03/28/2013 02:30 pm ET Updated May 28, 2013

Forget Big Data, Meet the Real Revolution: Testing

There's been a lot of talk about Big Data. Not just at Advertising Week Europe -- it has dominated talk in the industry and media for months. It is, however, too easy to get swept away by the Big Data tidal wave and miss the genuine revolution taking place under our noses: the brave new world of always-on testing.

Big Data is just a means to an end. It's merely an enabler. The real end goal has to be a better customer experience that is being continually optimized based on customer feedback and interaction; in short a self-learning process.

This is not just a bit of old style DM test and learn. This is a recognition that always-on communication requires always-on experimentation, and simultaneous improvement.

After all, what is the point of data if it is not to enable us to go bigger, better and faster? Big Data isn't big news. Always-on testing and experimentation needs to be the new DNA of marketing.

Marketing planning has traditionally been rigid in its operational discipline and very sequential in its process. The evolution of always-on capabilities means we need to get more nimble and agile, allowing for a degree of (adjustable) risk in our approach.

It also means that disciplines that traditionally worked at arm's length now need to get a whole lot closer -- creative and data need to work hand in hand informing each other's ideas.

Dressipi, a personal style website, is a great example: it builds-up a profile of your tastes -- your "fashion fingerprint" -- that constantly adapts and evolves based on your own body shape, style and preferences you may choose to share online. Inspirational styles are offered including a list of your wardrobe Must Haves and what you should avoid. Dressipi encourages the user to "like," "dislike" or "swap" recommended styles served up; effectively live testing content.

We are also talking here about a cultural revolution which demands a big change in the way marketing departments organize and manage their teams -- it's not for the fainthearted. This is not just a lab sitting in a corner, fiddling and meddling, tinkering at the margins with headlines and colors -- it's an entire groundswell movement and should be part of our DNA as marketers.

Experimentation means risk, and even worse, embracing what doesn't work to get it right the next time. Thankfully the next time also comes around a lot faster in the always-connected age.

As Henry Miller said, "One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things."