At our Measuring Advertising Performance (MAP) conference – which this year takes place in London on March 12th-13th – we'll be gathering together speakers from clients, agencies and market research firms to offer the latest thinking on today's big marketing issues. Academics including Patrick Barwise of the London Business School will also be represented: and you can view my MAP preview on Barwise's theory of innovation here.
One of the key presentations from the research world will be given by Colin Strong, managing director at GfK NOP. He'll be talking about Big Data – one of the biggest trends affecting marketers over recent years. And, as he told me when we met up on a foggy London afternoon earlier this week, he'll be advising marketers to use psychology, sociology and, in particular, behavioural analysis to make the most of the ever-increasing amount of trackable consumer data available to them.
To Strong, academic disciplines and tried-and-true research techniques are the best tools for making Big Data into "Smart Data" – and thereby into useful insights. "Unless we get smart and start integrating some of these perspectives around Big Data, I don't think we'll properly leverage its value," he explained.
By taking this approach, Strong argued, researchers have the opportunity to find out more about how consumers operate and, perhaps more importantly, how social influence works in groups of friends and acquaintances. And this message is being heeded by the industry: market research firms are increasingly getting into the Big Data game, and are finding ever more efficient ways of analysing their existing data sets by merging transaction data with survey data, and so on.
But the future is not entirely bright for the data-driven marketer. For one thing, with EU Data Protection regulations around the corner and consumer concerns about their online privacy ever-increasing, data ownership has become a live and controversial issue.
In the future, Strong suggested that many newly-activist consumers will be taking closer control of their online activity by using new services such as "personal data lockers" (versions of which are already on the market from firms such as Mydex).
At MAP, Strong will be joined by fellow researchers from Thinkbox and Google, while clients including Jaguar and Mondelez International, and agencies from MediaCom to DDB, will also be on the agenda. You can get all the conference details, including how to book, in the Warc Store.