“I love innovation. I consider it to be the great equaliser. Innovation brings down even the most monolithic companies and raises new ones. Innovation means that if something worked in the past, it won’t necessarily work again in the future. There have been few innovations that have changed the trajectory of human kind – the wheel enabled mobility; paper money created a unit of exchange so people didn’t have to take their cow over the hill to get grain; the combustion engine powered cars, trains and planes.
In our life time we have also had some: the computer processing power; the internet, mobile phones and so on. I believe that there is another such innovation upon us – data.
Technology has created two fundamental changes that alter the way we generate access and leverage data. Firstly, by exponentially increasing the volume of data generated, and secondly, by making the analysis of this data stream more feasible and accessible to many more businesses.
The world’s store of data doubles every 24 months. Every second, Google receives 2 million search queries; 48 hours of video content are uploaded onto YouTube, and over 100, 000 tweets are sent.
Social media, mobile phones and other data tools mean that billions of people on the planet leave mile-wide data trails, making for much richer data sources available than ever before.
This data explosion is coupled with our ever-increasing ability to slice and dice data. Computers are now better able to analyse the non-structured data surge, such as words, images, tweets, blogs and text messages. Whole industries are forming that help dissect this data into actionable insights.
Why is this important for what we do?
I consider all of us to be in business and businesses build brands they hope will continue to grow. We ensure that they grow through investing in product innovation, promotion, packaging, building associations through sponsorship and so on. However, a brand can only create real competitive advantage when it has a one-on-one relationship with its consumer. One-on-one is the final competitive frontier – everything else is in parity.
It is only through one-on-one relationships that a business is able to engage in a learning relationship with a consumer and incrementally add individualised value to that consumer, thereby becoming indispensible and decreasing the potential for churn.
Data makes this possible. And that’s the fundamental shift in our market place. Mass customisation is no longer a pipe dream.
An excellent report by IBM’s Leading through connections CEO study states that “technology has now made ‘mass customisation’ possible. Businesses now have the means to understand customers, based on actual, real-time behavior, and engage them as individuals.”
How does this change the design of the future agency?
At the moment agencies have come to terms with the fact that they are brand content providers. We take the essence of a brand and we tell its story through a narrative that manifests across different platforms.
The shift in the new world we operate in is that we now need to also focus on the one-to-one dimension of that narrative. In a way, the content sits in the cloud and we now need to build the apps that individuals download that allow consumers to experience that branded content in a way most meaningful to them.
There are 4 key implications for business
1. The one-on-one philosophy
The “one-on-one” philosophy will become pervasive throughout the organisation. The former Marketing Director of SAB, Peter McLoughklin, once asked delegates at a Marketing Sales and Distribution Conference which of them were in marketing. All the marketing delegates raised their hands in solidarity. He then pointed out to all the other delegates and said that if all of them were in fact also in marketing, in his view, everyone had a role to play in building brands, be it in distribution or sales.
The same can be said for one-on-one, the entire value chain of business will contribute to building relationships with individual consumers and the entire organisation will be impacted by what comes from that relationship.
2. Emergence of new careers
A science is being built out of foraging through vast amounts of data and turning that into useful predictive consumer insights. The Data Scientist is the new, advanced geek, who combines analytics with investigative zeal. This has resulted in a new breed of tech-savvy, socially plugged in hackers who determine what data to track, how to find meaning in it and the best way to use it.
The Network Manager works closely with the Data Scientist. This is someone who curates and facilitates the consumer network of a business, observing, learning and influencing conversation and building long-term relationships.
These roles become even more critical in a world where building dialogue with consumers is a critical success factor.
3. Campaigns stop being one hit wonders
Most campaigns peak consumers’ interest in a brand only for it to wane once the campaign is done. Data changes that. Campaigns will be interventions in the building of ongoing consumer relationships. They will not only be used to pique (and peak!) interest, but to drive data too. The days of running an incredible campaign with no useful data at the end of the rainbow are gone.
Here is the really crazy thought: It’s only a matter of time before the reach of your campaign through mass media is less than that of your one-on-one channels. As a case in point, one million unique users registered and participated in the latest Carling Black Label Be the Coach campaign. That’s half the number of its core user base.
This changes the nature of classical marketing interventions. Data makes real the virtuous cycle of consumer communications and this will change the way marketing teams and communications agencies configure themselves to deliver their services.
4. Data makes marketing Return-on-Investment trackable
Want to know the good news? Data demystifies marketing ROI. The real-time nature of the new data streams means that the impact of any marketing investment becomes instantly available for measurement and refinement.
And what about Radio?
Radio is already extending its reach into online, experiential and social media. However, it too will not escape the need to fulfill the one-on-one expectation.
Listeners have become subscribers. Some channels around the world are already delivering customised radio stations. I’m a fan of lastfm.com that allows you to select your own stream of music based on your own selection of genre or artist. There are new offerings on the market now like Spotify and iHeartRadio that do the same thing.
But what really blew my mind is Pandora, who hires music geeks to decipher the DNA of a song – its rhythm, pace, style and they use that algorithm to search their database of millions of songs to give you a unique radio station that can be played on any device. Ford is installing Pandora in their vehicles. These services already have more than 10 million subscribers.
There is a commercial model to this – brands are now able to brand their own style of station. What does Coke radio sound like or Miller Genuine Draft Radio?
You can bet your bottom dollar that they will make themselves indispensible to these subscribers by collecting data that allows them to gain deeper actionable insight that in turn allows them to design a better service.
Don’t worry, the DJs won’t be without work, I’m sure for R10 extra you can get a mix from your favourite DJ or whatever banter you like thrown in from your favourite radio host. One thing for sure is that it’s a different model and its coming fast.
That’s our thinking as an agency. That’s the future we are preparing for. We know that there are more innovations to come that will shift our thinking. We believe that by basing our perspective on how people and the world around them will change, will help us to morph and become a long term, meaningful and value adding partner to brands.
I truly believe that the big don’t always eat the small, but the fast always eat the slow. Our role as business is to adapt for the future and bring our customers along with us.”