My old rugby coach in school used to say to us ‘It isn’t the having of size that matters, it’s the use you make of it’. Being small and imperfectly formed, we heard this a lot.

Turns out, he could have been talking about Big Data 20 years later. Okay, 30 years later, damnit. And he'd have been right on both counts.

McKinsey claim that companies using Big Data and analytics effectively are achieving 5-6% higher rates of productivity and profitability. The companies that are succeeding with it aren’t the ones with the most data, but the ones who are using the data they have best.

So what exactly is Big Data?

As a term, ‘Big Data’ is becoming as ubiquitous as ‘Content is King’. So what exactly is it? Well, in plain language, it is a broad term for data sets so large that traditional data processing applications are inadequate.

Big data is of a scale that is difficult to handle for desktop statistics and visualisation packages. It will generally comprise massively parallel software running on tens, hundreds or even thousands of servers.

The amount of data being produced is growing at an alarming rate. According to Eric Schmidt of Google, ‘Mankind is generating more data in two days than was generated from the dawn of man to until 2003’. Wowzers.

Big Data reaching an inflection point

Big Data isn't there yet. Challenges remain in the quest to handle the 3Vs – volume, variety and velocity - of the data. I recently attended the Sunday Business Post’s excellent Swipe Summit and was interested to hear Margaret Burgraff of Intel talk passionately about Big Data and how it is reaching an inflection point. The inference was that big change was coming and companies need to really choose their IT partners carefully.

This inflection point is coming largely because of the Internet of Things, which will soon be accelerating further the rate of growth of data sets, as we receive more and more data from our appliances.

Implications for Product Development

Burgraff gave an example of how pharma companies, to take but one example, are using big data to change the game in many ways. Data that is currently in silos could generate thousands of data points about an individual’s health and lead to faster, more accurate and cheaper diagnoses.

Companies like Illumina have worked with Intel to reduce the cost of genome screening for an individual from $100 million to $1,000. And the time taken will be reduced from seven days to 30 minutes. But soon there will be pills with chips built-in so that the information from that pill’s journey can be aligned with that individual’s genetic make-up. So rather than guessing what is the right amount of chemotherapy for a particular cancer patient, consultants will know exactly how much is the right amount.

Implications for Media and Marketing

We are already seeing how Big Data is impacting on media, sales and marketing in a couple of ways.


In media, attribution is a product of crunching data on a large scale. Media buying agencies can now take the data from media spend by medium and match it with sales data to create models that weight the credit for individual sales to identify the optimum spend distribution.


Insights from big data are more closely matching the delivery of content and advertising to the prospect’s individual preferences (determined from the analysis of their digital behaviour across multiple media).


Sales teams will adopt more data-driven methodologies to find, reach out to new prospects and to maintain customer satisfaction. Forecasting will improve due to more algorithm-based models and real time information will enable sales teams to leverage this data on the fly.

Implications for Content Marketing

From this

John Deere magazine The Furrow

to this (trust us it's worth watching!)



Listening to the radio recently, I was struck by a piece on John Deere by a stockbroker analyst. He described how one of America’s oldest companies was really partnering with farmers. Not just saying it, but doing it. This approach went beyond what might have been expected in the area of telematics and fleet management, but into farm management generally.

It rang a bell with me because I knew John Deere was one of the first companies in the world to embrace content marketing when they launched The Furrow magazine in 1895.

Working with the farmer and taking data from the machines, John Deere are getting into areas that go beyond the tractor or combine harvester and into advising on issues such as crop rotation, irrigation, fertilizer makeup, when to spray, amount to spray, localised weather reports  – many areas that go beyond the strict product area they are involved in.

This actually illustrates an example of big data that goes to the heart of the Content Marketing perspective. Which is essentially that your customers generally have pain points that go way beyond your product, and if you can help them with that, whilst also delivering your part of the solution, then you will find a place in their heart that elevates you beyond your competitors.

Content Marketing Perspective and Big Data

After signing up for an integrated farm management system, who do you think that farmer is going to go to for their tractor? Not surprisingly, the broker recommended John Deere as a ‘buy’.

It's all relative, but it needs to be embraced at every level

Ultimately, Big Data is a relative term. For corporates, it is a vision of the future that includes terabytes of data, for a smaller company it is using a technology platform such as Hubspot to gain a 360 degree view of an individual prospect’s touchpoints with the company, score leads and automate some marketing processes.

John Deere provides us with a good example of how content marketing can embrace big data to provide enhanced and more personalised service to customers in order to both win and maintain more business. The challenge for Content Marketers is to identify how best Big Data insights and capability can be used to delight customers and win business.

Not sure what you need content marketing for? Get in touch with 256 Media now and we'll walk you through it from strategy formulation to execution.


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