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October 2nd, 2012

Super Bowl: Smart Marketers Go Deep - and Score - with Granular Data

Much of that depends on the work going on far off the field, where companies are collecting and sifting through a sea of consumer data. What companies and data scientists are doing with "granular data" is already impacting the way we identify and connect with consumers, and ultimately it could reshape marketing.

Granular Data = Powerful Data

Granular data is powerful stuff. Think of it like an ocean; what you see is the surface, but when you dive deeper, you'll see new details of rich underwater life, plants, and animals. For companies that already gather and study their data, it'll be like using a CAT scan versus an X-ray.

We've been collecting and analyzing granular data for years. Goods producers can gather data down to the SKU level, and companies are gathering information down to the individual customer level.

But what's really changed is being able to leverage data we thought was unusable just a few years ago and to be able to make sense of it across multiple data streams. That means connecting the dots across the ocean of data.

Take a 30-second TV commercial. In the past we could roughly gauge the broad impact if sales rose after a commercial by looking at a before and after picture. But now we can look - and measure - the immediate impact on several fronts: how it's impacting search, for instance, by looking at specific keywords, or driving online behavior (the buzz factor).

So Nike could see the overall impact of running a TV commercial during marathons. It could track Google keywords, blogs, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter activity and other metrics leading up to and influencing consumer purchase behavior.

To-the-minute Data Collection

We can also look at the data in "real time." Data is being gathered in daily, even minute-by-minute, increments (think of online apps or DirecTV). This allows us to precisely measure marketing performance as it happens and make quick adjustments. It also begins to "form a unique picture so we can correlate it back to a specific product," according to Amit Paunikar, MarketShare's Vice President of Product Management.

For marketers, It means deeper insight, less guessing and more precision in predicting consumer behavior.

Marketers who before could only see bottom line and top line impacts of a campaign will increasingly be able to see why, and how it worked. New data will allow companies to quickly pin point areas of strength and weakness. Is this feature or marketing angle working? Why or why not? How are consumers responding to this pitch under certain circumstances?

Those who clearly understand how the data works and how to use it will have an edge over competitors, and be able to focus their brand priorities and marketing spend on the fly. Does it make more sense to increase spending on a print ad, TV commercial - or dump them and pour more money into online ads? The granular data will tell you.

What the Future Holds

Going forward, we're only limited by our technology and imagination. You'll see data coming from new sources you'd never thought of before, says Amit. Mobile data is an obvious one. But consider electronic billboards: once static, now billboards are becoming more like dynamic TV screens. Or your refrigerator? The "connected fridge" will be able to scan your food items and tell you - or your online grocer - if you're out of milk (marketing opportunities for grocers and milk companies). Hello, Jetsons.

As more things get connected, more and richer data is created and marketing metrics will become even more granular, creating the need for deeper insights and analysis. That means more opportunities for marketers who get it right.

The days of throwing Hail Mary passes and hoping they score are fading, replaced by a new era of more targeted, efficient and effective marketing. So as this year's Super Bowl fades into memory, keep your eye on this area. The real game's just beginning.

Further reading: When CMOs Learn to Love Data, They'll Be VIPs in the C-Suite (AdAge.com)

This is part 1 of a multi-part series on how analytics will change marketing and business. Stay tuned over the coming weeks as we explore key trends in the data analytics space.

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