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April 02, 2010

Mining Data for Insights

Catherine New
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Professor Olivier Toubia, left, and Aliza Freud ’01 collaborated on research.

Key takeaways from the BRITE conference, hosted by the School’s Center for Global Brand Leadership on March 31-April 1, focused on brand strategies for integrating on- and offline communication channels, leveraging communities for problem solving and finding new ways to think about excess capacity. A theme threaded throughout was the growing use of data sets and measurement in the marketing mix. (Read and watch complete audience-generated coverage at the conference’s media hub.)

That theme was explored in a breakout session on April 1, where professors Bernd Schmitt, Oded Netzer, Jonathan Levav and Olivier Toubia along with Aliza Freud ’01 (EMBA) discussed university research collaborations with businesses. The last decade’s boom in data sets — a result of technological innovations — Schmitt said, is one key driver of these collaborations. Toubia and Freud have worked together using data from Freud’s market research firm and online community, SheSpeaks. (Read more about their research in Ideas at Work.)

“Firms have all this data that they don’t necessarily know how to use, and small companies don’t have time to use it,” Levav said. “Our advantage is that we can leverage it into useful information.” He has worked with data from a large German auto manufacturer, for example, to look at decision making in build-to-order transactions.

Yoon Lee, vice president of product innovation at Samsung, presented at the conference and recently collaborated with Schmitt on a forthcoming case study for CaseWorks about the Samsung’s DualView camera and brand leadership. Lee suggested that corporations can have a difficult time getting beyond numbers-led innovation and “don’t know how to express qualitative data.” On the other side, he said, designers are “bad at putting linear arguments on emotional qualities.” Lee suggested that the balance between the technical and emotional qualities is where business school research offers an advantage.

Netzer, who has conducted research on topics as varied as pharmaceutical side effects and alumni giving, added that “cross silo” thinking occurs in the Marketing Division, where computer science, economics, psychology and other disciplines are all in the research mix.  “We are bringing different types of perspectives,” he said, "which helps tremendously with the thinking."

Photo credit: Columbia Business School