One of my favorite films is 1967's The Graduate, which stars Dustin Hoffman as Benjamin Braddock, a 21-year-old who's confused about his future. It's summertime in the late 1960s and, in one of the movie's classic scenes, Mr. McGuire, a family friend, offers Benjamin career advice.
“I just want to say one word to you. Just one word,” Mr. McGuire says.
“Yes, sir,” Benjamin replies.
“Are you listening?” Mr. McGuire asks.
“Yes, I am.”
Mr. McGuire pauses, and then, as if he's letting Benjamin in on one of the best-kept secrets of all time, he says the one word “Plastics.”
Now, plastics may have been the hot business tip back in 1967, but times have changed. If someone remade The Graduate today, Mr. McGuire would offer a different one-word nugget. I have no doubt he'd tell Benjamin to pursue—“Are you listening?”—data.
Data. Virtually every time we use technology in today's digitized world, whether it's to communicate, shop, learn, relax, or interact, we leave a trail of digital information behind us. That's all data, and as it accumulates over time, across devices and web properties, it becomes big data. It develops into a reflection of how we spend our time, what is important to us, what we like, and even what we want. Combine all these external digital inputs with the financial, marketing, service, and demographic information already trapped within your enterprise, and you get really big data.
Once marketers are able to ...