Is Big Data the Death of Emotional Segmentation?


With access to more behavioral data than ever, perhaps we no longer need to explore people’s motivations, feelings or attitudes.

Collin Leirvik is Vice President, Strategic Planning at Greenberg

Collin Leirvik is Vice President, Strategic Planning at Greenberg

Remember when we had to rely on self-reported data? Now we know what people are doing throughout the day and even with whom they’re sharing those experiences. We just need to crunch the data to determine how to get them to buy more of what we’re selling, right?

Not quite. We believe the best way to develop a powerful customer strategy is to find the patterns that link the passive behavioral data you collect with the more specific survey data you gather around motivation and attitudes. And even then, you need to be careful not to fall for these five common myths:

Myth 1: Big data is going to help us think in new ways
: The data can actually reinforce existing points of view

Myth 2: Big data creates certainty
Reality: People are complex and don’t group neatly into mutually exclusive buckets

Myth 3: Big data will complete the view of our audience
Reality: You’ll have more information, but not necessarily more insight

Myth 4: Big data will benefit all areas of the business equally
: Stakeholders will need to compromise on a solution they can make work

Myth 5: Big data sells itself
: You’ll need to persuade and engage even the stakeholders to adopt the recommendation

Myths 1 and 2 impact how you prepare for and set expectations about the segmentation. Myths 3 and 4 influence how you cut through the noise and focus on what matters most to your organization. And Myth 5 affects how you share the segmentation out to your organization.

Segmentation and audience understanding have never been a simple undertaking, regardless of source data; Big Data is another input rather than a panacea. To learn more about our approach and how to counteract the five common segmentation myths, please contact us at