The Unintended Consequences of Data Targeting
By the numbers there's my driver's license,
car registration, license plate, zip code,
various accounts, street address, birthdate
home, work, and cell phones, passport, credit cards
debit cards, PINs, social security
frequent fliers, internet passwords, stocks
checking, HMO, IRA, museums
library card, land and enneagram.
I know it's a lot to remember, but
thank god I finally know who I am
I've been talking a lot about the idea of 'extreme publishing' -- the essence being that most leading brands (including publishers) are actively working on how to deliver against the "market of one." More specifically, identifying and delivering to "a million markets of one" and not "one market of a million." Jim Woessner's poem above speaks volumes to the human side of how we feel sitting on the other side of the equation.
Every brand is attempting to deliver a unique experience for every single person it engages with. This is not a new challenge -- it is a longtime dream of marketers. But only now are we even starting to pull together the technologies needed to deliver on that vision -- and there is still a ways to go. But make no mistake: the technology is getting there. And fast.
And as digital marketing executives are trying to work out how to harness that technology -- whether it's big data, data warehouses, online and offline persona integration, engagement analytics -- an ever-growing lexicon of buzzword technologies are increasingly affecting each and every one of us.
Data Connection, Not Data Collection
For example, in the world of brands, conventional wisdom holds that we collect as much data as possible and then use that data to create a highly engaging personal experience that will result in revenue for that brand.
But is that enough? No. Or right? Well...no.
No matter how much data anyone collects over time and attempts to marry its relevance to me, I contend that no organization is ever going to know as much about me as I know about myself. I am my own system of record. No doubt there will be a lot of data that will get a brand towards its goal, but the context, the accuracy, the relevance, the timeliness are all things publishers still struggle with.
Part of the battle is the hidden latency of moving data. So why move the data? Why not just connect to it, like we do? Connect every bit of data you need at the very moment you want to deliver a unique, contextually relevant communication to the person based on his or her behavior, actions, profile, demographics, intentions, preferences, location, etc. across both the online and physical worlds.
This approach will get marketers much further towards their desired outcome than what they are doing now. But there's still another problem -- what if this approach proves way more successful than you anticipated? It seems like a good problem to have, right?
The Law of Unintended Consequences
Always be careful of what you ask for. What happens if every single brand on the planet succeeds and manages to engage one-to-one with each of us in unique and differentiated ways?
This situation is going to get hairy because the end result will be that as consumers we will be inundated with messages across all networks from all brands, through all channels -- all successfully identifying each of us individually and effectively personalizing communication to our interests.
As people, we need the power to manage brands, let alone just keep them at bay. Are we just going to roll over and allow brands, corporations, governments, data agencies, and the like to keep building bigger and more personal profiles about us? Or are we -- as John Lennon would have it -- really going to give "Power to the People"?
And that is where I am going in my next article. I will address how each of us should be able to manage the use of our personal system of record. Part of that will come from each brand thinking how it transitions from "vendor efficient supply chain" systems to customer effective demand network thinking. But it turns out that there's a bit more needed.
As CEO, John Philpin is responsible for Lyris' global leadership, business execution, and driving the company's growth.