding Center of the Marketing & Sales Practice. Gary will be speaking at FutureM in a session titled "How Consumer Behavior Will Change Marketing Forever" giving a new overview into insights on consumer decisions making and the science of why we buy.

It knows where you live, where you shop, how much you spend, what you browsed on the internet, and even what you posted on a buddy’s wall. It can predict what your next purchasing decisions are likely to be, and it has even been reported that it knows when you are headed towards giving birth or going through a divorce. It has more knowledge about you, your customers and your prospects than has ever been possible before. In fact, it’s likely that it know things about you and your targets that you and they don’t even know about themselves. What used to be called “big brother” is now more acceptably labeled “big data.” 

Big data – while still without a clear or universal definition – is impressive and potentially immensely useful to any enterprise trying to more specifically customize and/or target their offerings to better meet the needs and desires of its constituents. Our personal information “exhaust” is so comprehensive that it provides a previously unimaginable amount of data, which, combined with the advent of advances in computer hardware and software processing power, is now increasingly accessible. The question is no longer whether can we collect detailed information or even when it will happen. Google, for example, is quite advanced at utilizing big data. The question now is how best to assimilate what this data knows and what is possible to know, and what to do with that information so it is incrementally useful, insightful and not an invasion of personal privacy.

There are two ways to assemble big data – aggregate or individual. Aggregate data characterizes people into fine-tuned groups. It allows businesses to find groups of very specifically delineated people based on their actions and attitudes. For example, it is very possible today to find licensed drivers likely to be purchasing cars in the next six months who are considering hybrid and/or electric vehicles and are concerned about the viability of electric car technology. It should be obvious how useful being able to identify these potential customers is to both Chevy, valiantly trying to get its wonderful Volt more widely accepted, or to Toyota’s efforts to increase the Prius’s omnipresence.

Aggregate data has been around for a long time. Big Data’s ability to make it even more granular and specific has and will continue to make it increasingly effective and efficient. Also, aggregate data is less intimidating and seemingly less of a threat to personal privacy. People often feel a sense of comfort in being part of a group, versus being singled out as an individual; although some wonder whether the difference is actually meaningful.

Facebook raised the game on individual data very significantly. Whenever you log into Facebook or any other online service or site with your Facebook user name and password, you are granting permission to link any new information you will be providing about yourself to everything you have shared with friends (including who your friends are) on Facebook. Google+ is Google’s noble effort to convert their massive aggregate database into an even more powerful collection of linked individual data.

Individual data allows for the understanding of each individual; what makes each of us tick – how are we similar to other people and how are we specifically different? Whereas aggregate data allows for the fine-tuning from a target of everyone to a much, much smaller group, individual data allows for the definition of groups of one, you and me.

While a target of one can be immensely attractive – it’s the difference between mass manufactured merchandise (e.g., suits or shirts) to custom-made items specifically made for you – it is also potentially terrifying. Are we ready for strangers in Mountain View to know every call we receive, the content of the voice messages we receive, and combine that with the e-mails we send and receive and the information we collect and provide on the Internet? Are we prepared for this information to leak to less trustworthy “users” who might use it for less noble purposes than to make our products more useful and the messages we receive more relevant to us?

Big data is already here, and it is here to stay. The opportunity we have is to enhance the quality of information being gathered and its application. My colleagues and I at Buyology are looking to extend the reach of Big Data to make big data even bigger.

About Buyology
Buyology is the leading global neuro-insight firm that rigorously measures the deeper, non-conscious, 85% of human decision-making that drives customer preference for brands. Utilizing advances in the medical, neurological and social sciences, Buyology has developed statistically validated, large-sample, web-based tools to quantitatively measure and immediately leverage a deeper understanding of customer responses to brands, new products, innovation, positioning, advertising, packaging, digital content and experiences.

Buyology has served global leaders in consumer products, financial services, media, pharmaceuticals and technology and is internationally recognized as a thought leader in driving marketing insight and effectiveness. Buyology publishes America’s Most Desired Brands annually and has been cited and covered in the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Fortune, and The New York Times, among others. In 2011, Buyology was selected as one of Forbes 100 Most Promising Companies in America. For more information on Buyology, visit