Small Data – Book Interview

Small DataHeidi Cohen interviews Martin Lindstrom

New book: Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends

Q: What’s your best piece of advice for readers looking to improve their marketing?

We’ve become a non-present generation suffering from phone addiction – an addiction so big that we feel that the phones we have in our pockets are ringing – only to discover that we have no phones in our pockets. I call this the Phantom Vibration Syndrome – and it’s a virus which slowly has removed marketers from reality. I mean when was the last time you spent a day in a random consumers home – just learning about their behaviors and relationship with your brand?

As technology has captured our attention and removed us from being present we’ve lost our ability to see things around us. We no longer observe and pick up on the thousands of amazing clues we all surround ourselves with every day. What I call “Small Data,” seemingly insignificant clues that point toward one or more unmet customer needs. Small Data is a counter balance to Big Data and can indeed form the foundation for breakthrough ideas or transformative ways of turning around brands.

My book focuses on exactly that – what it takes to become present and begin to pick up Small Data – creating the foundation for your brands future.

Q: What was the inspiration for your book?

In 2002 LEGO were months away from bankruptcy. They’d relied on Big Data concluding the arrival of the Instant Gratification Generation – a generation with no patience. As a consequence, LEGO decided to increase the size of their building bricks – to gigantic blocks – reducing a child’s construction time dramatically. Instead of solving the problem the solution escalated LEGO’s crises.

My inspiration to Small Data took place when a team from LEGO entered an 11-year-old boys home in Germany. When asked about his favorite “thing” he pointed towards an old worn-down sneaker – the wear and tear on the sneaker was his evidence that he indeed was the best skater in town.

This piece of Small Data lead LEGO to concluded that what Big Data had taught the world was completely wrong – if kids are passionate enough they’ll use the time needed – even if it takes hundreds of hours to build a LEGO castle. That year LEGO reduced the size of their LEGO bricks and created the foundation for the LEGO movie. It was also the year I labeled this phenomenon for Small Data – an approach helping LEGO to become the world’s #1 toy brand.

Q: What is the key concept behind your book?

Via the 7C system systematically pick up Small Data and convert these into ground breaking ideas, new campaign concepts or simply get a brand back on track. The 7C model takes the reader on a step-by-step approach which helps them to open up their eyes, begin to detect Small Data and finally convert the Small Data into concepts. It is a highly practical model – which today has helped thousands of companies from Pepsi, to Roomba, from Jenny Craig to Disney – getting their brands back on track.


Q: What do you want readers to take away from your book?

This is a wakeup call – you could say a health check of your own brand – helping you to discover brand from a completely different angle than you’ve ever done before. I guarantee you that you after having read this book will look at the surroundings – at our world in a completely different light. Even reviewers having read the book has told me that the impact the book has had on the way they see things has completely transformed their lives. I guess you can’t ask for more.

Q: How do you describe yourself professionally?

I’m an explorer of consumer desire – and a brand futurist, author of 7 New York Times best-selling books on branding, advisor to numerous Fortune 100 brands including LEGO, Pepsi, Nestle and Disney.

Q: What are 1-3 books that inspired your work/career?

I’ve never read a business book – I’m too afraid of stealing ideas – my source of inspiration is to observe, live and interact with human beings. To carefully select what I’ve observed and combine this consumer needs in completely new ways – leading me to completely new theories like Religious Branding, Sensory Branding, Contextual Branding, NeuroMarketing or any of my many theories on branding.

Q: What is the biggest challenge that you’ve had to overcome?

To avoid growing up. Deep inside I’m still a child – it is my strength as this mindset allows me to be naïve when needed, creative when expected and strategic when required – this odd combination of skillset constantly need to be nurtured in order to continue keeping this fine balance.

Q: What’s something unusual or fun that most people don’t know about you?

  • First kid in the world to win a green LEGO Brick, 1978.
  • Began working for LEGO when he was 12 years old.
  • Made a bed entirely out of LEGOs when he was 11, and slept in it every night.
  • Raised (partly) on a boat – his parents enjoyed sailing and took him on their adventures across a large portion of the globe.
  • Has lived or visited more than 2,200 private homes in some 77 countries over the past decade, spanning from Siberia to Island, Venezuela, Nigeria, Colombia and Monaco.
  • Was selected as Marketer of the Decade by the Asian Counsel of Marketers in 2012
  • Has written more than 1,000 articles on branding – published in more than 100 countries.
  • He has presented to more than 7 million people on branding across 60 countries.
  • Travels more than 1 million miles a year.

Q: Is there a piece of content, a social media campaign or a marketing campaign that you worked on that you’re particularly proud of?

How we used Small Data to turn around Lowes here in the U.S. from a struggling retailer to one of the most successful supermarket chains of all time. Check out

Q: Is there anything else that we haven’t covered that you’d like to share?

Check out the Small Data trailer at:

Martin LindstromContact information

Thanks, Martin.

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
You can find Heidi on , Facebook and .

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