BIG data is a hugely important trend that we must monitor.
It is a term that describes the large volume of data—both structured and
unstructured—that swamps a business on a day-to-day basis. But it’s not the
amount of data that’s critical. It is what organizations—including PR-based
operations—do with the data that matters.
Big data can be analyzed for insights that lead to better
decisions and strategic business moves. Branding expert and best-selling author
Martin Lindstrom, however, gives a different answer. To him, it’s small data.
In a world obsessed by the power of Big Data, he works like a modern-day
Sherlock Holmes, collecting tiny clues to help solve a stunningly diverse array
of challenges. He describes the task as that of “a detective whose goal is to
create a narrative.”
In his tome, Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge
Trends, Lindstrom provides two broad lessons. One is the deliberate kind;
the other is accidental. The deliberate and purposeful lesson says that we must
not overlook momentary, but educational signs of human behavior in our hurry to
download and analyze ever larger throngs of hard facts or cold information. As
the author wrote, “If we want to glean real insights, big data and small data
should be partners in a dance.” The accidental, fortuitous lesson states that
companies are still ready to give a large expanse of time, effort and
presumably, money to planning and executing programs on how to attract their
One thorough Lindstrom investigation delved on how to design
a car for the Chinese market, which entailed “a global study of doors” and a
Lego-based experiment with children on three continents about their
understanding of speed. Another assignment took Lindstrom deep into Mumbai and
New Delhi, to explore the politics of the modern Indian family, for a global
food maker that wanted to work out why its popular breakfast cereal was losing
Lindstrom’s research derives certain principles from
anthropology and ethnography. As the intro to the book said, he spends 300
nights a year overseas, closely observing people in their homes. His goal is to
uncover their hidden desires and turn them into breakthrough products for the
world’s leading brands. Lindstrom connects the dots in his globetrotting
narrative that will fascinate not only marketers and brand managers, but anyone
interested in the infinite variations of human behavior. Here are interesting
discoveries that we can appropriately apply in our PR life:
Insights from a tube of toothpaste
If someone crushes a tube of toothpaste and tosses it away
without a cap, experience tells us they are prudent about saving money, though
at the end of the day, they will spend money on themselves, as if to compensate
for their earlier inattention. Consumers who discard a toothpaste tube with its
cap screwed down tightly seldom allow themselves to relax, and are reluctant to
expose who they really are, or to indulge themselves with a luxury. Consumers
who throw away a half-full toothpaste tube are, in general, less secure than
people who wait until the tube is depleted.
Our favorite sport defines who we are
A study carried out by Mind Lab found out that bicyclists
are “laid back and calm” and less likely than runners or swimmers to be
stressed or depressed. Runners tend to be extroverted, enjoyed being the center
of attention and preferred “lively, upbeat music.” Swimmers, the study concluded,
were charitable, happy and orderly, whereas walkers generally preferred their
own company, didn’t like drawing attention to themselves and were comparatively
There are 10 basic common attributes religions have in common
In order of importance, he found that these features
include: A sense of belonging; storytelling; rituals; symbols; a clear vision;
sensory appeal; power from enemies; evangelism; mystery; and grandeur. When you
think about the world’s most powerful brands—among them Apple, Nike,
Harley-Davidson, Coca-Cola, Lego—you realize they all make use of some, if not
all, these pillars. The author discovered these data after interviewing 14
leaders of the Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist and Islam religions.
People have two ages: chronological and emotional
Men typically conceal evidence of their younger selves in
drawers or buried inside online folders, whereas women are less embarrassed
about publicly showcasing their younger selves and express it openly.
The story of two scripts—one blue, one green
Most remember Hitchcock as a skilled storyteller, but what
few know is that the director shot his movies using two separate scripts. The
first, known as “the Blue Script,” was entirely functional. In it were all the
tangible onscreen components, including dialogue, props, camera angles and set
descriptions. The second script, which Hitchcock referred to as “the Green
Script,” chronicled in fine detail the emotional arc, or “beats,” of the film
he was shooting. Hitchcock relied on both scripts, but the Green Script
reminded him how he wanted moviegoers to feel and at what point.
In doing PR, we must have an ‘entry point’
It refers to those times in our lives when our identity is
either challenged or transformed, among them marriage, pregnancy, first
parenthood, buying a home and the empty nest syndrome. During these periods,
audiences are especially vulnerable to new perspectives, as well as new
narratives and offerings. We should always find an entry point, and use that to
get into the heart and minds of our publics.
Bringing a new element in a room could change the course of a PR
It can also change the narrative—to either a rational or
emotional one. This insight have strong ramifications for rebranding. What
audiences say about a brand can be controlled and in some cases, reduced to a
pre-prepared pitch. In doing PR a brand, this is critical. Imagine: 10 words that
represent the heart, soul, and essence of a brand are no longer controlled by
print ads or TV commercials, but by audiences who are strongly affected by
“influencers” and by “aspirations.”
Assimilating universal ‘moments’ in your PR story can bring wonders
This is very much like Kodak owning the idea of taking
photographs, America Online having “You’ve Got Mail,” Apple holding on to the
left-to-right “Slide to Unlock” finger-swipe concept, Volvo holding on to
“safety,” and Google preserving the “search” image. We must understand the
essence, and the weight, of every single moment between our PR product and the
publics we are targeting it to.
Our perception of the world is almost always local
It is focused exclusively around ourselves, neighborhoods,
traditions and beliefs. But who
influences us to support a certain product helps us form an opinion or exposes
us to a brand we later use ourselves—a wrist watch, a musical genre, a facial
moisturizer, a wine label? It’s not something we often think about, but when we
ask this question to people online and offline, the answer is invariably
pointing to celebrities.
Every culture has its own default topics of conversation, a default scripts
of subjects, ranging from the weather to sports to food
When two people meet for the first time, what do they talk
about? How do taxi drivers greet
passengers across the world, and what do they discuss during the ride? What do
neighbors say when they meet in the lobby or on the sidewalk, or mothers when
they meet other mothers in the park? People exchange compliments, or talk about
their favorite topics, but when they deviate from the script, what causes them
to stray are the objects surrounding them.
Selfies, it seemed, were even more important than the event or moment they
were supposed to memorialize
A selfie can tell us more about a person than anything
inside a meticulously arranged bedroom. When a girl shows another girl a photo
on a smartphone, the first few things she seeks out are, in order of
importance: Am I in this picture? How do I look? Who is standing beside me?
Does the person standing beside me in this photo lend a halo effect of
popularity, or is standing beside this person a social liability?
The faster we go, the slower, in some respects, we will become
As always and whether they know it or not, human beings seek
balance. It may not always be conscious, but unconsciously, we are all seeking
to redress acceleration with idling, velocity with patience, chatter with
quiet. How do we know this? Because small data is everywhere, if we know where
Most people are rarely inside the present moment
“Being present” is important. We spend a disproportionate
amount of time plotting the future or revisiting past events. But when we swim
or shower or take a bath, we have little choice, but to position ourselves in
the present, giving our thoughts room to float and wander.
Creativity comes out of being bored because that’s where
you’re forced to create a story. But it also allows us to be observant, to be
present. From a PR perspective, that lack of presence means that we don’t see
things around us, and we missed out on the relevant, insight-filled small data
we will need to do a great PR job.
PR Matters is a roundtable column by members of the local
chapter of the United Kingdom-based International Public Relations Association
(Ipra), the world’s premier organization for PR professionals around the world.
Bong R. Osorio is a communications consultant of ABS-CBN Corp., SkyCable,
Dentsu-Aegis Network, and government projects among others, after retiring as
vice president and head of the Corporate Communications Division of ABS-CBN.
We are devoting a special column each month to answer our
readers’ questions about public relations.
Please send your questions or comments to [email protected]
Bong R. Osorio
Bong R. Osorio is the communications consultant and spokesman of ABS-CBN Corp.