Tag Archives: Analytics

The Power of 7 (or 77) ! IBM Big Data, Wimbledon, and B2B marketing

10 Jul


What a Wimbledon this was! From slides (all around the court) to falls (of top seeds), to a dream win for a relative unknown Frenchwoman followed by the win Britain was waiting for – it took 77 years for a male to win it; was the first one after 1977 (Virginia Wade – the media certainly took a beating on this one, didn’t it? – and this despite the felicitation to Ms. Wade during the championships!)) and was won on 7/7…wow, the power of 7! Maybe Murray will win it 7 times!

This number/ data crunching reminded me of the ad that I saw on ESPN while the match was being aired – it was one of the series of ads that IBM released for its “smarter planet” positioning….by the way, I like that positioning – and I do think that IBM is doing many things right to work towards fulfilling that promise.

If you haven’t seen it yet, here is the series

But I was really confused about why there was a Big Data campaign airing on TV! Who buys Intel? Businesses – so CEO/ CTO/ CDO and of late, ever since their CMO focus, the CMO. (See this interesting article about IBM’s focus on the CMO). These are ALL C suite execs in enterprises! Intel is the quintessential B2B marketing firm! On top of which it has traditionally focussed large enterprises though it did start a mid market push a while ago (just to check – a google search for IBM enterprise vs SMB shows a ration of 153 million to 4 million!).

So, what is the typical purchase process for IBM like engagements? Long drawn out pitches/ the typical commercial engagement cycle…resulting generally in bids against 2 others (Accenture and/or Oracle may very likely be atleast one of the others – interestingly, I found in my inbox today an email from Accenture talking about the looming shortage of analytics talent – talk about topicality! ). What is the ‘discovery’ process in this Bizdev cycle? Well, Intel in the appropriate circles I would imagine doesn’t need discovery – it may need outreach, but not discovery. Which means, that the relevant people in a buying situation WOULD reach out to IBM. Now, sure, the world is becoming more and more socially integrated – and ofcourse, the business that IBM in, has a core foundation of social. So, should they give a social presence to this new positioning? Certainly! And, to their credit, they’ve done so. I do think salience of IBM along with Big data, Predictive analytics and Smart is probably highest amongst all comparative business entities. They’ve also done outdoors visibility well on the “smarter planet” platform – including a massive hoarding just outside the airport in my hometown Bangalore. So, why on earth would they advertise on TV???

B2B branding

Which brings me to the larger premise – B2B marketing and the role of mass media – I think the only scenarios that justify the use of mass media for a B2B entity are:

a) Launch of company/ large product – one which is revolutionary! (Typically a big bang ad may work in this case if it is a well known company launching a biggie product – Apple/ Mac/ Superbowl comes to mind for this ofcourse! See my earlier related post here). If it’s an unknown company and u want to build traction very quickly, then you may want repeated airings over TV/ other media…

b) Existing company repositioning in that it is targeting a newer audience – say an enterprise oriented company expands to now address the SMB segment only – mass media seems ideal to tell you that hey we talk to you too (actually in a way, in tone atleast, the IBM ads seem oriented towards consumers/ SOHO and the SMB segment)

c) A company is going IPO – ofcourse then, the target for the ad becomes the consumer/ investing public – and given the company is B2B, the mass public may not know much about it.

d) The media chosen is very very select (and hence not “mass” at all 🙂 – but I meant select very targeted print specially if it’s a specialist domain that relies very heavily still on traditional media – Print and Packaging/ fragrances/ maybe even some tech e.g. select storage/ design etc may be good examples – these are journals that may be peer reviewed etc – and strangely enough still do not have online editions – specially in geographies across the world. (Autodesk was one such product category). A corollary is select very targeted media programs that are clearly and squarely meant for that select audience (so, not Wimbledon Men’s final on ESPN 🙂 )

Interestingly, writing this side of the story nearly made me forget the early pains of proving the utility of social media – then a relatively new life form – for B2B businesses when we were running EmPower Research. Specially the fight we had on our hands when we started selling our services to the large clients of our aquirer – these were companies that largely required BPM services from our acquirer – and so, were all B2B – and when I say B2B, I even mean utility/ transport/ heavy engineering companies. At one time, we even created a two by two matrix showing how B2B companies were NOT good targets for our effort. That is why, most articles online for B2B marketing currently are selling the utility of social media/ business for propagating B2B businesses 🙂 .

Our own experience – ultimately – showed us that social could be integrated into B2B businesses at various stages:

B2B Social

– Listening for reputation management/ disaster preparedness – this meant you constantly trawl social conversations to a) spot any broad reputation detractors (or enhancers for that matter) for your business; but also check for any broad/ macro events that may turn viral and therefore increase your risk profile (nice predictive algorithms could be created to show when something could get viral)

– Lead Generation – this use has been questioned – but, atleast in user groups/ domain specific sites of certain types of product categories, there are lots of questions on upgrades/ switches/ problem solution type issues. These could generally cue the smart Bizdev person to atleast prospect

– Customer service – similar to the above – just for existing users

– Thought Leadership – creating enriching/ engaging content realted to the business you are in – in an effort to broaden the horizon of what your brand stands for…

– Using Social Technologies for collaboration for better efficiencies and smarter decision making…

So, in a way, we circle back towards the points IBM is making – predictions to enable cleverer decisions, more “right” decisions, etc – and all these are what social will enable – so my point – why use mass media to make this point? And why 5 years after the point has been made already, and well?

Please note – I am not questioning the “Big Idea” of the Smarter Planet at all! I think, for a company that was to the larger world known as the chip/ processor company, the “Smarter Planet” was a really superb plank – it was motivational internally, focused on what was important – core research leading to ‘intelligence” – an idea probably before its time 5 years ago; was applicable across verticals or domains easily; and ofcourse was executed brilliantly by Ogilvy and Office. (read this for an eulogic analysis!) My objection is really to the use – after 5 years – of the campaign in mass media…still!

And ofcourse the Watson vs. Man @ Jeopardy idea was a gem – by all standards – PR, engagement, amplification, just stressing core brand values.

watson jeopardy

At the end, as the pundits would say though, what sells is success – as this, slightly older article shows, IBM certainly reaped the benefits of the campaign – whether they make incremental returns on continuing the campaign is anyone’s guess. (for those interested in some behind the scenes photos of the commercial production, click here )

To come back to Wimbledon, many may not know (I have to confess I didn’t – and in hindsight maybe as partners they get some media time anyway, and THAT”S why they aired this campaign that is making me froth at the mouth so much!!!) – but IBM actually crunches all Wimbledon’s and other Grand Slams’ data for the interesting stats and analyses – including giving tips to players, and prompting commentators as they give you a blow by blow account of what is transpiring on court! (read here for some details on their SlamTracker)

So, as far as I am concerned, advertising or no, power to IBM and its like!


Analytics, Big Data, Crosswords and Agatha Christie

28 Jan

Miss Marple
I had a Eureka moment this morning (NO, I did NOT jump out of the bath midway through it – I’ve often wondered what Archimedes’ family’s reaction would have been when he ran out butt naked btw – and anyway on Monday mornings it’s quick showers not luxurious baths!). But it suddenly struck me that I’m like Miss Marple – I kid you not, I am! (For those for whom whodunits belong to the dim and distant past – Miss Marple was the 70 something spinster of Agatha Christie’s who solved many crimes in a as-it-turned-out-not-so-sleepy village called St. Mary Mead) I don’t mean I look like her (well, judge for yourself, though the number of wrinkles on my face will catch up to that on hers soon enough). But, Miss Marple solved difficult crimes because of her shrewd intelligence (yep thats me). The crimes she faced always reminded her of a parallel incident. She used analogies that lead her to a deeper realization about the true nature of a crime. Although she looked sweet (yeah, that’s me too), frail, and old, she feared neither the dead nor the living. She also had a remarkable ability to latch onto a casual comment and connect it to the case at hand.

This realization actually came to me as I was reading yet another novel by current favorite mindless reading – Nora Roberts (husband calls it trash – her credits call her Amercia’s favorite author) – and I suddenly connected dots on what she writes about – always smart sassy women as heroines, almost always older women with marriages in most cases behind them, fun ‘the S word’, almost always an element of the supernatural – but in an understated way, everyone likes to drink beer (yep, that’s part of why I like these books), most occupations are physically oriented – carpenter/ garderener/ dancer – maybe because its more logical to talk greater amounts of body display that way – these are romance novels).

This set me thinking of Miss Marple, and — would you believe it – analytics! And I figured that – what you do in analytics is exactly this – connect dots, draw parallels and then solve problems. (see my earlier blog on this)

Actually while in analytics it kind of becomes the whole point, this aspect of pattern detection is true of all facets of life:

– One of the first activities a pre schooler does is connect dots to make pictures

– All music is actually pattern making – there are notes in specific patterns that are set to specific time periods, and the combination creates something that really pleasing to the eye (on this “note” – did you know that Harley Davidson has actually patented the sound of its exhaust! There’s music for you!)

Kekule, in his dream, saw a snake catching his own tail, connected the dots – drew a parallel – and voila, you have the structure of the Benzene ring!

– In my aerobics class (yes, yet again) – that’s all Niru does, many patterns and combinations of patterns of steps – and when she goes over these patterns of steps again and again – a) they kind of get set somewhere in the nerve cells of the brain , and b) they can be combined in different permutations to afford variety and make the classes more interesting (for the regulars – and more difficult – for novices like me)

– The Fibonacci sequence was a result of someone discovering how fast rabbits multiply – My own Sita and Gita (the two rabbits who I thought were female but turned out clearly to not be so) demonstrated this gleefully – much to our shock – when they gave birth to 7 leverets a few weeks ago, or which – hold your breath – only 2 survived)

– All solvers of cryptic clues on crosswords, while are really well informed people coz they KNOW a lot of stuff, are also good spotters of patterns and solvers of these – the practice of solving them daily makes you really “get” the way in which a typical crossword writer will set his clues…

– Take a look at this picture I saw on facebook the other day that I found fascinating.
It prompted me to read about the Golden Ratio – and its fascinating how many (seemingly unrelated) things are set to that pattern of ratios – that makes for maximum aesthetic appeal

– Even our behavior is set to patterns – infact, apparently the way I write my blog posts has a pattern – my friend Avinash told me my posts remind him of Stephen Jay Gould – the way I weave different things together (OK, so I got to decide who i want to be – Stephen Jay Marple, or Jane Jay Gould!)

I could go on and on – but to come back to analytics, this is the skeleton of the discipline, and this is what all statistical tools and techniques are programmed to do – detect the patterns, in order to show correlations (read evolve the models) and then solve problems. Having said that, what really makes the models work is the intelligence behind it that is giving it the a) context and b) applicability, and that’s really coming from the people who are using it (maybe that’s why a good statistician may not always be a good businessman but a good businessman (should I say businessperson) does in general appreciate the point of statistics!

This then brings me to a term that is getting a lot of hype and a lot of copy – Big Data. While that is a subject that I think I will really deal with in another post (hmm – this list of “will do laters” is getting longer by the day – I should start going back and reading my own posts), in my mind, the hype on Big Data has to be taken with a little bit of salt and lots of common sense. Big Data is the MEANS to an end – NOT the end in itself – it gives you the armoury to deal with unprecedented volume, velocity and variety of data – but the USAGE or APPLICATION of this data is what businesses really need to focus on – specially those that are not tech players. There is a need to, therefore, take heads out of clouds (yes, please note the intended pun 🙂 ) and get down to reality – explore bigdata/ cloud/ hadoop what have you – but remain focused on WHAT you can do with it – HOW MUCH you can use it, and more importantly, HOW can you help your organization use it for what it really needs it for. That’s where most organisations need to focus their energies on as they use BIG Data, not so much on the technology itself.

Meanwhile, for those of you who do like the challenge of detecting patterns and solving problems, here are a few…

—-, —-, 275, 445, 720, 1165, …
516, 1440, 1932, 1611, 2535, 3027, —-, —-, …
516, 1324, 734, 507, 1315, 725, —-, —-, …

Social Media Analytics – Fish or Fowl, Quali or Quanti, Believable or Just Jargon!

2 Jan

A few days ago, while having one on ones with some business analysts, i was flummoxed – nay dismayed, by a bright young man telling me – “so, i thought when i joined this company, that i would be working in analytics. All we do now is social media.”

It took me the better part of an hour to explain to him why what he did was truly analytics – even though it was social media analytics!

It did set me thinking though – a look at wiki definitions showed me – “Analytics is the discovery and communication of meaningful patterns in data”.

Now this was the gist of what i had told that young analyst. The fact that you are observing patterns and deriving key takeaways from a vast quantity of data means you are ANALYSING it, and therefore working on analytics. After all, while in social media, a lot of the challenge has to do with just the extraction and aggregation of data – comprehensively i might add, and this is where all tools like Radian6, Sysomos etc concentrate, a big part of the challenge is also what you do with this data – how do you then process (ANALYSE) it to derive the “so what”. Hence all the dashboards/ the buzz on “measurement” etc.

I think where the confusion lay in my young friend’s mind, and actually also lies at the heart of why purist market research people continue to scoff at Social Media analytics as a reasonable source of consumer insights, is highlighted when you read the next part of wiki’s definition: “Especially valuable in areas rich with recorded information, analytics relies on the simultaneous application of statisticscomputer programming and operations research to quantify performance”. THIS was what my friend was talking about – most folks in social media analytics do NOT use advanced statistical models to derive the insights – they mainly use plain sums/ or averages – ie simple/ intuitive tools to do it. Having said that, THIS is also what we were trying to do – inject classical MR techniques in the analytics of unstructured data ie Social Media data.

Think about it – given technology’s weaknesses, we actually used a combination of people and tools – what we called a “bytes and brains” methodology  to derive the appropriate insights and nuances. (As a fallout, SocialMedia analytics actually combined the best of quantitative techniques and the qualitative insights as seen in focus groups and depth interviews). But the way to do it was via classical sampling techniques – and that which worked best was Stratified random sampling! Additionally, we used cluster analysis, factor analysis, multi dimensional scaling..what have u — to show patterns – and ofcourse to do this we used spss and sas — now, the problem was, that given the state of evolution of the medium and its apprecaition by the larger world, folks weren’t ready for it! Hence the regression (yess, pun intended!) to sums and means!

The point here is, therefore, Social Media analytics IS TRUE analytics – it definitely gives businesses an opportunity to mine and process data to answer critical business problems, it even has the ability to use the standard statistical models and methodologies to do so, it combines the best of quali and quant research…its just that the world is not ready for the full leveraging of this. It needs folks like us to educate and demonstrate to the world, the art of the possible.

Evangelists anyone????