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Big Data Hype: Don’t Forget The Big Idea

Big data is very valuable, but it can't do everything. The numbers can only take you so far. Even as big data gets even bigger, don’t forget the value of big ideas based on true human insight and how they can be what really drives social media content and engagement.

Big Data Hype: Don’t Forget The Big Idea | Social Media Today

Big Ideas, Big Results

On Business 2 Community, author Jason Bowden stated that: 

“Digital marketing professionals declare big data as the next BIG thing in digital marketing … there's no way of stopping the surge of big data explosion upon the emergence of better online marketing analytic tools, mobile marketing schemes, internet technology and social media platforms.”

I completely agree with this sentiment. A Google search of the term “Big Data” reveals 787 million results. In contrast, the search term “Big Idea” reveals only 335 million results. Is big data really deserving of nearly 50% more of our attention?

Big data is defined as extremely large data sets that may be analyzed, computationally, to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions. Big data requires new tools to handle the amount and complexity of data, but with investment comes valuable insight. On the other hand, a big idea is the driving, unifying force behind a brand’s marketing efforts. Big ideas are also valuable. In a piece for Entrepreneur, Chris Wirthwein stated that big ideas provide ten valuable qualities: transformation, ownability, simplicity, originality, surprise, magnetism, infectiousness, contagiousness, egocentricity, and likability.

I'm not advocating replacing big data with big ideas. In a recent survey more than three out of five companies (62 percent) have started investing in data marketing solutions. And almost half of brands (47 percent) are already seeing a positive return on data-related investments. What I am advocating is that in all the excitement over computer generated big data do not leave the human generated ideas and creativity behind. Big data cannot generate a big idea and big ideas can generate real feelings, big movements and real big results.

When Big Data Met Big Creativity

At the recent Advertising Week gathering of marketing communication professionals some professed this same sentiment. In a panel called “When Big Data Met Big Creativity” advertising agency executives were adamant that creativity goes hand-in-hand with data and should complement each other. Tham Khai Meng, worldwide chief creative officer and chairman of Ogilvy, cited the Dove "Campaign for Real Beauty," campaign as an example. The campaign won many creative awards and produced amazing business results but grew out of single data point: Only 4% of women considered themselves beautiful. Meng said: 

"Data is the orchestra, creative is the music. You need both."

John Hegarty, founder of Bartle Bogle Hegarity, said that data provides insights, but warned that: 

"Human beings are not a collection of algorithms."

What does a big idea look like?

Proctor & Gamble is the global package goods company that has built enormous brands based on enormous amounts of traditional and digital research data. Yet, even they know the value of big ideas. In 2012 they needed a global campaign to help reverse the brand Fabreze’s sales decline. Research pointed them in the right direction, but the big leap came in a big idea based on a globally relevant universal human truth – something big data could not spit out of a data set. The big idea was to “Involve real people in visceral experiences to prove Febreze makes even the filthiest places smell nice, no matter what they look like.“ You can view how the campaign was set up in this behind the scenes YouTube video.

Big Data Hype: Don’t Forget The Big Idea | Social Media Today

What were the results? It won an Effie award that explains how the effort reversed Febreze’s sales trend, by increasing sales by 10% with 10 weeks of growth resulting in a 36% point turnaround. The Breathe Happy Campaign also received 511MM earned media impressions in high profile media publications and many bloggers developed rich content with their own Febreze experiment videos uploaded to YouTube. 
In addition, Febreze Facebook fans increased from 235k to 600k in 6 months.

In the end computer data and human ideas produced real business results. What's your view on the value of big data and big ideas?

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