We were told that marketing would be forever turned upside down.  The end of communications as we knew it was just around the corner.  Finally, we would retire John Wanamaker’s famous axiom – “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

But while technology and platforms have indeed changed marketing and communications significantly, data really hasn’t so far.  The potential of Big Data is undeniable. While its possibilities are very intriguing, there are too few great case studies that exist.  As a company filled with people who are passionate about data analytics, it saddens us that this enormous power hasn’t been leveraged more effectively and in a more timely manner

In our eyes, in no uncertain terms, marketing and communications is actually falling well short of harnessing the full power that Big Data presents.

In all our work, we see that companies and organizations of all sizes are not anywhere close to where they need to be.

Why is this happening? What’s Big Data got to do with it? What are some of the biggest problems?  Here are a couple of ideas and observations:

Too much data – There is far too much data and our clients and agency partners are literally drowning in it.  The premium needs to focus less on capturing new data and instead on making much better use of the data you already have.  The mission needs to be: aggregate, analyze, and then strategize.

Too little actionability – What is good for the data industry isn’t necessarily good or useful for client companies.  At its essence, data helps you think differently about the state of play – both the opportunities and challenges your organization faces – and most importantly, what to do about it.  While data shouldn’t be the driving force, it sure can help you navigate and make sound decisions.  Data that doesn’t help shine a light on something new or spur new conversations or ideation isn’t worth anything.  Nothing at all.  And this comes from someone who analyzes and interprets data for a living!

Too few humans – We recognize that everyone is rushing towards automation and someday this blog may be written by robots.  But for now, it’s vital to recognize where the power of software ends and where the human analytical edge begins.  As an op ed in The New York Times recently noted “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.”  The focus needs to be on analyzing what matters most and what is worth acting upon – either proactively or reactively.  Too much data today is of the ‘nice to know’ quality, but doesn’t yield the ‘need to know’ insights that organizations and decision making requires.  That needs to change right away.

Lack of integration – The data that companies have is siloed and not shared across functions, units, or departments.  An easy solve is to bring your data together and create a single dashboard – whether it’s about sales, share of mind, or reputation.  That way you can focus everyone internally – and all your external agency partners – on the KPI’s.

Big Data is very much in its infancy today.  While we are all very optimistic that our clients can leverage their data far better and are very excited to help them do that, it’s just that, as an industry, we have a long way to go to ensure Big Data really lives up to the hype.

Tag – we are all “it” – this is a shared burden.