Devendra Chawla
Oct 03, 2013

Opinion: 'Today’s data is yesterday’s intuition': Devendra Chawla

The more the development of intuition, the more will be innovation and creativity on top of an understanding of data, says the author

Opinion: 'Today’s data is yesterday’s intuition': Devendra Chawla
There are a growing number of believers, given plethora of data available now as against in the past, that marketing is a science with data at its core. Proponents of one-to-one marketing would swear by marketing using data in this digital age, where rather than averages, specific individuals can be targeted.
They believe marketers need to develop cognitive computing with a scientific approach for being able to target individuals better. The premise here is that we use past (even if recent) data, to predict the future.
On the other hand is intuition, which is, the channel of what is not yet known. Everyone has intuition; but some are better at it than others. Marketers who created the biggest innovations did not delegate the innovation to data-driven research. If they had, Steve Jobs would have never found Apple products and Henry Ford would have never gone beyond horses.
Research did suggest that con sumers wanted faster horses. While they stated the need to travel faster, the form in which it could be fulfilled (a car) could not be envisaged by them. That is the layer on top of data, which can only be visualised by interpreting what consumers are saying but are not able to exactly point out to. That needs the right brain, imagination and intuition.
Using data alone can be risky, because (i) it’s all about the past and (ii) if it’s just data, then everyone has - or will have - access to it. Getting hold of data is the first step to understanding what consumers are saying. Adding a layer of intuition is like getting creative with that data, or using instinct (intuition) to interpret it, leading to changes, leading to new products.
The problem is, it is easier said than done. The more the developmentof intuition, the more will be innovation and creativity on top of an understanding of data. Marketers need to develop intuition, which is not easy. But it can be developed with experience.
Data helps you understand that there is a need - it can help visualise the shadows of that need, but not its contours and dimensions. Where did Facebook come from? People needed to express themselves, people needed to connect. The form of how they would connect was shaped by creativity and intuition. And intuition may not succeed the first time. Application of intuition is about decisions based on patterns and events we’ve seen before, even if those experiences are completely sublimated in our own consciousness. You can neither be exclusively data-driven nor purely intuition-led. I would say it’s binary, yet not equal, in the sense that first comes data and then building on it calls for intuition.
All consumers have a left brain and a right brain though they could lean more towards one of the two. We do take decisions based on logic but the role of the heart is critical. Every decision goes through a mix and match of both. Will you order a la carte or go for the buffet today?
Thanks to tons of data and analytics, marketers now have access to customers’ stated needs, preferences, histories of likes, dislikes and purchases - what they spend on. And thanks to social media tools, marketers also know what’s being said about their brands and the conversations around them. What they do with it calls for intuition.
Can you come up with the next super hit song or script for a feature film if I gave you exclusive access to all the data you want on consumer preferences? Of if you have the services of a composer or filmmaker, would you know which song or script, when approved by you basis data alone, will go on to become a ‘super hit’? Role of intuition is not just restricted to art forms. It extends to product innovations, it reaches shop shelves, it manifests in product formats and ‘intuitive’ SKUs. The world needs to consume anew, and the search for the unknown will continue. Marketing should and must use data. It would be stupid not to. But it must explore roads not on the marketing map - yet - guided by intuition.
Consumers are constantly evolving, discovering. So must we. Today’s data is yesterday’s intuition.
(Devendra Chawla is president, Food Bazaar, Future Group. This article was first published in the issue of Campaign India dated 20 September.)
Campaign India

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