Branding in the Age of Big Data

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With the help of powerful analytical tools, companies are slowly starting to make sense of big data. At present brands are at the forefront of the digital revolution, and they have learned how to make the best use of it.

The time of spreadsheets is over a Google search, a passport scan, a barcode reading in a supermarket, your online shopping history and a tweet, all of these contain data that can be collected, analysed and monetised. Supercomputers are making it possible for companies to use this information and figure out what computers want in real-time. In less than a decade, CPUs are expected to possess the processing power similar to the human brain. According to a survey done by the global agenda council on the future of software and society, people expect artificial intelligence machines to be part of a company’s board of directors by 2026. There is a good chance that in fifteen years, your job is going to be performed by computers since decisions once based on experience and intuition will be made through machine analysis of massive amounts of data. Big data analysis will reveal patterns and connections that will vastly improve the most human activities and increase the effectiveness of our decisions.

A Sea of Information
If you haven’t been living under a rock, then chances are you have already heard about big data. There is no hiding from the industry’s favourite buzzword right now. The problem is, it has been misinformed and misinterpreted more than any new concept out there. Big Data an extensive collection of information. The collection is so large and complex that it becomes impossible for traditional data management tools to process. The overall internet usage across the world has grown exponentially over the past decade, which resulted in the accumulation of the amount of data previously unheard of. Every mail that you send, each like and share on Facebook, every picture that you upload is new information that is generated. The information generated by you is not only limited to your social media activities, but it also includes the websites you search and products that you browse in e-commerce websites. Big data also consists of the information created by Airline flights across the world, weather updates and patient data in hospitals. The magnitude of the data which is created every day is astonishing.

Every two days, we create as much information as we did from the beginning of time to 2003. It is expected that by 2020 the total digital information that will be in existence will amount to 40 zettabytes. If all the data created in just one day is burned onto DVDs, the stack of DVDs would reach the moon twice. A large portion of this enormous database is created on social media sites. Every minute, we generate 1.8 million likes and upload 200 thousand photos on Facebook. Facebook users share 30 billion pieces of content every day. It would take a person 15 years to watch every video uploaded by users in a single day. At present, all the data centres around the world make up an area of about 6000 football fields. The numbers are overwhelming, literally. The amount of data is so enormous, that whoever is in the procession of it often fails to make meaningful conclusions about any individual. That doesn’t mean there is no one capable of harnessing its power. With the help of powerful analytical tools, companies are slowly starting to make sense of big data. At present brands are at the forefront of the digital revolution, and they have learned how to make the best use of it.

Capitalising on Analytics
By now, most brands have realised how important big data is to remain relevant in the market. As competition gets stiffer, brands are looking to use data to edge past their rivals. The main focus of any brand remains the same, market the wants of customers. Big data empowers them to know exactly what their customers want. It has allowed brands to become more predictive rather than reactive to consumer trends. Big data has also enabled brands to take product personalisation to a new height. Computer-generated data helps companies to understand consumer behaviour on a level unimaginable in the past. Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods is the latest example of how big data is changing product development. Being the biggest retailer in America, Amazon already has consumer data of the entire country. They analyse this data to understand how people make grocery shopping decisions and how the suppliers interact with grocers. This data gives insights whenever there is a need to implement further changes.

Big Data and Bangladesh
An increasing number of Bangladeshi brands are incorporating big data in their operations. Perhaps, the most significant and most frequent users of big data in Bangladesh are the mobile phone companies. Their campaigns and promotions are designed based on past usage data. The highly personalised package offers points to increased use of personal customer data, which are created by analysing big data. Big data is used to understand smaller segments of the population like the Upazilas and Union Parishads. The telecom companies make sure our offers meet the needs of the consumer at the time the sale is made. Every time a consumer reaches a retailer to recharge the phone, based on the consumer’s profile, an offer is immediately sent to the user. Therefore, it allows the companies to modify the offers that consumers get almost in real-time.

The Way Forward
It is time to address the elephant in the room, Privacy. Big data is definitely helping brands, but how much is it helping consumers? Are the privacy risks just too much to let go of the benefits? Let’s start with when big data becomes a problem. The websites that collect data about customers are in possession of a massive amount of personal data that they can store indefinitely. So, there is a possibility that your embarrassing pictures from 2008 will live on in the depths of Facebook servers forever. This puts your entire internet history in danger of falling into the hands of any nefarious character. Even if you are not involved in anything illegal or remotely unethical, you will not be thrilled if some shady entity puts every piece of information about you online. On the other hand, big data—and the companies doing business out of managing it—are paving the way towards some great innovations in science, technology, and medicine. The brands are using big data to design products that make our lives significantly better. Big data has made existing products more effective and promises to revolutionise the consumer experience. It is a powerful tool that can change the individual experiences of different products in the future. Right now, there is only one aspect of big data that needs to be sorted out, control. The lack of control we have on our online data and the amount of control big corporations have over them. There needs to be an international consensus about how much and how long companies can store our personal data and in what capacity they can use them.

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