The big news about Small Data
By Ricardo Martins the 19 July 2018
Martin Lindstrom – brand futurist, best-selling author and keynote speaker at our third Business Transformation Summit – tells us it’s the small things that matter in the big picture.
If you want to know how to transform your business, you should listen to Martin Lindstrom. That’s exactly what toy giant LEGO did in 2004, when they were in real trouble with a negative cash flow and in danger of defaulting on their debts. The company had assumed modern children no longer have the patience or the imagination to enjoy traditional LEGO bricks, preferring instead the instant gratification of video games. In response, LEGO designers made the bricks bigger and easier to assemble, and the kids said no.
“I urged them not to abandon what they had been doing well for so long,” says Martin. “They sold off their theme parks and strengthened successful brand alliances with the Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Bob the Builder franchises. But the biggest shift in LEGO’s thinking came from an ethnographic visit we paid to the home of an 11-year-old German boy.”
It turned out that LEGO’s ideas about kids’ attention spans and instant gratification – an assumption based on Big Data – proved to be misguided.
According to Martin Lindstrom, Big Data can be a distraction because it rarely takes account of the human being at the centre of it all. The figures tell us one thing, but when it comes to finding out what humans really think and feel, Big Data often falls short.
The key is to be a bit of a Sherlock Holmes and look at the Small Data – the nuances of behaviour that tell us a lot about what consumers really want and how they behave. This is the secret to understanding the USP that will make your product or service resonate with your customers.
Speaking from success
Lindstrom is a big name in business transformation. He regularly writes columns for illustrious publications, including Bloomberg Businessweek, Harvard Business Review and The Economist. He has also published several books – his latest is Small Data –The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends – selling over a million copies worldwide.
Cegos is delighted Martin will be joining us at this year’s Business Transformation Summit in Portugal to discuss how focusing on Small Data makes a huge difference to your organisation.
One significant aspect of his work is studying the brains of consumers to find out what makes them tick.
“Just after I’d concluded the largest sensory study in the world, I realised that it is nearly impossible to ask consumers about their impression of a smell or a touch,” says Martin. “I mean, did you buy that product because you subconsciously smelled it? No-one would be able to answer such question and thus I thought, ‘why not go closer to the centre of control, our brains’, which led us to the creation of the global Buyology project.”
And Small Data is major focus of this research.
“Small Data are seemingly insignificant observations made in people’s daily lives – data which reveals how we feel and why we behave in certain ways. In short, Small Data is all about the causation – finding the “why” behind the way we behave. Whereas Big data is all about correlation – the “how”.
“Without any doubt, this is the source of all major innovations and thus an incredibly important dimension on how communication, branding, culture and company transformation will take place. The business world fundamentally believes the consumer is deeply irrational and must be treated that way. The reality is somewhat the reverse. Around 85% of everything we do is subconscious – a space we can only explore and seek to understand through Small Data.”
It is certainly a stimulating area of research and one that Martin will be sharing with our audience at the Business Transformation Summit
“I’ll share some fascinating ‘behind the scenes’ stories from LEGO, Maersk, Lowes, SWISS International Air Lines and a ton of other companies, all transformed because of Small Data,” says Martin. “I’ll also share never-before-publicised insights on what it takes to make transformation a true success, in a world where (according to McKinsey) 95% of all transformations fail.”
Martin Lindstrom gave a talk at Cegos’ 2018 Business Transformation Summit. Check out our highlights page for reflections on the day, in-depth articles and more