At DMA2012: Making sense of the Big Data deluge

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Las Vegas—The solution to Big Data lies in the tension between intuition and testing, said Chris Anderson, Wired editor in chief, during a keynote address Monday at the Direct Marketing Association's 2012 expo and conference here. Anderson, a database expert and author of “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More” (Hyperion, 2006), said marketing departments need visionaries with “leadership, courage and radical new ideas,” complemented by statistical techniques and testing to make sense of the data deluge. “Data beats HIPPOs [(“the highest-paid person's opinion”] every time, but you can't just let data tell you where to go,” Anderson said. “Sometimes you need to show innovation, to do something and let the customers decide.” Anderson warned against data dominance that compels marketers to attempt overperfection in landing pages, messages, graphics and other marketing elements that can be tested ad infinitum. He called this “raging incrementalism.” “You can end up circling in one spot, just becoming more and more perfect in a single construct,” Anderson said. “Rather, use your common sense and instincts to determine probabilities about correlations. Apply your own skills, with a hunter instinct that something might be true. Then construct experiments on Big Data to further advise your approach.” Anderson's newest book, “Makers: The New Industrial Revolution” (Crown Business, 2012), was released this month. Another kind of tension exists between social media and customer relationship management, said Brian Fetherstonehaugh, chairman-CEO of OgilvyOne, during an afternoon keynote. He and panelists said social media is a “game changer” in dealing with customers. “Some marketers see scale and discipline and commercial value in CRM but are often too quick to dismiss social media as fluffy, vaporous, a fad,” Fetherstonehaugh said. “And social enthusiasts think everything is social all the time, that CRM is dead and a thing of the past. “The winners in the decade ahead will be those who can pull together these two collective forces,” he said. Fetherstonehaugh said marketers should look beyond customer loyalty and lifetime value and seek customers who influence other purchasers, “who are socially plugged-in and interested in co-creating a brand. We need to think of customers in a broader, more comprehensive way.” Dean Chadwick, VP-digital marketing and innovation at American Express Co., detailed how AmEx is working with merchants to translate their written offerings into digital form. “We're conducting this as a pilot project in London,” Chadwick said. “Many of these AmEx customers have sidewalk chalkboards, and we're taking that content and pushing it across multiple social platforms. “Knowing what works, and connecting data sets, is driving our thinking forward to embrace this new change in social CRM,” Chadwick said. One approach that IBM Corp. has taken in addressing social CRM has been to establish a 24/7 social monitoring center in India to help identify trends important to clients. “Then we have our IBM experts, developers of our offerings, engage in and nurture those conversations, using demos, white papers and invitations to events to generate leads and incremental revenue,” said Buell G. Duncan, VP-marketing software group at IBM. “The real challenges are about following up on opportunities quickly and effectively enough to turn them into real business,” Duncan said.
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