Complex society big and thick data trendsactive

Combining big and thick data to find new growth opportunities

Marketers and insights professionals are often the windows to the world for their organizations. They are typically the ones who bring the outside in and the future forward. As multiple crises are unfolding, complexity and uncertainty abound. Right now is the time for businesses to make sense of what’s going on in today’s complex society and decide what’s next for their organizations. 

Based on our ongoing trend research and multiple conversations with global CMOs, we’ve found huge potential for marketers and insights professionals to help their organizations navigate complexity and find new growth opportunities. Read along as we explore one of today’s most important business topics in this article, or join us during our webinar on October 4th

Navigating today’s complexity or thinking about tomorrow’s growth opportunities, starts with understanding changing human needs and values. If we understand how people – both consumers as well as business leaders like you – experience today’s complex society we can create the right context to inform strategic business decisions and anticipate future human behavior.

What’s going on?
Climate, Covid, inflation, (mental)health, polarization, globalization, and fake news, all occupy the mind of many. You need to be an absolute genius to comprehend all the changes or a completely elevated Buddhist to avoid these things from creeping into your everyday thoughts. TrendsActive’s trend model reveals how these complex shifts impact people’s needs, values and behaviors.

Socio-psychological research shows societal change at this systemic level comes with some degree of uncertainty. It can be hard for people to ‘keep up’ with the constantly changing societal rules, resulting in people feeling left behind, frustrated and confused. An accumulation of uncertainty, stress and fear as a result of this new complex society we find ourselves in, leads us to an overwhelming need for a simpler life and a need for control. Organizations increasingly are expected to be a force for stability and comfort.

In addition, society experiences a cultural lag – the time during which previous aspects of society are still catching up to cultural and societal advances. This leads to resistance and extremist views with some rebelling against the opinions of a more progressive society while those who are demanding faster changes within society have radicalized their views in order to counteract this resistant to change. Hence, organizations have moved to the center of increasingly louder, more diverse and diverging voices. 

What does this mean for insights?
How could marketers and insights professionals help their organizations define strategies and find growth opportunities in such a complex society? To answer these questions tap from multiple conversations with CMOs. We’ve connected and plotted their best practices, learnings and advice against the earlier described context. It clearly demonstrates there is a huge – and for some still untapped – potential for insights professionals to navigate their companies through uncertain times into prosperous futures. One of the strategies to tackle this complex future will be our central focus point at the Marketing Insights Event: combining big and thick data.

What’s next?
Combining big (quantitative) and thick (qualitative) data is the key to finding new growth opportunities, as shown by the interviews. Big data can inform us on the whatwhere and how much of things. It’s a great source to fulfil the need for control in this complex society as it can provide real-time insights. The same goes for analyzing data from social listening tools, as it can help marketers get a grip on changing consumer sentiment. With the advancement of AI and ML big data can even predict the future, but it is still thick data – deep qualitative human insights – that can truly leverage big data to make it understandable and actionable.

Why not have a beer?
Take the beer industry for example. Data has been showing a downward trend among Generation Z (7 to 24 years olds) for years. They drink less alcohol and opt for either non-alc or low-alc offerings instead. And even when they do drink, they often pick a speciality craft beer to really enjoy the occasion. Great data, but it’s far from an actionable insight yet. So, now what? To decide what’s next, these big data points should be combined with human understanding provided by thick data.

Thick data would reveal an increased sensitivity and attention to health among youngsters, both physically and mentally. There is much more openness and awareness to talk about mental wellbeing. Diving deeper into the cultural context of Gen Z shows the reason why they drink less: because they want to be productive the next day. They’ve been growing up in a world sociologist refer to as the ‘performance society’ in which self-improvement is the new norm.

The opportunity here is to market, position or innovate beer brands in such a way that it improves mental wellbeing, builds mental strength, and increases resilience or productivity. This evidently might lead beer brands to enter new categories and come up with products unrelated to their core business. Combining big and thick data enables businesses to turn numbers into insights, and insights into growth opportunities. Thick data adds value to what is measurable.

The new role of insights
Long gone are the days in which the insights function is just an on-demand service provider. To give business leaders the needed assurance and piece of mind to manage complexity and uncertainty, we need to combine big data with thick data. Want to know more?