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The Art of Data: Seeing Around Corners



When my parents took me to watch the Winnie the Pooh film in central London at the ripe age of four, I spent the entire time of the film turned around in my seat staring back at the audience. I was just so fascinated by the expressions, the actions, the behaviors of so many people glued to their chairs for a lengthy period of time. I was more engrossed in the collection, analysis and inference of people’s behaviors than the film itself. The stories behind those details were simply mesmerizing to me.

I had a data process whereby I broke down each person’s mannerism, took mental notes as to how they dressed, how they reacted to their surroundings, to each other, the film; and then pieced this all together in an attempt to come up with my own personal key take-aways by compiling data through my own lenses and then created correlations, inferences and projections. I was creating an artistic piece, a story if you will on each person and the audience as a collective whole.

Creating an artistic piece, a story is far easier today due to the advent of Cloud technology having the ability to thoroughly analyze vast data repositories in near real-time to develop insights and make informed decisions much faster at far less cost than before. For every dollar spent in the cloud you would spend $6 to $25 in a conventional data center to do the same amount of work.

However, despite all these advancements and reductions in required capital, in the information age we have access to more data and knowledge than at any previous point in human history. As data becomes increasingly overwhelming in terms of both volume and heterogeneity, data driven discovery is increasingly mandatory for businesses to remain competitive as it assists in better understanding the impact of decisions and future actions.

If the art of data manifests into actionable insights, it can help businesses essentially see around corners! Leveraging data to help generate theories rather than developing a theory first and using the data to see if it fits has been a recent paradigm shift from how data has historically been used.

From a brand marketing perspective, the application of data helps businesses understand critical consumer decisions which influence activities i.e. engagement with a brand, service, and product or even impacting one’s purchase decisions as they travel though E. St. Elmo Lewis’ 1898 purchase funnel.

The art of data is the knowhow of being able to move from content to context. By reducing the ocean of data down to a puddle helps to better focus on the business strategy at hand and the future impact.

From a consumer behavior target marketing perspective, knowing what makes things tick for people, and the reasons behind a given action by understanding, correlating, and finding critical links in data that’s sitting in front of steakholders is key to helping formulate the right marketing strategy. This ability to gain insight at this level helps one design for example, an experience of seamlessness for a consumer, to enable a feeling of natural extension of self, whether one is experiencing a media message of sorts or using a product first hand.

For example, data supported advertising enables consumers to enjoy a more relevant and useful advertising experience while allowing advertisers to better reach their desired targeted audience. This model of using data is the foundation of a vibrant ecosystem that has helped the advertising industry flourish while the mobile and Internet industries rapidly evolve.

How this works is that targeting systems advertisers use may know from context, attribution and anynonomyzed data that a user is, lets say for example, interested in baby products. The data is collected as our user leaves a trail of data while she utilizes search engines, blogs and sites and then becomes categorized in the segment of females, in the age bucket of 18-34 and probably has children. With highly calibrated algorithms, ads being served are all based on our user’s activities and many other granular attribution points that are all being tracked during her digital exploration.

The art is that the data is then used to accurately utilize content that is fitting for such a psychographic and demographic segment of the population by the agency. Then, the content (ads) are served to our particular user looking for baby products by way of cookies and other targeting solutions to others in the newly created segmentation.  The user then receives more relevant advertising for her rather than, for instance, advertisements for football fans looking for fan gear. By leveraging data in the utilization of the right piece of content, to give the right message, to the right person at the right time achieves success. I like to say, if content is king then consumer insights is checkmate!

The art is also using the data to address how the user might actually respond emotionally by seeing a targeted ad for baby products by our purported female target. She clicks on the ad for more information and in the end, the advertiser is successful to achieve the click thru and got a sale, which builds purchase behavior insights for the advertiser. Or, at the very least, if a purchase was not made, the advertiser obtained data on the user’s behavior off the website activities to help learn for future targeting purposes. The end result, a win-win scenario as the user will at best be receiving desired baby products in the mail shortly or at the very least, be better informed about available baby products on the market.  As for the advertiser, the data is reusable for relational and norms databases to be leveraged to gleam further actionable insights.

The art of knowing what data is important, to be able to improve how consumers discover and engage with brands and products is increasingly critical to the survival of a company’s market positioning. To help see around corners, data needs to be considered as the foundation to advertising, product development, marketing and business development.

As the world becomes increasingly Digital, new techniques will be needed to better understand consumer behavior and the effectiveness of advertising. Those techniques will first start with experts who are able to connect the dots between the sciences behind the data with the sciences behind business strategy and can then position the value of each in an artistic story-telling way that demonstrates performance driven outcomes to ultimately achieve business’ goals.

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