Data. Why is such an often overly uttered word one of the most puzzling and difficult to understand?
According to a recent Gartner survey, “64 percent of organizations have invested or plan to invest in Big Data in 2013.” Paradoxically, according to The Global Language Monitor, “Big Data” heads the 2012 list as the most confusing buzzword of the decade so far. Perform a search on “What is Big Data?” and Google will return more than 1.8 billion results. Looking for answers? You have to dig deep.
To begin to understand Big Data, it is helpful to understand where the term came from. According to onepointiq, a Big Data consulting firm, “’Big Data’ is a relatively new term for one of information technology’s oldest trends: the exponential growth of business data.” This growth is made possible in large part by the advancement of technology. The onepointiq graph below shows the growth of disk drive average capacities – from 1MB in 1980 to 1TB in 2010.
However, massive amounts of data made possible by advancements in technology have no inherent business value. To uncover the value of Big Data, we need to understand what it means to the very individuals who are responsible for leading businesses today. These are the same people who presumably need to find clarity and convert the concept of Big Data into the reality called business value. The individual at this intersection is a new breed of chief marketing officer (CMO) – one who understands complex data sets and technology but is anchored in the business.
CMOs around the globe are at the epicenter of the conversation and have experienced a variety of successes – and failures – only to arrive at the doorstep of the next big thing: Big Data. The journey of CMOs over the past several years provides some interesting insights into what might lie ahead.
Less than 10 years ago, social media came onto the scene. Touted as the cure for brand impotence and marketing ineffectiveness and a way to harness the power of peer influence in buying decisions, it provided an opportunity for CMOs specifically to prove their business value.
However, for the most part, social media was viewed as an initiative, not a means to support business imperatives. Not surprisingly, in 2006, just two years after the launch of Facebook, Spencer Stuart Consulting put the average tenure of a CMO at 23.2 months – an all-time low.
Fast-forward a few years. Somewhere shortly before the year 2011, the talk about Big Data increased dramatically. Perform a search on “Big Data” with Google Trends and the hockey-stick incline over the last three years is dramatic – a similar trajectory as social media several years before.
What is Big Data? The question should be, “What can I do with massive amounts of data to more effectively understand my customers, my competitors and my business?” The combination of data, technology, business and brands is powerful, but few are in the position to harness this power. The next generation of CMOs is one of those few.
Just last year, according to Spencer Stuart Consulting, the average tenure of a CMO was up to 45 months. I think this is recognition of business potential, not necessarily broad business performance among CMOs. Organizations recognize the unique position CMOs are in and in turn have the opportunity to define the next generation.
We have reached a critical tipping point in this evolution. Big Data is simply a catalyst. It takes a unique skill set to truly understand the business applications of Big Data. This transformation is likely to elevate or diminish the role of CMOs for years to come.
This is what makes Big Data high stakes. Moreover, this is what will separate the CMO of yesterday from the CMO of tomorrow.
Luke Bemis is a senior strategist at gyro Denver.
Follow Luke @bemis411