Monday, 8 July 2013

The data tsunami

One of the commonest complaints that I hear from marketers these days is that they simply have too much information and data. This over-abundance is sometimes described as a mountain or an overload, but more often than not, metaphors from the destructive world of water are used.

There's a data deluge, or data tsunami. People feel that they are swamped with information or drowning in data.

And lately, I have also heard the term "infobesity", with the analogy to fast food. Too high a quantity of too low a quality, making our brands distinctly unhealthy.

My approach to data has always been to take a deep breath first. Then to see what I've got and start to skim through it, with the following in mind:

1. Just because it exists and someone has paid for it, doesn't mean you have to use it
2. Hone your instinct for what is useful. If you read case histories, they generally don't use much information or data, but the stuff that's there is crucial. Ditto, most presentations, even if they are 100 page ppts, will only have two or three killer slides.
3. It's all about making choices and making hypotheses early - then using the data or information selectively to back these up. Remember, in this job, there's seldom one right answer, but the right answer is the one you decide on and stick with.
4. I like to organise data and information around a few key themes - these will start to occur to you as you skim through what you have.

And, finally, don't feel bad about ignoring information that doesn't feel right, or is simply inaccessible. The next time someone circulates a 200 page pdf with the comment "useful/interesting report," ask them which bits, exactly. The chances are that they won't have read it, either.

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