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Harnessing the Power of Small Data to Bring a Personal Touch to Brand Experience

Harnessing the Power of Small Data to Bring a Personal Touch to Brand Experience

Observing everyday behaviours to uncover the next big trends

Our perspective  

As marketers, data is key to what we do; however, sometimes we focus on the big data a bit too much and forget about the small data — the more human-centric information which we need in order to truly understand our audiences. Small data is equally important when it comes to developing an effective marketing strategy; however, it can only be gathered by witnessing people’s behaviours first-hand. Thankfully, brand experiences by their very nature allow us to capture small data — they facilitate live, face-to-face interactions so that we can see how attendees are behaving and interacting with different elements of an event, enabling us to learn exactly what our audiences like and dislike.   

Drawing on the FreemanXP TrendLab, which we use to determine the trends driving the future of marketing and, in particular, brand experience, we’ve identified small data as a trend that is central to any integrated marketing campaign. Small data is the nuanced bits of information we tend to miss when we focus all of our efforts on the big data; however, it’s the small data that allows us to extract those in-depth insights about human behaviour at events, and enables us to ultimately personalise an experience for those individuals.

The Personalised Piece of the Puzzle

Small data exists in the glimpses of human behaviour we see every day. It brings the real, authentic human element out at events, and it allows us to gain a better understanding of how attendees act within the live environments we create. It’s about observing what people are doing firsthand, so that we can uncover the different rituals at play in the live environment.

We should take advantage of a human-centric, small-data approach at events. Brand experiences bring people together under the one roof, allowing us to watch on as they feed us their everyday hidden desires and habits.  

Big data gives us scalability and points to overarching trends, and tells us what’s been done. Small data, on the other hand, brings out the hidden desires and choices of the individual — it captures, for example, the fact that a festival-goer may have chosen a stage at a music festival because the others were too crowded. Small data accounts for what people almost do but don’t.

In his book Small Data — The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends, Danish branding expert Martin Lindstrom highlights the power of a small-data approach. He explains how toymaker Lego was struggling to stay afloat in the early 2000s, until a group of the brand’s marketers went to visit an 11-year-old boy in Germany.

During the encounter, it became clear that the boy was very proud of his scuffed pair of Adidas sneakers. These worn shoes acted as a form of social currency, showcasing his skateboarding prowess to the world. It was here that the Lego marketers learned young people are willing to work at something until they perfect it — a stark contrast to the company’s big-data findings, which highlighted that the generation gets bored very easily. This one ‘small data’ encounter saw Lego refocus its approach — where it once had diversified its offering, to home back in on the humble building block. And by 2014, business was booming again.

A Match for Event Success 

While small data offers a unique take on consumer behaviour, big data plays an equally important role. It provides us with important information, such as an overview of the attendee numbers or quantity of products sold at an event.

The two go hand in hand — big data provides us with some of the overarching information about consumer behaviour, and small data offers us the chance to observe those behaviours firsthand.  

We can lose the individuality in big data, which is why it needs to be layered with small data. If we want to deliver events that are informed by real, accurate audience insights, we need to marry our big-data findings with those we uncover through our collection of small data. And that research, by bringing consumers’ hidden desires and habits to the fore, enables brands to uncover key trends, which they can then use to engage them.

There is a need for us to continually innovate, so that the events we deliver are memorable and meaningful and connect with audiences. By leveraging a combination of big and small data, we can enhance the consumer experience, and in so doing build on the event’s success in the long term and, importantly, deliver those must-have important metrics of success.

Partner perspective

Luke Glen, UK Lead, Enterprise Account Executive at DoubleDutch, shares his perspective on the use of big and small data at events.

“Big data is important when it comes to identifying overarching trends. At DoubleDutch, we measure over three billion actions (this is growing) and insights around attendee behaviour from events each year.

“On an individual level, our clients look at the data we capture from their events to understand what worked and what didn’t, so that they can improve on them. This type of data capture is incredibly important, as it allows an organiser to analyse how well their events resonate with attendees.   

“Small data is very much about a personalised approach, and it’s about understanding and responding to the interests of each attendee. Through our Live Engagement Platform and event app, we are able to capture each digital interaction from users, such as survey and poll responses, ratings, comments, and content views, and infer insights about each attendee across levels of interest in specific topics, influence, engagement, and more. Our customers can then use this small data to send their attendees personalised information that reflects their interests or needs in real-time.

“Small data can be used to identify the various buying and interest signals of event attendees, allowing event organisers to determine how they can integrate this small data into their back-end systems like customer relationship management or marketing automation systems.

“Big and small data are both key for us here at DoubleDutch. Big data is important in that it offers insight into the big trends in attendee behaviour at events; meanwhile, small data provides our customers with more granular information about the individual attendee, so that we can ensure we meet each and every one of their resource needs.”  

The partnership between Freeman and DoubleDutch, which was announced in December 2015, sees Freeman offer its clients access to DoubleDutch’s mobile event technology platforms. Earlier this year, FXP | touch was integrated with DoubleDutch, effectively enhancing the attendee experience at events even more. 


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Niru desai

Niru Desai

VP, Strategy International

Whether at the country, industry, or audience segment level, she specializes in delivering holistic event portfolio plans and creates strategies that go above and beyond clients’ needs. The brain force behind many successful digital and social media campaigns, Niru keeps a finger to the pulse of...

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