Skip to the main content

Big Data in Marketing — Spring 2017

Professor John Deighton

We stand at the inception of a fundamentally new way to create and run markets. Marketing can gather, analyze, and deploy data on people and transactions at speeds and comprehensiveness not possible a decade before.

Some see a personal data economy as exhilarating. Former Harvard President Larry Summers said, "Data may be to the 21st century economy what oil was to the 20th, a hugely valuable asset essential to economic life . . ." Others call it surveillance capitalism. Shoshana Zubhoff, recently of HBS, warns of a "largely uncontested new expression of power," in which we will face, "unexpected and often illegible mechanisms of extraction, commodification, and control that effectively exile persons from their own behavior, while producing new markets of behavioral prediction and modification."

Either way, this is the world you will live in. Like every other new technology, data science will be deployed. The question is not whether it is exhilarating or appalling, because it is both and both must be managed. It is vital to know how it works and how to operate within its ecosystem. This course seeks to answer the questions how does it work and how do we act constructively to use its possibilities?

For more details about this course, see the Harvard Business School Course Catalog.