Life has never been more predictable.
Yelp provides an early-warning system for dining out, by helping us avoid bad restaurants and alerting us to must-try items at good ones. Facebook lets us investigate a potential romantic interest before the first date. Turn-by-turn instructions from Google Maps prevent us from ever getting lost.
The same thing is happening in marketing organizations. “Big Data” is the latest buzzword in our industry. Data-rich practices such as econometric modeling, analytics and copy-testing offer brand managers an alluring promise of precision and predictability. Pull lever X, out will pop Y as a result.
All this is good — mostly. These tools can certainly make our profession more efficient. But they also can make brands less exciting and surprising. With all of this information at our disposal, we risk robbing brands of opportunities for serendipity — the delightful surprises that happen when we least expect them, attracting the attention of consumers.
Pursuing innovations in “big data” is essential, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the element of surprise, because surprise is still probably the most powerful marketing tool of all. Here’s why.