Big Data Versus Thick Data

It seems like a lot of people talk about data. It’s important to note that data plays a big role in today’s world. There is so much that can be learned from data, assuming you know where to look and how to analyze it. The good news is that even if you don’t know how to do these things, there are plenty of individuals out there who can–and who are for hire. That being said, most brands aren’t really focused on the data. Instead they’re focused on their customers–the very people they want to service.


People are the very reason most of us go into business. We see a problem that can be solved for humans by a product or service–and we aim to offer that product or service to our customers. While data on these customers is important, answering such questions as average age of customer, gender, household income, geography, and similar, data certainly doesn’t tell the whole story of who our customer truly IS. There isn’t data for that…or is there?

In a recent AMA article, author Mandy Rassi argues that this type of data does exist–we just aren’t examining it in the right way. It’s called “Thick Data” and it fills in the holes that big data cannot. Rassi writes,

“It’s the stuff of human existence and connection, which can be like rocket fuel for a brand when harnessed effectively. Thick data is messy, low base size and hard to scale. It has to be processed by a human brain and requires skills like empathy and creativity to make it useful. But it answers questions that our Big Data alone cannot. And, if we succeed in putting these two types of data together, we can understand the people we serve more completely, illuminating new possibilities for how we can make a real difference for them.”

The existence of Thick Data does not suddenly make Big Data unimportant. On the contrary, Big Data is necessary to answer some big questions we couldn’t otherwise know. It helps us to understand quite a bit about our target audience, giving us the ability to narrow things down in big ways. From there, Thick Data takes the lead and helps us get into the heart of what makes our customers tick. Together, these two types of data allow us to formulate a better overall journey for our ideal customers.

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