People who know me understand I’m not clairvoyant. In fact, most people who know me don’t even think I’m particularly bright. But it took neither precognition nor perception to see this one coming: “Big Data Killed the Marketing Star“.

Forgive the boxing analogy, but I actually think the Marketing Star would have been alright if he hadn’t led with his chin. But he leaned in, dropped his guard, and bet the entire fight on a looping overhand right he just couldn’t land. As a result, he was beaten into semi-conscious diminishing returns to which he didn’t have the skills or the discipline to adjust. I left before the referee stopped the carnage. But the Marketing Star was out on his feet when the door closed behind me.

I’ve written a few thousand words on this topic. I won’t cite or link to any of them here. Rather, I’ll take my cue from Bruce Springsteen, who wrote this: “The poets down here don’t write nothin’ at all, they just stand back and let it all be.” (You can do what you want. But if I were you’d, I’d stick around for Big Nick’s sax solo starting at 3:55. If the pleading urgency of his third progression hasn’t given you goose bumps or doesn’t have your hair standing on end, you might want to have a friend check your vital signs.)

Big data, by itself, really can’t solve a marketer’s problems. In fact, it’s likely to lead to more problems. It’s not about “big” data. It’s about the “right” data, activated the right way, in the right channels, at the right time … not all data is good, or relevant, data.

All of this is understandable, I suppose. With the ubiquitous immediacy of electronic media, fads fan out faster than the herd of cats Uncle Tex was driving the night he accidentally flicked his cheroot into the Roman Candles. But it’s not unfair to expect we’d have a little more sense than house pets, is it?

But what’s not understandable is the extent to which we’re willing to invest assumptions in data, to the extent that we assume we’ll even succeed at herding cats — and understand what constitutes value to every Burmese, Siamese, Tabby, and Abyssinian — if we can just get more data. More. MORE! MORE!!

If we weren’t so carried away by our own assumption, why would we believe this to be generally true?

Delivering value to customers happens by having the right information about their preferences and stated interests and being able to reach them effectively throughout the process.

The person from whom that quote derives apparently believes at least four things:

  1. Everything customers buy has value to them.
  2. Everything customers bought once, they’ll buy again.
  3. Reaching customers effectively throughout the process means making assumptions about their perceptions of value and their preferences based on data about what they’ve purchased.
  4. The process throughout which customers should be effectively reached is unaffected by the nature of what they’ve purchased, the reasons for which they’ve purchased, or the price points at which they’ve purchased.

If you’re selling books, video games, or personal grooming supplies, you might get away with those assumptions, at least for a while. But if you’re selling anything relatively expensive, to say nothing of valuable, you might need a thicker balloon.

At the present rate of assumption, Marketing Stars could become black holes.

Photo by mjtmail (tiggy) from Gt. Manchester, via Wikimedia Commons.