What companies winning at Big Data do differently?

Big Data is high-volume, high-velocity and high-variety information that requires specialized and innovative forms of storage and analysis for enhanced insight and decision making. Staggering statistics mentioned in prior articles depict the amount of data being generated every day. To give you an idea into the world of Big Data, have a look at the video below:

As this quantity of data grows, it becomes imperative for businesses to use this information to their advantage. Valuable insights derived can enhance decision making, reduce costs, and increase marketing ROI eventually leading to higher revenues and profitability. Further, ‘real-time’ insights and ‘predictive’ analytics can provide a pronounced competitive advantage.

The technologies surrounding Big Data allow companies to do exactly this. This article and its follow ups, will be illustrating how businesses are winning at Big Data and using it to their advantage, taking a distinct case study at a time. This article illustrates the case of Bank of America.

As on July 2012, Bank of America had 57 Million customers, 29 million online banking users and 10 million mobile banking customers. For all those customers, they hold 65 Petabytes of data and they only use 1% of it for analytics at present.

Traditionally, the bank used data analytics to understand its customer based on largely structured data available within the Bank’s database. More recently, however, Bank of America is storing and analyzing a lot of unstructured information about the customer. This refers to the information generated by monitoring customer journeys through websites, call centers, tellers and branch personnel to understand the paths customers follow through the bank and how these paths affect attrition or purchase of particular financial services. This data consists of a combination of website clicks, transaction records, and voice recordings from call centers. Insights derived from a combination of analyses on both the structured and unstructured data provide well defined customer segments that allow the bank to pitch the right product to the right customer, leading to increased revenue. The bank claims to have a relationship of some sort with 1 of every 2 customers in the United States. It certainly knows its Big Data.

How Bank of America is deriving Winning Insights from its Big Data?

  • The Bank utilizes transaction and propensity models to determine which of its primary relationship customers may have a credit card, or a mortgage loan that could benefit from refinancing at a competitor. When the customer comes online, calls a call center, or visits a branch, that information is available to the online app, or the sales associate to present the offer.

  • In 2012, Bank of America launched BankAmeriDeals, a program that provides customers with personalized cash back offers based on their spending patterns. This program is offered through its online banking platform and the customer can avoid the hassles of using newspaper cuttings or any external deal websites (such as Groupon). When a customer clicks on the deal, it gets loaded on his debit/credit card and he receives the cash back, the next time he shops at the particular store. Recently, this program was provided on the bank’s mobile app too, with the additional facility to notify customers when they are near a retailer for which they have a coupon. Such programs benefit the business by increasing customer loyalty and swaying customers away from the competitors.

  • More recently in 2013, Bank of America tracked speech patterns, location, movement and posture of employees at its call center, and based on the data gathered, rolled out initiatives to  improve interactions between employees and employers and even office floor plans. They switched from staggered 15-minute breaks to having teams take breaks all at the same time, thereby increasing productivity by 23 percent and team cohesion by 18 percent.

  • Further, Bank of America made changes to its organizational structure and restructured to form a central analytics group showcasing its commitment to Big Data analytics.

In sum, Bank of America was able to develop a much deeper relationship with a larger set of customers allowing a large bank to provide more customized and flexible solutions and function similar to smaller banks that have the benefit of knowing its customer more personally. In this way, it solved its business challenge of losing its customers to smaller neighborhood banks.

This series will be continued further featuring examples of other well-known global companies. Watch this space!

This blog post has been written by URVI BABLA, Insight Consultant, Brandscapes Worldwide. Urvi is a passionately curious individual who believes in lifelong learning. She is also a travel enthusiast and has explored many diverse regions across the world such as Europe, Middle East and Africa besides India. 

Email – urvi.babla@brand-scapes.com

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Of Hurricanes & Strawberry Pop tarts

Big Data reminds me of the millennium bug.

Y2K bug (or millennium bug) paranoia heightened in the last five years of the past century. The fear resulted from the practice of abbreviating the four-digit year to two digits, which could potentially have created a huge problem on computer/ digital systems at the turn of the century. The race was to change dates to a four-digit year format across the world so that the systems did not collapse or freeze at the turn of the century.

This created huge demand for software services, which many Indian software firms were fortunate enough to leverage to catapult themselves as global service providers. The catastrophe was averted, and all was well.

A decade later, there is a buzz around another information technology phenomenon, Big Data. Love it, or hate it, you can’t afford to ignore it.

Each of the Four V’s that describe Big Data, pose challenges and opportunities for the future:

  • VOLUME: With volume of world’s data doubling every 1.2 years, we may soon drown in an ocean of data. Unless, of course, we build technology to stream, store, purge, analyze and channelize the power of this data to guide business decisions.

  • VARIETY: With 80% of the world’s data being unstructured – text, pictures, video – we may actually not be able to make use of this analytic opportunity. Unless we develop software to enable business algorithms to encode and use the power of unstructured data.

  • VELOCITY: With longitudinal data being captured in microseconds, our business response cycles would have to move from annual or monthly or weekly to ‘real time’ models. For example, if a telecom consumer encounters a call drop, we should be able to predict the vulnerability of losing him and take recovery action before he churns – all within a minute or two of the incident. No longer would we have the luxury of waiting for a month or two to develop a churn strategy and implement it.

  • VERACITY: As quantity of data grows, it would inevitably raise quality and consistency concerns, which have to be tackled.

All this is both scary and exciting, depending on which side of the coin you are looking at. The mammoth proportion is fearsome. It is a like a huge tidal wave – a data Tsunami – that the world has ever encountered. It is the fear of the unknown.

Big Data is exciting, especially for the analytics professionals, for exactly the same reasons. Imagine a world where data driven analytics is at the core of every aspect of life – business, medical, sociological and personal. Analytics, powered by Big Data, has the potential of creating intuitive decision models that replicate or even beat the best human brains.


This brings me to the headline of this piece – what is common between hurricanes and strawberry Pop tarts? Walmart’s analytical models crunched POS and weather data and discovered that when a city is hit by hurricanes, the sale of Strawberry Pop tarts goes through the roof. This was a surprising discovery from analytics, which is difficult to explain rationally. The retailer benefited by shipping truckloads of the brand to stores in cities where weather reports predicted the arrival of hurricanes. This is just a small example of how Big Data analytics could change our world.

This blog post has been written by PRANESH MISRA, Chairman & Managing Director, Brandscapes Worldwide.

Email – pranesh.misra@brand-scapes.com

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Should advertising awards be scrapped?

This article was featured in the April 22nd, 2013 issue of Business Standard


The Creative Awards scene is getting murkier every year.

A few rotten eggs are raising a stink. So should we throw the baby out with the baby water?

Most creative industries, like music and the movies, have creative awards that have stood the test of time. Adver-tising creative awards, too have been around for a long time. At the global level, some of the most coveted awards have been around for more than 50 years. The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, established in 1954, is among the oldest. The Effie Awards, one of the most respected advertising effectiveness awards, is now in its 45th year. So, awards shouldn’t be wished away. Most successful awards are also money-spinners for their owner-sponsors, who will fight tooth and nail to ensure their continuity.

What makes such ad awards resilient, despite the many controversies, allegations and mismanagement? It is the ad agencies that are keeping them alive. After all, ad agencies hanker for creative awards for several reasons. Being on the top of the awards leagues table enhances their chances of winning new business, attracts better creative talent and instills a spirit of competition. At least, that is the theory.

There is nothing wrong with creative awards per se. If awards help agencies to become more creative, their clients should benefit as well. But clients don’t always win. We have seen how the judging criteria often do not include either the strategy that went behind the creativity or the results, in terms of sales or market share gain. To that extent, the constituting of ‘effectiveness awards’ seems to be a more robust step and better aligned to promote clients’ objectives.

The structure or the mode of judging and administering awards will not change overnight. But the industry needs to start somewhere. A good place would be to increase entry fees dramatically. High fees will ensure that the selection of ads to be entered is handled at the senior-most level, not just at the agency but also at the clients’ end. The number of entries would decline and each entry would have a better chance of a serious evaluation by the jury.

Secondly, the rubber-stamped sign-offs from the clients should be made mandatory. That would ensure greater senior management involvement in the entries sent by their agencies.

Let us not forget the role of the jury. Why should they comprise of only creative professionals from the industry? Why can we not invite experienced clients, media planners, and even business leaders to the panel? The entries will then get judged from different angles rather than a purely subjective creativity-led evaluation process.

May be it is time to create an entirely new category to allow agencies to enter ads that are today classified as scam. For this section, the agency-client relationship wouldn’t be mandatory. Any agency would be free to work on any brand – whether they handle it or not, under this category. This will give creatives complete, guiltless freedom to indulge.

(Note: the opinion/views are purely personal based on putting facts together)

This blog post has been written by PRANESH MISRA, Chairman & Managing Director, Brandscapes Worldwide.

Email – pranesh.misra@brand-scapes.com

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The Rural Growth Tide

“Rural consumption outpaces that in cities” read the recent headline in the Times of India. The National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) data showed that while the growth in spending on goods and services by rural India during the two-year period of 2009 – 10was 19%, it was 17% for the urban areas, a clear indication of how the government’s social programmes are trickling down to rural India.

While the overall figure for rural consumption in the country has always been larger than urban consumption, owing to its sheer size and expanse, the disparity between the growth rates should not go unnoticed.

Marketers’ bullishness for rural markets is strongly driven by census figures that show a rapid rise in purchasing power of the rural citizen of India. Recent trends indicate definite changes in rural lifestyles:

  • Growth in education levels and employment owing to the government’s popular rural employment generation push through National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA)Rural Coke

  • Growing interaction with urban India, fueled by the construction boom and modern retail outlets for farm produce

  • Increase in overall income levels and rural prosperity

  • Enlarged media reach that penetrates almost all rural households (Close to 60% come in contact with any of the conventional media, like press, TV, satellite, radio or cinema)

The urban economy has always been more dependent on Continue reading

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Functional Literacy and the New Consumer

Socialization, for humans, begins as early as when the brain begins to recognize faces. Consumer socialization soon follows suit; taking cornflakes out of a particular box every morning for breakfast, putting on shoes with three stripes on your toddler’s feet every morning, etc are some of the simple, and often considered trivial, aspects that go a long way in shaping how an individual behaves as a consumer.

Every step that we observe and interpret, serves to make our lives easier. This is mostly done through Heuristics, mental shortcuts based on previous experiences that aid us when presented with a situation. When we look at a chair, we know what it is, we know of its uses, how it’s made, etc only because we have seen and heard of it earlier. This is how the human brain is wired to work and is also the reason why an individual who is blind from birth, will not be able to interpret visuals he receives from new found sight.

Heuristics is what makes the concept of ‘functional literacy’ worth taking a look at. Functional literacy in a typical consumer environment would mean the basic skills required to be able to read product labels that differentiate offerings, the ease with which an individual navigates around in a shop, being able to calculate value of units rather than the pack size, totaling costs of purchased items etc. Having had an education, if effective, Continue reading

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Retailing and the FDI Debate

Retailing is the interface between the producer and the individual consumer buying for personal consumption.

The Indian Retail Industry, which contributes 14% to the national GDP, is largely an unorganized market. Only 4% of the industry is organized, and it employs just 5 lakh of the total 4 crore work force in this sector. One of the reasons behind the explosion of retail and its fragmented nature in India is the fact that retailing is, probably, the primary form of disguised unemployment/underemployment in the country. It is the lack of other economic opportunities that forces people into this form of self-employment, even though much of the profit is marginal.

If we look at retail formats, the first is Single brand retail which is confined to sportswear, luxury goods, apparel, jewelry and handbags. FDI in single brand retailing means allowing single global brands to sell products of their own brand to consumers directly.

The second is Cash and Carry formats which comprise Continue reading

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Bollywood Marketing

The Indian Film Industry is the largest film producing industry in the world. It produces close to 1000 movies a year, compared to Hollywood & Japan which only produce about 500 and 400 movies a year, respectively. With revenues of US $3 billion in 2011, growing at a rate of approx. 10% a year and expected to reach US $4.5 billion by 2016, Bollywood as an industry is a nascent breeding ground for marketers.

In Bollywood today, if the box-office is King, then “Marketing” is the King-maker. Many a film have marketing budgets which either equal or exceed the film’s production budgets, with big bucks flowing into promotional tours, ad campaigns, corporate tie-ups, television appearances, etc. No matter what the content of the film, ultimately, it is how it is marketed that really sets it apart from its peers. (Pic courtesy – http://www.celewood.com)

These days, the need for marketing and the marketing budget of a film is directly proportionate to Continue reading

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