When I hear Big Data I think one thing, big possibilities. However, with insanely large amounts of information, how is one supposed to process it and find meaning within the data? Big Data can seem so large and overwhelming that one may not know where to start. So, let’s start by breaking it down bit by bit. Monday, July 15, I was lucky to attended the Big Data Boot Camp hosted by Neumeric Technologies Corporation. At the conference, we were briefed on coding and computing software including Hadoop, SPSS, R, Mahout, MATLAB, JMT and many others; however, I have decided to steer clear of the computing and focus on how we can use this data to tell a story. Below are five sections that easily break down Big Data and highlight the potential it has for businesses.

Big Data- What is it?

Big Data seeks to use all available and relevant data to effectively tell a story that can be easily understood by non-practioners. Rather than baffling clients/consumers strictly using large numbers, impactful stories must be generated from these numbers to drive home key messages. Big Data creates the insights, these insights are then interpreted by business decision makers so they can apply them and grow their business.

Use of Big Data Insights

Big Data doesn’t provide an immediate answer, rather it provides the ability for insight. For example, one Big Data study showcased at the conference, found that consumers who purchase Barbie dolls are also likely to buy soap. While this data may be correlational, business’ can still pull insights. Retail stores took these insights and chose to market their products in three different ways:

  • Business 1: Chose to package Barbie dolls and soap in one package.
  • Business 2: Chose to put the Barbie doll and the soap on opposite sides of the store to increase store traffic and impulse buying.
  • Business 3: Chose to make Barbie dolls out of soap.

Big Data does not result in one correct answer but rather several potential answers, it’s up to you to interpret and implement.

Creating Rules of Thumb

Big Data generates new rules of thumb and best practices, which can later be applied to products across businesses. Big Data also makes trends more visible. For example, Big Data research found it is most effective to push cross-products to people who buy during non-holiday months because they are the people who are actually interested in the products and are more likely to purchase it, rather than people who just received it as a gift during holiday months. This cross-product push rule of thumb be used across the business.

What Does This Mean for Businesses?

Most often, business pros looking into using Big Data expect to find intuition crushing insights that will send sales through the roof. So when it comes to client conversation, be aware of the big expectations involved. Interestingly, there are times when Big Data goes against intuition and can cause confusion for business owners. For example, a campaign’s target market may be mothers ages 25-45 but Big Data findings may find the actual top buyers are men 20-35. Under these circumstances it is important to talk through the findings, understand the data and why the market is different than expected and most important, use it to tell a new story and grow your business.

Key Takeaways from a PR Perspective

Big Data isn’t a mind reader – it’s a trend finder.

Big Data isn’t necessarily the end all be all — it will discover insights on which to make more informed decisions.

Big Data isn’t only about the numbers – it is what you do with the numbers to mold a story.

As a business professional, Big Data can help you gain the advantage. Modern computing software churns out hundreds of insights leading to thousands of story possibilities; what story will you tell?



Molly Headshot Nixon Headshot

Molly Przybysz (left) and James Nixon (right) are Account Coordinators for Airfoil, a high-tech PR and marcomm firm with offices in Silicon Valley and Detroit.