Paul Frampton
Feb 28, 2014

Invest in #peopledata, not #bigdata, to win in the new age of marketing

Writing from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the CEO of Havas Media UK reminds us that business and marketing both start and end with the customer

Invest in #peopledata, not #bigdata, to win in the new age of marketing
While attending the Mobile World Congress this week in Barcelona it’s become clear that while mobile has possibly stolen the limelight in the last week, data was the focal point for conversation.  In fact, a large part of why mobile is so hot at the moment is down to data.
At Havas Media, we’re terming it #peopledata. There’s much noise around #bigdata but to me there are two major data sets within a business; management information that helps to run the P&L, and #peopledata that helps understand the customer. The latter is, or at least should be, becoming more important to leaders than the former.
Why? Because running a successful business today is about understanding the needs and wellbeing of people and serving those needs. The businesses that are customer-centric in their DNA are winning and now the tools are there to provide genuine insight in to what people want, and how and when they want it.
Amazon and Facebook are superb examples. They’ve put data at the heart of their organisations, enabling them to become more customer-centric and in turn delivering commercial success. The truth behind what people do and buy informs all of their decisions, down to the new services they develop (predictive ordering for Amazon) and the acquisitions they make (Whatsapp for Facebook).
Rich vein
With a billion people actively posting and sharing on social media globally, there has never been such a rich vein of #peopledata to help us understand what’s hot, what’s not, but also to predict future behaviour.
Facebook, Google, Twitter and many others have gifted consumers ‘free to access’ platforms as a way to build deep databases and precision targeting machines. These databases may be anonymous but they are increasingly flavoured with variables that can predict your location, device access and transactional history etc.
Connecting that cookie-based data with another data set like Experian or Dunnhumby is no longer arduous, opening up the ability to tie this back to more traditional socio-demographic information.
The perceived value of this super-charged data is what has led to the chunky valuations of Twitter and to a lesser extent Whatsapp. Similar to the Instagram move, this is more about removing a dangerous competitor and ensuring the core Facebook growth curve doesn’t flatten too fast.
So how worried are people about this? How many people actually care?
The media has shone a light on the way in which NSA and other organisations use data, and more people are aware of the propensity for behaviourally informed, frequency spamming with certain advertising technologies today.  A Trust E report in January this year revealed the rather alarming statistic that 89% of British consumers are worried about their data privacy. 60% also said that they were more concerned than a year ago.
Trends study
As with most research though, there is other evidence to suggest that punters are open to how their data is used, if there is value for them. Microsoft’s recent digital trends study revealed that 45% of web users would consider trading their online data, if a "valued" reward was offered by a brand in exchange.
Data is extraordinary when used smartly and to your benefit. Spotify is brilliant in the music space, whilst Amazon excels in recommendations, but most verticals, brands and products are failing the expectations of people.
Imagine if when you turned your TV on, it recommended programmes to watch (Lovefilm and Samsung Smart TV are getting close) or when you used an insurance aggregator, it actually reminded and recommended you truly relevant options - not just a barrage of cross-selling emails with no personalisation.
So what should brands be doing? Again, there are two sides to this coin: respecting the individual giving your customers more meaningful experiences, whilst leveraging smart use of data to deliver both efficiencies and scale acquisition. They are not mutually exclusive, but it means that brands need to carefully consider their long term strategy.
A good example is Nike whose innovative approach in this space is very smart. The Fuelband initiative is an example of an insight gathering initiative, which is so strong it became a product in its’ own right and facilitates other cross-sell. It demonstrates how wearable computing really could catch on if form and function are equally balanced.
Programmatic world
In this new digital and increasingly mobile first, programmatic world, the brands that invest now in building unique and proprietary data sets that can be taken in to real-time ad exchanges will seize competitive advantage.
Equally the richness of social data has application far beyond digital; Facebook and Twitter act as a litmus test for how compelling and shareable a brand's message is and as such offer marketers the opportunity to leverage social data to reduce wastage, not just in digital but in ATL channels, like TV, too. 
There will be a dog fight to win in this space and the Oracle $400m acquisition of Bluekai tells you that smart companies are seeing the need to put data more central to their own organisations, in order to be more relevant themselves. 
We would all do well to remember that business and marketing both starts and ends with the customer. Think #peopledata not #bigdata.
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