When big data stops looking so big: Where now for data in marketing?

Big data marketing has reached another turning point for agencies, and faster than many could have predicted.

Katrin Ribant

Throughout 2010-2014, a glut of data was dumped on the industry. To many, the deluge was a godsend, promising to provide everything we’d been seeking for years: mobile, hyperlocal targeting, detailed audience segmentation, enhanced performance data – anything we could dream of, really.

'Big data', as it were, represented all the information we could imagine that would help us tackle the accountability and efficiency shortcomings of marketing and advertising. We compared the data to natural resources, we sought to harness it, and we were, frankly, a little scared of it.

But, most of all, we tried to define it.

We set our brightest minds to the task of making sense out of our new data. Technologies emerged to mold data points into insights. Programmatic tools proliferated. Marketing automation became more and more precise. Large, global agencies bought or partnered with companies left and right in order to create enhanced offerings for their clients, who dreamt of drinking straight from the firehose of big data. Expectations for big data’s promise peaked, and then crashed back down.

Still-newer marketing technologies emerged from the trough of disillusionment that followed the crash. Except this time the tech wasn’t focused on just making the data flow. The solutions that came forth were aimed at generating continued meaning from the endless streams of data aimed at marketers.

Analysts and planners, awash with big data, were creating deeper insights than ever before – but something was missing. Marketers needed new technologies that could enable them to define what big data meant for them, and use it strategically. It’s 2015, and now we understand that we no longer need big data so much as we need 'intelligent data' – data that means something.

This need is manifesting itself in many ways. The most tangible is the sheer number of entrepreneurs and organizations stepping up to tackle the issue. Agencies have dedicated teams to the task. Companies like Staq and Sisense have popped up, creating a new ecosystem and a marketing technology menu from which large agencies can choose. Now past the developmental stages of big data marketing, we’re moving into the prime of its productivity.

The future of marketing and data belongs to the people who make the infrastructure that enables big data technologies to communicate with each other. We’ve made the cars and built the assembly lines. What marketing needs now is a standardized highway system to connect everything.

Katrin Ribant is co-founder and chief solutions officer at Datorama

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