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Big data only matters if you have a question

Everybody is talking about “big data”. The possibilities of collecting, generating & storing data are endless. Because of its popularity, big data is also more and more becoming a buzz. It has assumed such a variety of terms that it big date has become an unclear term if it is not further specified. When somebody is talking about big data, chances are slim that everybody in the room is thinking about the same thing.


Today, every company feels the need to start using big data. Everybody is talking about it, more and more companies are doing it, hence we need to use it as well ! But often they forget a very important thing

…data on its own is meaningless. The value of data is not the data itself – it’s what you do with the data.

First you need to know what data you need and only after that you should start collecting. Because why would you put so much energy and effort in collecting data that you cannot use to deliver relevant business insights?

Many people try to start with the solution; “we need to use big data”, rather than start with the problem. In order to have a successful data strategy, you need to begin with defining the insights needed to identify the pathways towards growth, otherwise you will drown in all the data available. The focus should always lie on the questions and not on the solution. Big data can offer many answers but it will always require a person to frame the question, identify the data that will be able to provide an answer and interpret the obtained results. Then these results can be used to create a strategy that can add value to your business.


For example, if you wish to enter the weight management market, questions you will need answers to might be, ‘How many people are overweight?’, ‘how many people are interested in losing weight?’, ‘what is the average income of these people?’ and so on. Identifying what needs to be done in order to collect this data will then be a lot easier.

Everybody now has the opportunity to use data. Availability is not the issue anymore. However answers to things that don’t matter, won’t bring you any further. If you focus on the relevant questions first, and tackle them with big data, then the power of data will be of great value to your company.

By: Melanie Pieters, 420914MP


Driving strategy using the Marimekko chart


As a marketer for an OTC company, I am dealing with market information every day. To determine where we need to go with our business and what strategy we should follow we ask ourselves numerous questions; How big is the market? Is the market growing? How is the market segmented? Which segments are interesting? How are we performing today? What are the relevant distribution channels? And so on.. I believe that market analysis is key to be able to provide an answer to these questions, to determine whether there is a need for your idea and what the correct strategic approach would be. A fault made by many marketers is that they base decisions upon ‘gut feeling’ and personal perspective. Maybe in the ’80s this was how things were done, but nowadays we have access to so much data and information, that there is no excuse for not conducting analyses.

So getting the data is not an issue anymore. What is very important now is that you are able to identify the data that is relevant for you. And, when you have all the data you need, that you find a way to illustrate it in a clear and structured way. There are hundreds of possible charts that you can use but what is the right chart for the job?

I will share with you one of my favorite charts, that has proven to be very useful for some of my business decisions – the Marimekko chart.Mekko chart

The Marimekko chart is a two dimensional chart that combines the information of a pie chart and a stacked bar chart in one stacked area graph. The Marimekko chart is excellent for strategy, market, competitor or product performance analysis/review.

Mekko-building tools are offered by various companies like Mekko Graphs and Think-cell, but the graph can also be built in Excel.

To illustrate how a Marimekko graph can be useful, I will give a fictive example of a start-up company that uses the Marimekko chart to make strategic decisions.

A start-up home decoration company wishes to examine the home decoration industry to determine what markets would be most interesting to operate in, with the biggest chance of growth. They examined many markets including textiles & rugs, art & picture frames, garden accessories & lightning

They created a Marimekko chart, or market map.

mekko decoration

What can they learn? The largest segments are textiles & rugs and lightning, they represent more than half of the market. The textiles & rugs segment is dominated by company A, so entering this market will very difficult. The lightning industry however is more fragmented, so they might have a better chance here.

In this case, the Marimekko chart provides clear information to this start-up company about what segments are the most attractive.

The Marimekko graph has already been very useful for me, particularly in making decisions for new product development. Of what types of charts & illustrations are you a firm believer?

By: Melanie Pieters, 420914MP