Bigging up Big Data

By Josh Feldmeth

Intriguing snippet: Big data is moving with tidal force through markets, reshaping strategies, kicking off new challenges and promising untold riches to those that harness its predictive power. Business services brands are rushing in to reap big rewards. The data is there but making sense of it is messy. It’s mostly unstructured and our technology infrastructure is struggling to keep pace. A dearth of technical talent exists and business managers are unpracticed in leveraging the insights to drive decision making. Luxury car sales in China have grown by a whopping 1,550% from 45,000 units in 2001 to 736,000 units in 2011, and a re-energized North American market has been steadily posting impressive numbers. But even in 2012, the global market for passenger cars is far from saturation.

The rise of big data is old news. Way back in 2009, Cisco projected global IP traffic to reach 667 exabytes by 2013, with over 90% represented being video. Last year the IDC estimated that we created and replicated 1.8 zettabytes of data, enough to fi ll about 58 billion iPads. And they expect this number to double every year. Mind-boggling numbers.

The potential to gain actionable insights from this data is equally enormous, but companies are poorly prepared to seize it, which represents a once-in-a-business cycle opportunity that is not lost on the best business services brands.

Content still reigns supreme

After spending billions over the past years acquiring big data capability, the major business services brands have begun to consolidate their offerings through thought leadership. All of the top business services brands — Accenture, Cisco, IBM, Oracle, SAP, and Thomson Reuters — released major pieces of IP or founded new conferences in 2012, aimed at explaining how their solutions will drive returns on big data.

Thought leadership is a smart play here. Why? To win in this fast-growing space, business services brands must quickly deliver on the three pillars of brand strategy: authenticity, relevance, and differentiation. Acquisitions provide the authenticity through which these brands become credible players in the space. Thought leadership, then, transforms these credible, authentic technical capabilities into something that is relevant to customers. It demonstrates the ability to solve the customer’s most challenging business problems and create value. Investing in IP also drives these brands’ presence as digital/ social technologies continue to place a premium on sharable content over traditional forms of advertising and engagement.

Big data is still a hot topic and top of mind for many CTO/CIOs. The services brands that not only bring capability to the table but help customers get their heads around the topic will win. Content is the essential glue that will bind the services company to customers as they both navigate the big data wave.


Anything you can say I can say bigger

The problem with all this opportunity is that everyone is jumping into the pool. Of the 10 elements that define every great brand, differentiation will be the one that most plagues the big data hunters in the future. You can see the business services brands in 2012 wrestling with this challenge in the very language they use to frame — and name — their offers.

The potential to gain actionable insights from this data is equally enormous, but companies are poorly prepared to seize it, which represents a once-in-a- business cycle opportunity that is not lost on the best business services brands.

IBM talks about “Big Data Analytics.” It makes sense: It’s not just data, but the analytical wherewithal to do something with it. Accenture takes it further with “Big Data and Next-Generation Analytics,” recasting plain, old analytics as yesterday’s news. Not to be outdone, Oracle launched “Big Data and Extreme Analytics,” a conference title so awesome it has the potential to rocket statisticians to what Google’s chief economist, Hal Varian, recently dubbed “the sexiest job of the next decade.” The name game will surely go on as this nascent market evolves. It’s fun to watch, but there is a warning here. Brands must be careful to resist the temptation of verbal oneupmanship in favor of language that builds on the authentic truths of their proposition.

Where bigger doesn’t equal better

This is all very big stuff , as a white paper on Cisco’s site reminds us: “For big data analytics there’s no such thing as too big.” Maybe. But in the world of global brands, being big does not go far enough.

There are many large services companies but few truly global services brands. The ones that made it have found a way to scale and dimensionalize intangibles, like big data. These companies make sense of things that are either hidden deep within a technology ecosystem or found in ephemeral moments of advice. The best global services brands have transcended the inherent limitations of their own offers and found an enduring, emotional role to play in the lives of customers and markets. A Smarter Planet. High Performance, Delivered. The Knowledge Effect. The Human Network. This is better, not bigger.

Business services brands are the most challenging to build. As such, the ones appearing in our ranking are tour-de-force examples of branding at its best.