Big data has always existed, but it’s real value for brands become apparent in the digital age due to increased computational capability for processing data. Although a lot of suggestions have been made and frameworks developed to show brands how they can achieve success with the intelligence of big data applications, a good number are still going through the challenges of shifting to data-based decision making.
The failure by companies to use data, is rooted in decades of practice in using intuition to make decisions. Some companies also lack the financial capability to invest in big data, whereas others don’t have the expertise needed to perform complex analysis. Busy business environments that require decisions to be made under tight deadlines might also view data as an unnecessary impediment to taking action, causing it to be relegated to the back seat during decision making. The unfortunate consequence of ignoring data is poor product performance and eventual collapse of a brand.
What can cause the collapse of a brand? Brands that ignored hard facts and collapsed.
Big data is important in supporting objective decision making in most, if not all industries. In medicine for instance, making the wrong diagnosis or prescribing the wrong treatment, have been a source of many malpractice suits. Dr. Gidi Stein, a co-founder of MedAware, a big data company, says that drug errors are not “unavoidable” but can be prevented with the use of software that can capture prescription mistakes before they happen. Hospitals that use big data have also been known to give more accurate diagnosis.
Big giants in retail, technology and commerce, including Dell, Kodak, blackberry, best buy, among others, owe their collapse in part due to failure to adapt their methods to suit the digital age of big data. Instead of using insights to understand customer behavior, the managers of these brands made their decisions based on assumptions and decades of expertise in their fields. Kodak for instance, failed to see that the market was ready for new and advanced technology. They assumed that there will always be room for print. They also failed to see that though their target market was initially women, the age of the digital camera meant inclusion of other groups.
In 2001, Dell was at the height of its success as the biggest global provider of computer systems. But as consumers’ preference for portable devices, including laptops, tablets and smart phones continued to grow over the preference for PCs, Dell did not adjust fast enough and this hurt the company’s bottom line. Blackberry, is yet another company that was rigid in strategy to service enterprise markets, even though data suggested that the biggest opportunity lay in the consumer market. This was obviously the wrong decision as Blackberry, a pioneer in the smartphone space, is now a mere bleep in the market share charts.
How big data can save your brand
A company’s most important asset is its brand. A strong brand is an indication of customer brand recognition, trust and loyalty. Companies like Google, Amazon, eBay, Facebook and others, use big data to understand consumer behavior and predict future market trends, and this has resulted in the strength of these brands.
Amazon, for instance, saw that internet penetration, exacerbated by the growth of mobile phones, shifted consumer behavior from shopping in physical stores to shopping online. Amazon immediately jumped on the opportunity and also invested in analytics systems that could collect a lot of data about website visitors, making it easier to target potential customers with future opportunities.
Any brand can experience this same success, but it begins with using big data in the right way. The November 2015 HBR issue suggests the following as wise ways to use big data to protect your brand:
- Have a healthy mix of short term and long term success indicators. Where analytics is used only for short term recovery and survival tactics, this can interfere with a company’s long term vision of building brand image. When brand equity erodes, collapse of a whole company can follow very quickly. To survive, brands need to use big data to achieve a good balance of pursuit of revenue in the short term and defend brand image in the long term.
- Use data to understand new markets. Data will tell you who your competition is in a market. Your brand might have wide acceptance in certain markets, but this might not happen in every market you enter.
- Use Big data to measure people’s reactions to marketing activity.
- Before signing off on any sales promotion or campaign program, question its aim and its alignment to the brand’s vision.
- Invest in marketing programs that will not only stimulate an immediate action but also emphasize brand building.
- Create an organizational structure that allows marketing and technical/analytics teams to collaborate and thrive together.
There’s not a single industry today that would not benefit from big data. Whereas gut instinct, expertise, learning or habit might support performance and even cause brands to thrive, this can only happen up to a point. In the end, the brands that will thrive and have the most competitive advantage are those have deep-rooted practices of making objective data-based decisions.