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This chapter is from the book

Data Versus Insights

For all the interest in Big Data, this is not a book about Big Data. This book is about what can be done with Big Data. More accurately, it’s about what can be done with data, both the good and the bad. When Larson first mentioned the “keepers of big data” back in 1989, companies such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon.com didn’t exist. And yet, marketing analytics and targeting were alive and well—perhaps not as efficiently as they are implemented today, but the ability to draw a portrait of a person based on multiple data sources was practiced by Claritas, Inc., which was eventually acquired by marketing research behemoth Nielsen.

The insights produced to serve marketers didn’t hinge on the amount of data available to them. Instead, it was based on understanding how the available data could be put to use. Larson tees up ideas that are relevant even today, if not ahead of their time, such as permission-based marketing and consumers receiving compensation in exchange for their data. And yet, he determines that he isn’t concerned because the organizations involved in direct marketing and the entities that provide organizations with access to consumer data “don’t really know what they’re doing—at least not yet.”

What makes the present day different from 1989? For one thing, organizations are much more versed in what can be accomplished with the right data. In addition to knowing what can be done with data, there’s also more data available. The data exhaust—the digital trail produced by consumers through their everyday activities—is a potential goldmine. Although there are ample opportunities for organizations to leverage available sources of data, let’s not assume that consumers are victims. Consumers have options at their disposal, and their choices have the potential to separate the winners from the losers.

Organizations of all stripes can be developed or refined based on the insights afforded by consumer data. As organizations have come to realize the tremendous potential that can be extracted from consumer data, the winners will be determined by those who have access to the data they need—that is, those who provide a compelling reason for consumers to share this data with them. Focusing on businesses, this is predicated on an exchange. Neither party has a gun to the head of the other. Consumers and organizations are both willing participants in this data economy.

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