From Information to Intelligence: Unlocking the Promise of Big Data

By Emma Hrustic

Today’s CMOs have access to unprecedented quantities and types of data. But in order to effectively lead, they must solve how to move 
from data to intelligence; from reacting to a set of numbers to a strategic approach that a) understands what the numbers add up to, and b) enables them to take the right actions based on the insights gleaned.

Across sectors and industries, from smaller startups to established multinationals, marketers need a framework that converts information to usable insight, which is why we’ve developed Brand Intelligence. Where marketers are generally using information tactically—and reactively—Brand Intelligence is designed to deliver systematic aggregation, analysis, and activation of myriad data on brands to build a strategic roadmap and identify tactical actions to pave the way.

Brand Strength: Herding the numbers

Making numbers mean more is a little like herding stray animals. It all starts with Brand Strength, our brand valuation methodology. Rooted in 
the knowledge from decades of experience that great brands start from within, Brand Strength measures four critical internal factors: Clarity, Commitment, Protection, and Responsiveness.

The emphasis on the internal well-being of a brand immediately differentiates the way we understand and interpret data, and causes us to ask different questions of different stakeholders—the answers to which will help us understand how to best activate a brand externally.

Next, the Brand Strength model tracks six key external factors: Authenticity, Relevance, Differentiation, Consistency, Presence, and Understanding. In tandem with the internal factors, these metrics begin to yield a more complete picture of a brand in action, revealing areas for improvement as well as strengths; the data starts to signify something larger, and the types of questions we need to ask and numbers we need to examine become clearer as a result.

We integrate existing brand data and 
add in primary research. Every new piece of information informs what types of questions we ask next and what sort of research will be relevant. Because we are solving business challenges and thinking strategically, the numbers begin to tell us a story—of challenges and opportunities to drive choice, build loyalty, command a premium, and ultimately grow the kind of halo that forms around the world’s greatest brands.

Brand Navigator: Mapping success

In order to figure out the best way to move forward, CMOs need a broader, clearer picture of where their brand sits now. That’s why we start by assessing the lay of the land: We leverage existing data—from brand tracking to employee engagement and customer satisfaction information— and measure findings against our Brand Strength factors to get a full picture of a brand’s internal and external strengths and weaknesses.

Once a brand’s current positioning is mapped, it becomes possible to identify both near-term and long-term priorities and develop a data-driven action plan that puts that brand on a path to long-term success.

Where we’re heading: CMO rising, brand rising

As we get further down the road of Big Data, tactical and incremental marketing is being revealed as the dead-end detour it is. To stay on a path to Brand Strength, it’s not just about the numbers; it’s about the meaning we derive from those numbers, and how they’ll help us solve the business challenges that small-bore tactics will never successfully address.

Big Data has put a new onus on CMOs and their teams to lead—to build actionable insights on the shifting sand of metrics. CMOs are staying in their roles twice as long as they were a decade ago—almost four years on average now vs. 23 months as measured in 2004. Their increased primacy represents an acknowledgment of some- thing we’ve long held true: that systematic, strategic attention to brand is in fact the single most determinative factor in the success of an organization over time.

CMOs, therefore, are uniquely positioned to provide the overarching leadership needed to make meaning out of the numbers, and to marshal organizational resources across business units, teams, and silos. By finding wisdom in the data, creating a culture of success internally, and then turning that power on the market, it is the CMOs and their brand teams who can advance the methods of Brand Intelligence and navigate their organizations to the top.

Emma Hrustic ( is Global Director, Brand Intelligence, Interbrand