According to John Aristotle Phillips, speaking at this year’s Silicon Valley Comes to Oxford event, this experience is likely to become more common as mainstream brands such as Tesco seek to follow the lead set by the “sin” industries of gambling, drinking and tobacco in applying one of the main lessons of Barack Obama’s victory last month – the effectiveness of big data.
“Big data” is a catch-all term for the collection, analysis and use of very large and complex sets of data. By asking people to volunteer their personal data, and then combining it with publicly available data, including what they post on social networks, Obama’s team was able to build a profile of individuals and their habits, made up of 50 or so individual data points, and target them more effectively.
So good were they at this nano-targeting that as one analyst put it, “the Obama campaign was able to identify voters that Romney’s camp didn’t even know existed”. “While some companies have been doing this effectively, many haven’t,” Phillips says.
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