A long time ago, in an IEEE document far, far away ... BIG DATA.
Since as far back as 1997, the phrase "Big Data" has crept into our lexicon and is now second-nature to architects, developers, technologists and marketers, alike. And although the meaning behind the words differs from context to context, most can conjure at least a lay definition.
Big data is the aggregation and analysis of massive amounts of information in order to better inform decision making. Ultimately, big data creates a collection of big problems. How do we collect data? How do we store it? How do we make sense of it? For marketers, that third question is the most important, and the most vexing. Finally, there is hope.
In the 1990s, the Internet was barely habitable. Marketers on the bleeding edge were slapping banner ads on everything ending in .com. Targeted marketing emerged with the development of the cookie. When advertisers realized they could track browsing behavior, it was only natural to use the data to market more specific products. Just visit pets.com? It’s no wonder the New York Times displays a banner for Purina.
Cookies’ relative invisibility meant marketers could go about serving up ads with impunity. That is, until the media started tracking the scent. Customer outrage ensued and soon legislation was enacted to protect consumers’ privacy. While a lot of good was done in the name of limiting unscrupulous (and obnoxious) advertisers, it made it harder for companies to reach their audiences.
The early 2000s put the magnifying glass on Internet privacy. The days of limitless banner advertising and following customers all over the Web were over. Or so it seemed. While some customers voiced outrage over the collection methods of any number of government and commercial entities, an undercurrent of acceptance crept in. For many, the accessibility of the Internet and free flow of information became ‘worth’ dealing with advertisements. At the same time, advertisers got smarter.