Forget Big Data -- It's The Little Data That Counts

I knew we had crossed the Rubicon when the other night, in answer to a simply query, my wife answered, "I don't know; should we watch this week's episode of 'Newsroom' or discuss ways to make Big Data actionable?" This, of course, followed my phone call with the auto shop in which the service manager said: "Well, we know it's you and not the car, because we have Big Data on 28,000 other drivers..." This was just before my personal trainer (I don't really have one of them, but it sure makes me sound kewl to say that I do) said: "We do this exercise at this weight instead of 20 pounds heavier because all the Big Data says it will produce the optimal result."

While our personal choices are being reduced to the most common response across 10 or 20 million others, I think we need to focus a little less on Big Data and a little more on, well, Little Data.

Little Data is the information that makes our lives sustainable as we navigate the melting ice floes of the home and office. As we stare blankly at Big Data like deer in the headlights, Little Data is being overlooked as the prime factor in where we live on the happy scale. Some examples of where just a Little Data would make a Big Difference:

  • "What did you do with (romantic other)?"



            "Hung out." 

  • "I have a quarter of a tank left. Should I buy gas today? Maybe the price will do down tomorrow, so I should wait. But if it goes up, I will kick myself for not having bought it today."
  • TEXT: I'm at the grocery store, what would you like for dinner?

            TEXT: Whatever.

  • "I'm thinking of seeing that movie -- what did you think of it?"


  • "What's the deadline for this project? I'm trying to allocate my time."

            "Oh, you know, whenever you can get to it...."

  • "Is there anything special you'd like for your birthday?"


  • "What do you think? Does this look like poison ivy to you?"


  • "How does your (offspring) like (college/prep school)?"


The great thing about Little Data is that it doesn't require the collection of petabytes of data followed by proprietary algorithmic analysis so that you can be sure you answer the same way 87.2% of the rest of us do. In fact, it doesn't require any research at all -- just a moment of kindness.

Happy End of Summer.









4 comments about "Forget Big Data -- It's The Little Data That Counts".
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  1. Daniel Weiner from Placeable, August 30, 2013 at 10:51 a.m.

    Nice post. Don Wenzer, a VC who blogs at, recently talked about how the "Big Data" hype cycle is over, and marketers are finding more target"little data" opportunties. (

  2. Clare-Marie Harris panno from Posterscope USA, September 3, 2013 at 8:09 a.m.

    Such a relief to read this en route to work after the Labor Day weekend. I think I actually exhaled for a moment! and, after my own, proprietary algorithmic analysis I can say with 95% confidence that 85% of us feel the same way.


  3. Grant Bergman from •, September 3, 2013 at 2:44 p.m.

    "Big Data" is still incredibly exciting in narrow circles, many of which are in the hard sciences and engineering. I've seen many such applications that are straightforward, relevant, actionable... everything we want from analytics.

    When it comes to marketing and Big Data, the major CPG firms have long had disciplined approaches to data. And they've had enormous databases to work with for a long time, though making sense of social media involves data sets and analytics that clearly surpass the challenges of working with IRI and Nielsen databases. As early as 1989 I helped develop cross-elasticity of demand models based on grocery scanner data –– which were used successfully to grow share and profits –– at one of those companies.

    So Big Data is a fascination for me. But for the most of my small to medium sized consulting clients, the real issue is extracting value from their "little data" and not-so-big data sets. If you have not mined your customer files and sales databases for insights -- on core customer characteristics, look-alikes, segmentation, promotional response, regional trends, etc. -- you probably have no business trying to discern subtle patterns teased out of machine-processed social media scans.

    Big Data will not help your business if you are not already covering the basics of Little Data.

  4. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, September 3, 2013 at 3:57 p.m.

    OK then.

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