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Against a wave of media coverage — and every tech company rushing to plug their position into “Big Data” — skeptisim is well justified. The rise of data-ism isn’t a panacea to bad marketing. As Nick says, “transparent lens can also be a warped lens”.

Sure we need data. Big data, social data, small data – heck, some days, any kind of data. But data is just one piece of the puzzle.

David Brooks gets at this idea that “everything that can be measured should be measured; that data is a transparent and reliable lens that allows us to filter out emotionalism and ideology; that data will help us do remarkable things.” Just watch the Quantified Life movement lift off to see this in action.

But this same approach will stop many marketers doing many important things. It will become a great excuse. As one marketer said to me the other day in a fit of determination – “I’m not doing social until its benefits are quantifiable and real”. Good luck with that. Not everything can be reduced to the quantifiable.

As Brooks says, data is useful in understanding some of the present and much of the past. It’s not so hot at predicting the future. As marketers we are going to need to place bets, some of which that don’t depend on data to start with. And if you are wrong. If you don’t execute well, data isn’t going to save you.

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