marketing and sales executives from Silicon Valley

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Big Data, Teenage Sex, and a Better Megaphone

While reading a marketoonist cartoon on Big Data (see image below from that page), the author cited a hot topic in marketing circles, “Big data is like teenage sex. The quote behind the discussion goes something like this “Big Data is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it.”

The underlying discussion about Big Data is funny because of the truth behind the statement, but what struck me is who gets credit for that phrase or who can claim to really owns that phrase, since I recalled hearing it before. I’m not trying to stir a debate of originality over impact, but from a fame and bragging rights standpoint, it’s worth taking a second look.

I found a nearly identical quote by Dan Ariely here, where he received nearly 1700 likes and over 700 shares. That was back on January 6th of 2013. I’m not sure if I saw it them, but I might have seen a “share” as the reason why the recent spread of that phrase caught my eye. Of course, I don’t know if Dan’s post was the first, but I do know that the LinkedIn post that followed recently is the most famous.

10 months after Dan’s post that received 1700 likes and 700 shares, the same phrase is finally picked up and e-broadcasted to LinkedIn, and BAM!. Suddenly it’s being shared by no less than three people I know personally. Is this random luck or something that could be engineered? It seems like random luck, and even if it was, it’s worth considering a few key properties of this now famous statement. 1. Big Data has gone through a hype cycle, and reality about it is settling in 2. The statement is largely true, even w/o the comparison to teenage sex 3. The statement connects the reader to a universal experience 4.  There were 1700 likes and 700 shares, so it clearly had some redeeming value before it was famous 5. Someone from LinkedIn curated it.
Of the above, only #5 was necessary, but arguably, the previous 4 steps made #5 easy for someone at LinkedIn to notice and curate. I would postulate that many famous statements or quotes share the same spirit of the the first three.