Book Review: Small Data

I received this book for free from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Small Data: The Tiny Clues that Uncover Huge Trends by Martin Lindstrom

To be published on February 23, 2016.

Goodreads Summary:
Martin Lindstrom, a modern-day Sherlock Holmes, harnesses the power of “small data” in his quest to discover the next big thing

Hired by the world’s leading brands to find out what makes their customers tick, Martin Lindstrom spends 300 nights a year in strangers’ homes, carefully observing every detail in order to uncover their hidden desires, and, ultimately, the clues to a multi-million dollar product.

Lindstrom connects the dots in this globetrotting narrative that will enthrall enterprising marketers, as well as anyone with a curiosity about the endless variations of human behavior. You’ll learn…

• How a noise reduction headset at 35,000 feet led to the creation of Pepsi’s new trademarked signature sound.
• How a worn down sneaker discovered in the home of an 11-year-old German boy led to LEGO’s incredible turnaround.
• How a magnet found on a fridge in Siberia resulted in a U.S. supermarket revolution.
• How a toy stuffed bear in a girl’s bedroom helped revolutionize a fashion retailer’s 1,000 stores in 20 different countries.
• How an ordinary bracelet helped Jenny Craig increase customer loyalty by 159% in less than a year.
• How the ergonomic layout of a car dashboard led to the redesign of the Roomba vacuum.

I am a data nerd. I love it. I have been working in IT for the last 13 years, and I’ve done a lot of data analysis. More recently I have been thinking that web analytics might be an interesting field to get into.

When I read the description of this book, I knew I had to read it. Web analytics is Big Data, but I have always been interested into the smaller behaviors as well.

My Review:
This book was not exactly what I was expecting. It’s less of a business book about small data and more of an anthropological look at the very personal trends and behaviors of various cultures around the world.

After the introduction the book is broken down into chapters that are essentially case studies. Lindstrom recounts his research and recommendations for various companies. He’s helping with product branding or marketing in almost all instances, but this book goes beyond being a resource for business or marketing people. It’s truly fascinating to read. It reminded me of Malcolm Gladwell’s books: The Tipping Point and Outliers.

I especially loved the chapter about the United States. Lindstrom is from Denmark, so he has an outsider’s view of Americans that was spot on, but also amusing to read. And he mentioned the game Cards Against Humanity, which I love, so that was an added bonus.

My only complaint about the book is that there are quite a few tangents in each chapter, which made some of the case studies seem long and a bit hard to follow. I understand that it would have been hard to explain his recommendations without the backstory, and the additional cultures explored were interesting, but it made a number of the case studies somewhat tedious to get through.

My Rating: 4 stars
Understand my ratings.

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    1. It was. Non-fiction is always a little hard to rate because it's never as good as fiction to me, but I was glad I read this book. And I found myself mentioning it to people while I was reading it, and that's always a good sign.

  1. I would have never thought to read this book in a zillion years, but now that you have mentioned some of the discoveries, I am going to check it out (the library at work probably has it).

    BTW: Malcolm Gladwell's Ted talk about the Norden bomdsite is hillarious.

    1. Yes. It was kind of a random find for me as well. But very interesting. I found all of the chapters fascinating except the last case study. Library is a good choice. I'll haven't listened to any Ted talks. I may have to check that one out. Thanks!

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