Marketers and Big Data

Big Data brings the promise of new marketing. Not only from a quantitative point of view but also and above all from a qualitative point of view. This revival of marketing is not unanimous among marketers, who do not always see what they can learn from this innovation, nor how to get there. Like any change, he meets his detractors, so far, nothing abnormal. So, what about these studies that draw an uncompromising portrait of Big Data. Freeze frame and analysis …

A reminder: marketing the uncertain

This tremendous quantum leap in the marketing world, in a sense, is not completely new. So trainee in the early 80s, I already used, although it was well in advance phase I recognize, basic data analysis software like Multiplan (see here the brochure Burroughs of 1982), to perform sophisticated statistical analyses, based on questionnaires used in the context of a product launch in the industrial building. In a sense, the statistical manipulation is far from having started with computers, it is rather the opposite.

These have arrived to automate and speed up calculations. But the massification of data and their processing undeniably brings a disruption in the marketing world, which is confronted with a multiplication of data, which can sometimes make users lose their bearings instead of guiding them. This is what we have already described in a previous article, which we have entitled ”  Big Data: the engine of marketing the uncertain  “: this incredible increase in quantity does not always provide certainty, but in many cases, an uncertainty.

This increase in uncertainty, paradoxical since we are measuring more and more things, is not completely foreign to the resistance to change that we see emerging through various articles that we will describe a little later. But above all, it must be remembered that with the advent of this marketing of the uncertain, it is the logic of marketing that is different, with its inductive approach made of tests, errors, and assumptions.

An audience unfamiliar with the data and who will have to train

The marketer, to take full advantage of these Big Data, must learn to become familiar with the data and their massive analysis, and especially all the vocabulary and technology that surrounds them; especially if he does not understand everything that happens … Because no one understands totally, everything is happening.

Marketers and Big Data: Not really a straight line

Far from working in a straight line, big data make meanders to marketers, which tends to lose them. What’s more, they often find themselves in unfamiliar territory

It is especially necessary that the marketer in question sharpens his critical mind on the data, despite, or because of also these gray areas due to the complexity related to Big Data and the abundance. But here, to be able to overcome a problem, it is still necessary to understand it and that’s where the shoe pinches. Indeed, the knowledge of marketers data, as I could live on the ground is very low, it’s a euphemism. And besides, it’s not just me who says it.

The facts: many articles mention the difficulties marketers have with big data

And this observation is also found in the studies that are published here and there and that report their misunderstanding as to the possible contribution of Big Data in marketing.


What can be seen by some as a chance to improve and discover a new way of working, is unfortunately often described as an insurmountable wall by many marketers. They see in this manipulation of uncertainty, a strange object, even illogical. While in fact, even in science, especially science, this manipulation of uncertainty is something classical and integrated (in this regard you have to read or reread the book ”  Between the Crystal and the Smoke.” the organization of the living  “written by Henri Atlan for example, a book rather difficult, but which is authoritative on the question).

Thus, let us quote the following articles, recently published, which indicate the growing frustration of marketing professionals vis-à-vis the opportunities offered by Big Data, opportunities that sometimes seem to them a little abstract, difficult to grasp in everyone’s life. days :

Thus, according to a study conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit on behalf of Lyris (a software company), it is not only in France that marketers floundering. For once, it’s reassuring, we do not run behind the leaders: out of 257 marketing managers surveyed, 45% said they do not have the ability to analyze Big Data, and we will spend on budget shortfalls (a topic which fades quickly when the mechanics and the final profit are well understood).

Anecdotes lived: marketers face the data

We can also add to the above a few anecdotes about it encountered here and there in the field, who will speak more than anonymous and American statistics:

My first anecdote refers  to this work done in a high-tech company (sic! We will not quote the name of the company of course, especially since the case is not isolated) were asking a marketing director in load of a product he has been selling for 15 years, to describe the profile of his customers, I am responding “I do not know, I am only marketing product, and not marketing customers.”

Not having understood the answer well and being faithful to my reputation as a stubborn Breton, I went on the hunt for information and having been able, by dint of obstinacy, to gather three or four heterogeneous databases, I ended up to gather some basic data, very thin, on the profiles in question: in particular in terms of geographies and sectors.

The simple fact of having a join in Microsoft Access to deduce the region from postal codes, then to have subtotals by region and statistics, an operation that would make a statistician laugh, has earned me looks astonishment and comments of admiration that I certainly did not deserve. The simple lack of curiosity and the ability to manipulate the data to arrive at a result seemed absolutely incredible, but it is well representative of what one sees in the companies; do not think I caricature.

Performance marketing

And then there is the marketing of the performance supposed to produce the famous ROI, the return on investment, so often brandished by the marketers to postpone or cancel a necessary investment. The first argument raised by most marketers that I meet, the ROI seems to be the word sesame and essential to have the right to enter the temple of marketing when one is a simple Web expert.

And yet! My numerous calculations of ROI, including the calculations made on advertising equivalents through word of mouth marketing in social media, have always caused, to my astonishment, a dumbfounded reaction. The calculation is not so scholarly, and I have never gone well above the weighted average. Do not laugh again, this seems to be the maximum limit accepted by the standard marketer. I, who was always the last of the class in mathematics, always wonder how I was able to transform myself into a scientist.

Marketing the uncertain: examples

The last confusing example of this inability of marketers to understand the data, the reactions of astonishment and misunderstanding around me when I explained for the first time the concepts of segmentation as part of a solution developed in partnership with Get + and that we have a named B2B retargeting.

The B2B retargeting tool for marketers

With this solution, which makes it possible to identify the visitors of a site and to attribute to them a source, one realizes a segmentation, an intuitive segmentation, which makes it possible to deduce assumptions of visits. That is, it is assumed that not being able to know exactly who is visiting the site to be monitored, by selecting the desired targets within an existing base, and by relating to an IP address associated with a company, we come to reconstruct hypotheses of visits that eventually prove true in the long run. And this, because our opening rate of 25% our click rate of 4% on average, makes visitors so targeted retro, eventually become truly recurring.

Understand how data works

Here is a good example of marketing the uncertain: I leave a hypothetical visit, I deduce an intuitive segmentation, I end up turning putative visitors into regulars of a website. Nothing really wizard but just common sense and pragmatism. You just have to understand a little about how the data works and what is a database and a join.

These few very basic examples explain that when it comes to moving up a gear, understanding key databases, or mentally imagining the merging of a structured and unstructured database, there is nothing left. bigger world. That is why the evangelization effort around Big Data is huge and we have a lot of work to do in this area to achieve a result that is more efficient.

And yet, there are many opportunities for marketers we will come back in an upcoming article, leaving them quietly digest the need to learn the importance of data, their manipulation, and the technology necessary for it.