“Small Data: The Tiny Clues that Uncover Huge Trends” by Martin Lindstrom, 2016, Picador, $16, 244 pages.
It’s always the little things.
A chocolate on the pillow or slippers beneath a turned-down bed. Stickers for a customer’s kids. A lagniappe in the box to make a baker’s dozen: all things to ensure a speedy return of buyer or client. But are you missing anything in your zeal to retain business? Maybe. In “Small Data” by Martin Lindstrom, you’ll see that it’s always the little things.
As a child growing up in Denmark, Lindstrom was diagnosed with an illness that resulted in long hospitalizations. With nothing to do and nothing but time, he started to people-watch, keeping track of seemingly insignificant observations. It was a skill that, once honed, became a career: Lindstrom now spends all but a fraction of his year traveling and working as a global branding consultant and using his eye for detail to help businesses.
That can mean going “so far as to move inside people’s houses or apartments” where Lindstrom says he “make(s) myself at home” and does what he calls “Small Mining.” He peeks into closets and pantries, peers at computer and TV screens, looks at the bottom of shoes and the tops of cabinets, and he asks questions.
“Gardens talk,” he says. “Footpaths talk. Balconies talk. Mailboxes talk. Needless to say, walls talk.”
And he listens. How else would he learn that magnets on Russian refrigerator doors can launch a profitable business that also boosts the self-confidence of a population? How did souvenir fridge magnets lead to an “Aha!” moment in Saudi Arabia, when he was asked to consult on the construction of a high-end mall? And why would he wonder if Americans really have the freedom they think they have?
Borrowing from Japanese culture helped Lindstrom save a North Carolina grocery chain. The color of spices gave him clues to a “war zone” in India. And if simple beads could lead him to create a win for a well-known dieting center, what can you do to implement Small Mining in your business?
“My advice?” says Lindstrom, rhetorically. “Get a haircut.”
The shirt you’re wearing now? The car you drive? The snacks you like? All are purchased with more than just mere choice, which all means something to a marketer. In “Small Data,” you’ll see just how much.
If you’re a mystery fan, it’s the sleuthing that’ll hook you. The author’s work would put Sherlock Holmes to shame. Even the tiniest tells are reason for his scrutiny — and his writing, for that matter. Details and relevant facts make Lindstrom’s stories come full-circle as they illustrate how psychology, intuition and observation can ultimately save a campaign or even an entire business. Readers will also learn what drives our shopping urges, how angst and meaningful buying coexist, and how we’re so much like other consumers around the world.
Reading this book will open your eyes to your customers’ habits; for sure, you’ll never shop the same again. Read it, and it may revolutionize your business because, now in paperback, “Small Data” could lead to big things.
Terri Schlichenmeyer reviews books about businesses and business practice.