It is hard to find anyone who is not familiar with revelations about mass collections of private data conducted by NSA and other international security agencies. Regardless of what one feels about the methods Edward Snowden used to make these revelations public, there are lessons to be learned from that affair.
- Most people are not happy about the unauthorized, covert collection of their personal data. When you plan investment into big data methods and technologies for marketing projects, you have to consider the risk to your brand equity. The consumers will likely punish your brand when they discover that you have used their data without their permission. The excuse, you’ve done it to improve their customer experience will not likely get your brand off the hook. Even though the NSA claims to collect only the meta data and do it only for our security, it has been threatened with disbandment. Many marketing big data models need very specific personal data to deliver (hopefully) what they promise.
- During the SXSW televised address, Snowden questioned the actual effectiveness of mass data collection to protect us from external treats. Volume and velocity of data does not linearly translate into actionable intelligence for the NSA or for a CMO. Ease of monitoring huge volumes of data and measuring clicks are likely to result in failure because they distract us from focusing on the real problems. “How much”, “how many”, “how often” and other such quantitative data is plentiful, and can be relatively easily aggregated for pattern analysis to understand what has already happened. However, such data is not sufficient to generate meaningful and actionable insights without understanding “why” consumers behaved they way they did.
“The first step is to measure whatever can be easily measured. This is OK as far as it goes. The second step is to disregard that which can’t be easily measured or to give it an arbitrary quantitative value. This is artificial and misleading. The third step is to presume that what can’t be measured easily really isn’t important. This is blindness. The fourth step is to say that what can’t be easily measured really doesn’t exist. This is suicide.”
In this age of the social consumer, qualitative information is widely available for analysis and opinion mining without encroaching on consumer’s privacy rights. However, the complexity of translating unstructured content into the metrics needed for predictive modeling, prove to challenging for most marketers. They find it easier to focus on volume and velocity of data instead for now.
According to IBM Global CMO Study
“While 82% of CMOs plan to increase social media use during the next three to five years, only 26% are currently tracking blogs, 42% are tracking third-party reviews, and 48% are tracking consumer reviews to help shape their marketing strategies.
56% of CMOs view social media as a key engagement channel, but they still struggle with capturing valuable customer insight from the unstructured data that customers and potential customers produce.”
The CMO’s need the conviction and courage to stop pretending that low hanging fruit is a complete diet, and challenge their teams to engage with consumers on consumer’s terms.