Big Data: Most Annoying Buzzword Of The Year

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In 2011, I awarded the Most Overused Word in the Marketing Lexicon award to “analytics.” A year ago I wrote:

“If analytics was overhyped and overused in 2011, just wait until next year. 2012 will be the year of Big Data.”

Sure enough, Big Data is the most annoying buzzword of 2012.


Do you have a spreadsheet with 100 rows and columns? You’ve got Big Data!

Do you monitor mentions of your company in social media channels? You do Big Data!

Do you know how to spell the word data? You’re achieving cross-channel synergies by deepening customer relationships and radically improving marketing ROI through Big Data!


Ironically, you’re not likely to find a bigger fan of data- and analytics-driven decision making than me. But every use of data is not an example of Big Data.

There are two questions you should be asking yourself:

1) What the hell IS (and isn’t) Big Data? and 2) Why haven’t more managers become more data- and analytics- driven before?

I’m not going to bother trying to answer #1. That’s for consultants to demonstrate their thought leadership.

But question #2 deserves some analysis (pun intended).


For ages, marketing has been dominated by the branding and advertising disciplines — and not by database, or quantitative marketing.

So why, all of a sudden, would the availability of heretofore unavailable (e.g., social media) data change this?

The answer is that too many marketers are searching for the next new thing, or silver bullet, that will solve all their problems, and create order of magnitude improvements in marketing performance.

Which never happens. Never. Ever.

That doesn’t stop marketers from searching, and it certainly won’t stop consultants and technology firms from coming up with buzzwords in order to find stuff to sell to marketers.


There’s another reason why Big Data isn’t what it’s trumped up to be.

It may be an simplistic way of looking at marketing, but the two components are Sense and Respond:

“The ability to sense consumer needs and intentions based on their behaviors and actions, and to respond with appropriate advice, guidance, and offers.”

Predictive analytics (which is what Big Data is supposed to deliver or provide) can certainly enhance marketing’s ability to sense.

But there’s another part of the equation: Responding. In which of the multitudes of channels that consumers use should be a message be delivered? When? And in what sequence?

Throwing more data, and types of data, at the problem is no guarantee that both sides of the equation will be improved. 


An adjunct to the whole Big Data mishigas (look it up) is the discussion regarding the rise of Data Scientists.

Apparently, this is the hot new job title/career field, and according to one clueless blogger, data scientists will grow up to be CEOs in the near future.

Yeah, right.

Question: How many people have gone from Market Research to the C-suite in large organizations?

Answer: Not a whole helluva lot.

There are a lot of reasons for this. One of which is this: People who rise to the c-level in large organizations generally have P&L responsibility in their background — especially where the P is a lot greater than the L. A finance background is probably the exception to that rule, but there’s a close connection to overall financial and stock performance in that job, so it helps those folks get to the c-level.

What P&L accountability does — and will — a Data Scientist have? None. We’re talking about glorified marketing researchers here. Not that I’m disparaging that (or them) one bit. I’m not just the president of the Data Scientists Club, I’m also a customer.

But we’re not getting to the CEO level in any business organization that exists on this planet. The skills required to lead organizations are very different from the skills needed by data scientists.

Oh, and if you propose the creation of a Chief Data Scientist Officer position, I will hit you in the head with a hockey stick. Because it’s a stupid idea, and because I miss hockey. Basketball sucks.


So, is Big Data totally useless? Of course not. 

There are plenty of opportunities to make smarter business decisions by using new and different types of data. 

But it will take years — years — for companies to develop and integrate “big data” competencies in their companies. The claims of Big Data ROI that are thrown around are BS — complete and total BS. 


Congratulations, Big Data. You’re the winner of the 2012 Snarketing 2.0 Most Annoying Buzzword of the Year. Here’s hoping you don’t repeat in 2013.

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