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What does AMA-LA have to say about Big Data?


Feeling a bit bewildered and breathless when it comes to Big Data? Don’t worry; you’re not alone! Big Data is characterized by volume, velocity, and variety: it describes the massive amounts of structured and unstructured data, which is so large that it’s difficult to process using traditional database and software techniques.    

A group of experts in the Big Data field recently convened as part of an American Marketing Association, Los Angeles, panel to talk about the best way to use and understand Big Data. The bottom line from this panel of experts was this: Big Data, narrow focus.  In other words, ask focused and business-driven questions to get useful results that can actually be applied to a business.

These data management pros cited a recurring frustration, which is the request from Marketing  to “collect everything, analyze it, and tell me what you find, find good insights for me.” Unfortunately this approach does not work for several reasons. Instead, the efforts to leverage Big Data must be focused.

  1. Collect the data. The good news is that it is feasible now to warehouse lots of data, fairly economically (without investing in complex platforms).
  2. Focus the scope and scale of queries or analyses. Just as with primary qualitative and quantitative marketing research, you will get the best results if you hone your questions and hypotheses to address a specific business issue. Fishing expeditions don’t work. The analysis is expensive; so start small, with a clearly delineated mission meant to serve a particular business need.  

Down the road: Expect big leaps in understanding how to manage, analyze, and leverage Big Data. The tools for analyzing Big Data are still evolving. Analysts with this highly specialized skill set are rare (at the moment), but look for that to change as market researchers, in particular, dive into this.

Understand Big Data limitations.  Big Data can reveal behavior in the digital world, but it reflects only the digital world. In addition, Big Data analyses do not shed light on motivations. Look for market researchers to integrate Big Data with qualitative and quantitative primary research to build a deeper, more comprehensive understanding of what drives behavior.

Interested in learning how Big Data can be used for your marketing efforts? Contact me today at or (805) 497-9090.

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