Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Big Data - That same old sinking feeling again

The movie ‘Lives of others’ was brilliant in its depiction of life in East Germany under the watchful eyes of Stasi, the dreaded and repressive state police. These guys collected information about people whom they suspected of having anti-state (or ‘pro decadent West’) leanings in an almost obsessive compulsive way. Every aspect of the ‘suspect’s’ life was covered. At the height of Cold War, Stasi probably spied on more than a third of the population and collected astonishing amounts of information and data about them. But none of the information and data could prevent this from happening.


Emotion trumps data, any day. And emotions cannot be predicted. Behaviour, linked to emotions, even more so.

But brands don’t seem to believe in this. They are going to town with their ‘investments’ in big data and analytics. They probably see in data and analytics the answer to all the problems the brand is facing, a holy grail. Data is something absolute and finite. It gives the marketer a sense of control, a sense of being ‘scientific’ in their decision making. It also helps them justify any decision, more often than not, the wrong one. And their favorite game, Analysis-Paralysis, gets even better with big data.

But big data can also give interesting insights leading to interesting stories if one knew where to look. But I doubt very much whether that will happen.  Maybe, they should look at this interesting case for small data.

Robert Campbell in his usual irrepressible style urges brands not to become data fashion victims. He says,

“We have jumped on the data bandwagon to such an extent that we’ve seemingly forgotten how normal human beings respond to stuff.

Instead of using the findings and learning’s of data to create stories that have emotional value and meaning to our audience, we are now seeing more and more ads that basically regurgitate the data as the actual message.”

The tech industry which made big data fashionable has also been a victim to its distracting powers.

One of the most loved brands of the dotcom era Yahoo is now on life support. One of the reasons for this sorry plight was their over-fascination with big data (and analytics) through their investment in Hadoop. This obsession with data meant that their attention was diverted from doing what is fundamental to their business – creating a wonderful user experience.

Google, the tech giant, prides itself on data-based decision making as one of its cornerstone of its strategy. Can someone explain to me why then are they tripping almost everywhere except in their bread and butter, Search? Be it the buyout of Motorola or their ‘Facebook’ obsession product Google Plus, Google seems to be losing their mojo. I hope they do not wind up like Yahoo.

Therefore, it is not surprising to see comments like the one below on a recently held conference on big data involving the usual suspects.

Lastly, one of the biggest names in the telecom world continues to sink faster than a guy with cement shoes in water while their investments in big data and analytics continues to grow. The only solution to their plight is ‘Change’, beginning with the management. But then data and analytics cannot help in that. It requires something that is rarely used these days. It is called common sense.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Why so serious?

People are taking themselves a bit too seriously, at least some of them. These ‘taking-themselves-seriously’ types are the root cause of most problems we see around us. And they are present everywhere.  The following examples might give you an idea as to what I am hinting at.

The West
We need to ‘civilize these natives’. Democracy at any cost and when it suits our purpose is the only answer. If oil is available in plenty, why bother about democracy?

My god is the only god. No, no…my god is the real god. And all you heathen, pagan and infidels are doomed to burn in hell. Just sign up for our god, you can get the best holiday package in heaven.

Indian politicians
We know what is good for the people even though we do not practice it ourselves. Only socialism and secularism can save this country from certain doom. Hey, our offshore accounts are none of your business. 

Indian media, intellectuals and assorted scoundrels…er…activists
If you don’t agree with us, you are nothing but a rabble-rousing right-wing pig. Only we know what is good for society. Accusing us of twisting truth? Hey, we are only exercising our right of free speech.

Marketers and their brands
Our mission is to propel the consumer into stratospheric heights in their quest of realizing their potential when they use our brand. BTW, can your CD’s come up with a ‘cutting edge’ birthday card for our CEO’s pet Chihuahua?

Our proprietary ‘WTF Tool’ helps us distil the essence of the brand through a combination of lateral inversion and posterior penetration while scattering the ashes of whatever is left of the brand through an integrated media agnostic prism.


Why do people insist on thrusting their belief systems onto others? Don’t they realize the futility of it all? Whenever I hear this kind of stuff, I just want to say one thing. Loosen up, guys. But then I know that this will only provoke ‘these types’ into a manic state making matters worse. 

Death is the ultimate leveler. It does not discriminate. It is said that moments before death, reality dawns upon people. This wonderful piece on the regrets of the dying is an eye-opener. In the end, all that matters is experiencing the joys of life. 

Lastly, the increasingly hostile atmosphere we see around the world is caused by bigotry. And bigotry can be attributed directly to these ‘taking-themselves-seriously’ types.