You have likely seen the New York Times dialect quiz that’s popping up in Facebook and Twitter streams all across the web right now—a 25-question quiz that estimates your geographic origins based on your pronunciations and word choices. The tool crunches people’s responses based on a massive database of information on regional dialects—and for each person who takes the quiz, it also collects additional information, potentially making the tool more robust (and providing important targeting data for the Times).

The quiz’s popularity raised some fantastic questions about big data: What compels so many to take this quiz? More importantly: what’s the relationship between brands and consumers when it comes to sharing and collecting data?

The quiz is a great representation of the trends the industry’s seeing in terms of big data and consumers, including:

  1. Brand-to-consumer is a “give and take” relationship 
  2. Personalization has become the expectation among consumers
  3. Consumers care about the masses

Brand-to-consumer is a “give and take” relationship 

In order for consumers to feel compelled to provide data, they need to receive something from the brand in return. The quiz offers consumers an interactive, shareable online experience, and in turn, people take the time to input a response. The user’s curiosity and desire to know more about himself or herself is satisfied in exchange for additional input to potentially refine and expand the existing data set.

Personalization has become the expectation among consumers

At the completion of the quiz, participants receive a personalized heat map displaying the geographic range of their dialect, which they can then share out to their Facebook and Twitter communities. Individualization + shareability is a strong equation for appealing to consumers, especially in the age of social networking.

Consumers care about the masses

Beyond their own personal preferences, people also want to know what the rest of the world finds relevant and trendy. For example, Twitter provides users with a list of trending topics each time they log-in, providing them with an at-a-glance view of what the rest of the country (or world) is talking about. In addition to providing a personalized analysis of one’s dialect, the NYT quiz simultaneously shows quiz-takers how the rest of the country speaks by comparison.

2014: The year of big data…and the consumer 

As we mentioned in an earlier blog post, 2014 Predictions and Resolutions, businesses are going to become increasingly focused on how to leverage their data in 2014. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that it’s not just about how your company is using this data, it’s also about how you’re opening it up to your customer base. The consumerization of big data is a trend we expect to see more and more this year.