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Book: The Numerati

Author: Stephen Baker

Summary: The Numerati weaves a story that’s as potentially compelling to marketers as it may be chilling to consumers. Every time we subscribe to a magazine, use a credit card, visit a website, or use a supermarket rewards card, data points are created that this new breed of entrepreneurial mathematicians can use to profile us and our habits, building predictive models that make companies smarter about their markets, expose buying habits, and present opportunities for ever more targeted marketing strategies and segmentation efforts. Even more compelling from a societal perspective (though a bit forward-looking) are applications of consumer market research in health care and food delivery, though this will also (you guessed it) make it easier for companies to sell things.

You’ll love this book if: You’re looking for an easy read on the heavy topics of statistics and data, and are interested in how the data trail we all leave has the potential to transform everything from dating, shopping, politics and marketing strategies, to healthcare and the workplace.

You’ll hate this book if: You get freaked out by how much privacy we’re each giving up simply by participating in an interconnected, always- on economy.  If ignorance is bliss for you, don’t touch this book.

Words of Wisdom: With the global information store doubling every 18 months or so, the amount of digital consumer market research data available to help us better see patterns and understand behavior may actually benefit consumers and corporations. Through better targeting of customer segments and marketing messages, consumers see more of what matters to them.  Corporations reduce costs and increase profits.  But the downside risk – lack of privacy and the potential ethical issues of these insights – is disquieting at best.

Why we think this book is important: While understanding people is hard work, quantifying their actions through numbers and analysis does allow us to draw powerful connections and conclusions. Managed well, the work of the Numerati may actually benefit us all.