Why Small Data can tell us more about ourselves than Big Data
By: Joseph Miller
Businesses want to know what’s in their customer’s brain. What’s the most important megatrend today? Ask any chief marketing officer, and you might hear, “mobile” or “social media.” Most likely, though, the first answer you get will be “big data.”
Businesses want to know why customers choose this product and not that product. Big Data has gone a long way in answering these questions, but if you ask branding expert and bestselling author Martin Lindstrom, he’ll tell to focus on the small data.
Lindstrom is always willing to break away from the marketing herd. He has spent time with 2,000 families in more than 77 countries to get clues to how they live — resulting in the acquisition of what he likes to call in his new book, Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends.
Martin Lindstrom: Small Data is the New Big Data
There isn’t a shortage of Big Data out there. From Facebook statistics to Google analytics, businesses have a wide range of tools to measure and categorize customer behavior. The problem, though, lies in the bigger picture. We all know that customers are more than data points, but lack the tools to act on this fact.
The small data approach Martin Lindstrom offers is simple, at least in concept. As a marketer, he says, you should be spending time with real people in their own environments. That, combined with careful observation, can lead to powerful marketing insights.
This approach is the human-centric alternative to Big Data. In each case, one is collecting information to gain insights into behavior, interests, and so on. But, Lindstrom’s approach relies on a mix of keen observation of small samples and applied intuition.
He demonstrates how understanding potential customers on a personal level helped him globally in his brand consulting work. In Russia, for example, observations about kitchen magnets helped him to successfully partner with Russian mothers to develop the first e-commerce business tailored to that audience.
He noticed that in Saudi Arabia, refrigerator magnets were usually placed high on the refrigerator where small children couldn’t reach them. In contrast, in a lengthy series of visits in Siberia he found that the magnets were usually much lower.
Since Saudi families buy a lot of toys compared to the Siberian families Martin Lindstrom visited, he concluded that in the latter setting the magnets were, in part, a substitute for toys. The outcome of that research was the launch of a new Russian toy company.
In India, he used cultural insight, interviews, and observation about the relationship between mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws to create cereal packaging that appealed to old and young alike.
Lindstrom approaches marketing as a puzzle to solve. In his quest for answers, the author visited potential customer’s homes, interviewed them, and even went through their pocketbooks (with permission). The level of insight he gained, coupled with his knowledge of customer buying behavior, helped him to create and test lines of thinking that led him to deep insights that he wouldn’t have learned any other way.
Despite the perception, shopping behavior shopping behavior is influenced by a complex array of factors. Understanding this complex environment with both big and small data is the key to understanding the complete story.
The importance of “being present”
We’re rarely “present” these days. Picture yourself in an empty, bored moment. Say, you’re in a bar waiting for someone who’s running late. What do you do? If you’re like most of us, you pull out your smart phone, send a message, place a call, look up something online—anything so you don’t come across as a loser. But in doing this, you’re cutting yourself off from the world. You make yourself less present, less aware of what’s going on around you, and wasteful of a rare opportunity when you could be an amazing observer and people reader.
“ When you’re not bored, you’re not creative. Creativity comes out of being bored, because that’s where you’re forced to create a story. But it also allows you to be observant, to be present. And we’re not present anymore… That lack of ‘presentness,’ if you could use that word, means that we don’t see things around us.” Lindstrom explains.
What your home shows about Your Self-Confidence Level
It may sound strange, but our homes reveal more about our true personality than anything else. Most of us believe the way we organize our stuff is pure coincidence, but nothing could be further from the truth. Here are some interesting insights.
Consider the paintings you hang in your home. The larger, more dramatic, and more colorful they are, the higher your self-esteem.
Each of us has a perception room in our home, the room we’ve decorated in order to tell a message to the world. It doesn’t necessarily express who we actually are; rather, it represents how we’d like to be seen by the world. Think of it as a three-dimensional Facebook page, which represents our ideal image. How do you find your perception room? Identify your coffee table book—or your similar object, the one thing you want visitors to see first—and you’ll be in your perception room.
But there’s more. If someone’s perception room contains large book shelves packed with books, you can be sure the person living in that home lacks an extensive education. In fact, that person is likely to feel somewhat intimidated by higher education. That person’s ostentatious display of books compensates for his or her lack of education.
Small Data is all about those seemingly insignificant signals we leave behind. In fact, Small Data are right in front of you. Can you see them?
Joseph Miller is a freelance writer with experience in reporting about finance/business, economy and entrepreneurship