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Review: Small Data By Martin Lindstrom

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The focus on big data — the aggregation and analysis of a seemingly bottomless pool of data on what we buy, what we watch, what websites we navigate and even whom we talk to on social media — is nearing “craze” proportions. Into the fray steps marketing iconoclast Martin Lindstrom, who argues that businesses need to put the databases and algorithms aside for a bit and focus instead on a different kind of data — data about the kind of magnets people have on their refrigerators, for example, or why single young men really buy Roombas (vacuum cleaning robots), or why store clerks began wearing T-shirts with Apple logos even though the store was not an Apple store.

These are all examples of what Lindstrom calls “small data,” and are taken from some of Lindstrom’s actual client projects as described in his fascinating new book, Small Data. As a branding consultant, Lindstrom spends 300 days a year traveling to people’s homes and workplaces to better understand who they are, why they do what they do and how this information — this “small data” — can help his clients serve them better. Lindstrom doesn’t just talk to his customers. He goes into their kitchens and their bedrooms, he looks through their drawers and purses (with permission), he examines the art they have on their walls — all in the hunt for the breakthrough clues that will lead to better products and services or more successful stores.

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