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Engaging the Whole Brain: The Art and Science of Big Data in Marketing

In the business world, business analysis is often considered to be the realm of left-brained analysts and the qualitative activities, such as marketing and advertising, the domain of right-brained creative types.

These two activities, both vital to the success of the business, can become so balkanized they hardly speak the same language. Data and analytics are typically the purview of IT and analytic “geeks”; strategy and marketing the dominion of MBAs and business majors.

But the tide of Big Data is changing the status quo. The primary creators of the Big Data captured by our high definition systems are the up-and-coming generations, living their lives out loud on social media, on chat, and on line — they have practically every day of their life recorded in digital photos, text messages, playlists and their preferences captured by internet cookies.

They speak in emoji, text-speak, and memes that are all communicated digitally and converted to data, encoded in bits and bytes. You can’t get any more calculating than that.

Digital marketing data spawned by social and digital media are bringing these two worlds of art and science together. To be successful, business managers today are learning to speak strategy as well as geek and the syntax of both languages is data.

Data used to be about numbers. Now data also includes pixels, words and beats. And while business analysis used to be about telling the bottom line, now it has to tell a story. Here’s how:

Embrace Data Democracy

Big Data is fast becoming the lifeblood of business ventures and is giving rise to a new tide of data democracy. Big Data is crowd sourced and open sourced. The volume and variety of big data is making it difficult to maintain traditional reporting processes that deliver the data in a pre-scheduled, thoroughly defined production process.

Rather IT, BI teams and Analysts should deploy and use self-service analytics to let front line managers get at the data they need faster in order to make decisions and take action. With more data available sooner in a less processed form, businesses are implementing data governance, security, analytics and reporting standards and certification processes to act as guard rails to keep the information flowing accurately and securely.

Learn to Speak Data and Marketing

Marketers are learning the new language of data and analytics. Targeting customers based on static demographics alone is no longer enough. Marketers are learning how to identify and react to ephemeral behavior patterns and preferences gleaned from the digital footprint their customers leave.

Similarly, IT and analysts are learning the language of Marketing Brief – “Think, Feel, Do” – and how it translates into customer behaviors that can be measured and analyzed.

Targeting customers based on static demographics alone is no longer enough.Click To Tweet

Marketers are learning basic SQL, the language of databases, and IT managers are learning basic statistics and data mining algorithms, so that they can jointly develop develop data, reporting and analytic requirements both for the back-end data model and the front-end reporting and analytic tool.

Get Agile

Many customer objectives are simply too fluid to be captured in a fixed set of specifications. Customer patterns and preferences are ephemeral objects that come and go, much like waves that hit the shore then return to the ocean.

In many cases, the wave is long gone by the time the first report is delivered after a market opportunity has been spotted, data requirements communicated to IT, and reporting requirements developed by the BI team.

To be successful in the new world of Big Data, businesses are learning how to integrate qualitative processes such as decision analysis and marketing strategy development with the quantitative process of data science, business analytics, and reporting into one seamless process. Development cycles are shrinking into iterative bursts of quick sprints.

Businesses are learning how to build competencies that are plugged into both the technical world of data and the qualitative world of story and communication. Managers across the board are learning how to handle information technically and present it visually. Organizational structures are being adapted to provide more integration between the functions. Business processes are becoming more agile to be responsive to the decreasing life cycles of market trends.

In short, business that are winning in the new digital landscape are learning how to tap into both the creative and analytic juices of their teams. They are engaging the Whole Brain, creating a more dynamic and fulfilling environment for their employees.

About the Author: Kathy Williams Chiang is VP, Business Insights, at Wunderman Data Management. Andrew Roman Wells is the CEO of Aspirent, a management-consulting firm focused on analytics. They are the co-authors of Monetizing Your Data: A Guide to Turning Data into Profit-Driving Strategies and Solutions. For more information, please visit www.monetizingyourdata.com.