A conversation between Big Data and Market Research

“Hey MR old man, how’s it hanging?”

“It’s hanging very well, Big Data, thank you for asking.  And less of the old.”

“I don’t know how you coped in your day having to design questionnaires and sample frames and then have interviewers go out and ask people questions – it must have taken an age and cost the Earth.  We get brand and device usage data now on tap, loads of it, all the time for pretty much zero data collection cost.”

“In my day?  I’m still doing all that and I think the need to conduct well-structured research surveys will be around for a while yet.  We need to know what people think as well as do.”

“That’s crazy!  I can get usage data for brands across digital devices at a click.  I know which media people consume and what they bought as a result, all without having to ask a question.  I know everything about people.  Why worry about response rates, when I have the equivalent of real Census data.”

“Impressive.  I read somewhere that over 80% of clicks on mobile devices are in error.  Anyway, regardless of the number, do you know what people think about brands?”

“Maybe not, but I could work something out from the reach, frequency and engagement data I collect passively.  Or do a focus group if I have to.  Look, Big Data is sexy and it’s what everyone is talking about.  It is all about the 3Vs: volume, velocity and variety.”

“Big Data is just data with good PR.  Why are we having this conversation?  We both need each other and have the same goal – that is to provide insight and information to help inform business decisions.”

“But technology has made our lives easier.  You forget that businesses need data instantly to make quick decisions.  The early bird and all that.  Web and mobile data servers will replace the interviewer’s laptop, just as the laptop replaced the clipboard and pen.  Where would you be without a calculator?”

“True.  I do need a calculator, but do you know how to do long division by hand?”

“I don’t need to.  Besides, how many people can in our industry nowadays?”

“I know.  It’s probably not a big number.  But we need to understand first principles.  We need people who understand research and data, not those who churn out big numbers.  We should work together.”

“I’ll buy you a drink.  I guess you’re a Stout man.”

John Carroll is Senior Director in Ipsos MediaCT and Chairman of the Media Research Group (follow John on Twitter @MediaCarroll)