Unlocking Brand Meaning from Big Data

The promise of Big Data will remain just that until we approach it with ideas rooted in human psychology. Recently, we took an extensive data set on 24,000 consumers and 790 brands across 13 markets and added 1 psychological model to explore brand meaning. This post describes what we did and how.


My most frustrating early encounter with the hype around ‘Big Data’ happened many years ago when I was working in marketing and a well-known management consultancy ran extensive, sophisticated statistical models on our data and recommended some major changes to our brand strategy.

The charts were impressive, the r-squared were unarguably high and all the important p’s were < 0.01. But the conclusions were psychological nonsense and, if we had followed the recommendations, the business would have suffered.

Data analysis in the absence of human understanding is a dangerous habit.

A combination of psychology and data science is the only way for marketing leaders to align around customers and to unlock value from insights that are unlikely to be found purely through data mining.

24,000 consumers, 790 brands, 13 markets and 1 psychological model

At opento, we routinely use a number of psychological models to guide data analysis for customer segmentation, brand positioning and other marketing projects.  With the help of our partners at TGI Insights, we’ve been applying our psychological models to their extensive data on customers, markets and brands for many years.

Recently, TGI’s data scientists have tested hypotheses based on our models against their data. (Importantly, this is done with a high level of craft and iteration and not by taking a ‘one size fits all’ data analytics approach.)

In this post, we’ll look at just one model, based on archetypal psychology and describe how we linked it to customer data to inspire and mobilise ideas across a wide range of marketing challenges.

Myths, meaning and machine learning

There are many myths about brand archetypes including the common belief that archetypes are at the ‘soft and fluffy’ end of marketing. Connecting the model to data helps dispel that myth.

For many years, we've been linking research on human motivational psychology and neuromarketing science to archetypal dimensions and working with TGI Insights allowed us to test and explore many hypotheses about the mechanisms underlying strong brands.

In the next few posts, we’ll concentrate on the customer dimension of our ‘Marquetypes’ model (though the model also includes brand vision and competitive market).

TGI’s data scientists applied smart machine learning techniques to our model. This helped us to develop an understanding of customer motivation and meaning triggers then link them to brand and category use.

We produced detailed Customer Personas for each category and develop new kinds of customer, brand and market insights from those personas.

New questions, new insights

The pleasure of starting with human psychology rather than the data,  is that it opens up new types of question and new insights.

Instead of just looking at descriptive 'what' we can start to explore the 'why' of the consumer and the 'how' of winning in the market.

Some of the questions we asked:

How do brands get to be market leaders?

Can we segment markets based on psychological motivations?

How can we trigger emotional connections between brands and customers in the digital world?

We'll look at each of these questions in the next few posts.

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