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Is your next bright idea lurking in Dormant Data?

3 min read


Some days it seems the promise of Big Data to revolutionize marketers’ understanding of our customers is as huge as the petabytes piling up at our servers.  Each day countless observations, measurements, and transactions of all kinds are being appended to what we think we know about our customers.  No doubt there is more to learn; insight that we will be able to extract from Big Data.  But what else can we learn from the information we already have?

If you are responsible for managing a branded food or beverage business, have you fully tapped your brand’s archive of product innovation ideas and research?  Have you checked your product launch assumptions against what has really happened with launches at your company before?  I don’t think most of us have.  There is a lot of Dormant Data that can help guide marketing decisions lurking in common drives, on desktops and stored in filing cabinet folders and videotapes.

In a 2012 study Gartner found that 38% of business managers surveyed said underutilized existing data was the most immediate opportunity to leverage Big Data.  Eugene Roytburg, speaking at the ROI on Marketing Research Conference in June 2011, claimed that only 30% of insights generated by research studies were used within three years.  I discovered the potential of Dormant Data looking for new salad dressing ideas on a shoestring budget several years ago.  Poring over the Wish-Bone archive we found several aborted attempts at launching a spray dressing over the span of a decade.  The concept turned out to be as relevant as ever.  The paper trail was surprisingly good, so we figured out how to overcome the identified hurdles, and launch Salad Spritzers.

Dormant Data across a portfolio of brands is a treasure trove for product ideas and more.  It can be a source of communication ideas and underleveraged brand equities.  It provides analogies, benchmarks, rules of thumb and pitfalls that can guide pricing decisions, distribution drives or new product launch assumptions.

The promise of Big Data has opened an opportunity for us to glean insight not only from the growing flood of information, but also from Dormant Data already on hand.  Most of the large food and beverage companies continue to digitize and consolidate information of all types in order to give everyone access to everything the company knows.  Access to this information is the first step to fully tapping into Dormant Data.  We will need smart applications to get to actionable customer insight in a cost-effective way. Big Data has created momentum in this direction with new tools and techniques to manage complex data.

In the meantime, take a peek at your brand’s archive.  What Dormant Data can you bring to life?  A product or packaging idea that was ahead of its time, captured in an brainstorming session write-up document?  A lot of smart people have worked on the brand before you. Why not take a look and see if you can bring new life to one of their bright ideas?

Ali Tadlaoui ( is a Partner at The Thought Bubble LLC, a research and innovation consultancy.  His 25 years in food and beverage marketing, research, analytics, and training give him a unique perspective on how to bring innovation to the disciplines of Marketing.