For those of you not familiar with Big Data (and really, who is other than the folks who specialize in it?) it's the compilation of huge amounts of information towards some end. And the end we're seeing is how to market products better.
Big Data basically takes tons of data, from tons of individuals, to help predict the future. This is not what "Futurists" do: they predict longer-term issues, though even they will say they don't predict the future, just possible outcomes and scenarios of the future. They don't have those crystal balls just yet.
So let's talk about a couple of scenarios of how Big Data works, specifically for this time of year and the cold and flu season.
The Center for Disease Control uses Google, bing! and Yahoo search trends to predict where the next big cold and flu areas will be. How do they do that?
When lots of people in a city start searching for things like "what are flu symptoms" and "how to beat the flu" it tells them there's a lot of incidences in that city or region. So a pattern emerges when flu-related searches are compiled, historically matching the movement and spread of the flu. So they can tell how early it starts, when it peaks and how long it lasts.
Believe it or not there's actually a service called google.org/flutrends!
For Kleenex, the marketing geniuses had this plan for their busy season
They use a web-based software called, appropriately, "Achoo." Using the data they gather (which includes migratory patterns of birds...how that figures into the equation, we're not sure), they seek out which parts of the U.S (or other countries) are going to be affected by colds and flu.
When they peg the area, they send out teams of Brand Managers and Brand Ambassadors to set up pop-up stands or kiosks in stores, handing out samples and coupons. Not only do they promote Kleenex to folks who are in the area to be buying them, they also rewards anyone carrying a travel size pack of Kleenex with a new one! Very slick.
They do that moving from region-to-region, city-to-city, leaving behind goodwill and lots of samples and coupons. And, as the marketing theory goes, brand loyalty.
How Big Data affects you and us in the world of marketing is those banner ads that follow you around the web. Remember the time you went to a website to look at, say, shoes or boots? And remember how every subsequent website you went to you saw an ad for those same damn shoes or boots?
That's Big Data. Get used to it.