In 2006 a major European brewing company we’ll call BeerCo was faced with falling bar and pub sales and, despite muscular market research and competitive analysis, couldn’t figure out why. Customers liked its core product, a standard lager, and store sales were up. But something wasn’t clicking in bars, and aggressive promotions weren’t helping. What was wrong?

Having exhausted conventional research approaches, BeerCo commissioned a team of social anthropologists to visit a dozen bars in the UK and Finland to find out.

The – very introductory – article by Christian Madsbjerg and Mikkel B. Rasmussen of ReD Associates, ends on a nice quote:

“Accordingly, many companies are turning to customer research that is powered by big data and analytics. Although that approach can provide astonishingly detailed pictures of some aspects of their markets, the pictures are far from complete and are often misleading. It may be possible to predict a customer’s next mouse click or purchase, but no amount of quantitative data can tell you why she made that click or purchase. Without that insight, companies cannot close the complexity gap.”