Data

(Quick review of this must read new book by By Professor Shoshana Zuboff)

You are living through a new type of capitalism – Surveillance Capitalism- that changes the rules of the game, needs to be understood in its own terms and controlled before it controls us.

Our “Data signals” (from services we choose to use like Google search, Google Maps and Facebook) will be just the tip of the iceberg. Surveillance Capitalists (SCs) will hoover up growing volumes of data from multiple sources: automated data embedded in the environment  and  things we own  like cars, home energy systems, mobiles devices and much more.

SCs will be powered by a confluence of technologies – cheaper and increased data storage, faster computer processing, ultra- fast 5 g networks (to link all those data signals from things together) and AI. If this seems alarmist, just think how fast the likes of Google, Facebook and WeChat have grown from being scrappy start-ups to corporate behemoths.

How to spot Surveillance Capitalists (SCs)

SCs “unilaterally claims human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioural data which …are fabricated into prediction products that anticipates what you will do now, soon or later”

SCs revive “Karl Marx’s old image of capitalism as a vampire that feeds on labour, but with an unexpected turn, Instead of labour SCs feed on every aspect of human experience”

SCs are protected by “the inherent illegibility of the automated processes that they rule, the ignorance that they breed and the sense of inevitability that they foster “

SCs services do not “establish constructive producer consumer reciprocities. Instead they are ‘hooks’ that lure users into their extractive relations in which our personal experiences are scraped and packaged as the means to others ends”

SC’s know “everything about us, whereas their operations are designed to be unknowable to us. The accumulate vast domains of new knowledge from us, but not for us. They predict our futures for the sake of others gain, not ours.”

Which is quite a charge sheet. Add to this that SC’s pay as little tax as possible, whilst presenting themselves as brands that seek to “do well by doing good “(wearing a mask of Californian hippy idealism) and you have a toxic mix. Plus, recent PR has been terrible.

Zuboff’s book is the best so far about the real agenda of Big Tech. It provides an intellectual framework to develop well thought through regulation and is a call to arms to do so urgently.

also reviewed in The Guardian here

Scandal ! ( click/share), Shock ! (click/share), Outrage !!( click/share), Anger !**! (click/Share)

This is how Facebook grew its audience very fast and sold lots of ads over the past few years. It became, as the jargon has it, ” a publishing platform” and exercised the minimum possible control on what got posted lest it cool down all that profitable posting. I expect that Zuckerberg will still try to pull off this strategy in regions of the world where regulators & policymakers are not sharpening their pencils ( i.e. most of the world outside of USA and Europe). It is easy money.

Zuckerberg wanted all the revenue but little of the responsibility that came with being a publisher. Facebook now employs armies of people to check what goes up on its platform because, as we now know, he got into a lot of trouble for being so lax. But it won’t work: Facebook is now so huge this effort resembles the fabled king Cnut who went down to the beach and instructed the tide not to come it.

Facebook will continue to get into trouble

Facebook will continue to get into trouble, no matter how much tech’ and how many people are monitoring content. Zuckerberg will be dragged blinking into the spotlight and will look bad under scrutiny. High minded platitudes about “connectivity”, “community” and “free speech”, that play well in California, will look increasing empty.

Go WeChat

Facebook will shift focus from social networking amongst large groups of people to private messaging between individuals and small groups ( like Messenger, which it owns, and WeChat in China) for two big reasons

  1. Avoiding responsibility. Facebook cannot be held responsible for what is posted, (especially if it is encrypted and they cannot see it), just as BT cannot be held responsible for people making abusive phone calls to each other or scamming.
  2. Generational change. My children rarely use Facebook and prefer messaging between small groups and individuals. It is the way things are going

How will Facebook make money ? 

Private messaging is largely incompatible with being interrupted by ads. So, expect Facebook to evolve into a kind of all purpose utility – making money from e-commerce and financial services. Facebook will innovate and buy up companies in these areas.

Zuckerberg does not have to imagine what this will look like, as WeChat got there a few years ago – this vid, which is worth a view, explains how. Posted in 2016 it is probably already out of date

 

 

 

A show all marketers should see is Martin Parr’s photos at the National Portrait Gallery

If only to see the original artwork for the excellent “Oneness” idents for BBC 1, a  fine example of that classic thing – a great creative idea executed in a fresh way.

The idea – like the best ideas – is uplifting and inspiring. “Oneness” is about the joy of  getting together with like minded souls who share the same passions,  and how this dissolves differences between people through shared experiences and common humanity. It is also an timely idea- a big spirited riposte to the narrow mindedness engendered by Brexit

But there is another lesson. It is difficult to create something fresh and distinctive by sitting in your London office and just doing data analytics.  Martin Parr travels all round Britain looking, really looking hard, and capturing the sheer diversity and quirkiness of people.

We used to call this “insight”. A vital stimulus to ideas that I fear might not come from staring at a screen.

Don’t get me wrong. I used to work at Google and I know how rich data analytics can be. But if everyone is using the same data to “optimise their message” then all the work will start to look similar.

Parr’s work for BBC 1 is a reminder of what you have to do to be fresh and different.

Get out of the office and look really hard at people and how they live

 

Programatic trading of media is clever automated technology that is spawning (AI enabled) services which will automate the creation of ad messages as well – more efficiency and cost reduction then. (This does not matter a lot as most ads- online- are fairly formulaic response/offer type stuff already)

But Programatic also attacks one of our most important beliefs in brand building – that it matters where you are seen not just what you have to say.

Stripping communication of its context is not good from a psychological point of view – we know that the human brain has evolved to notice context ( see Kahneman et al). Indeed all judgements that we make about people and brands are contextual.

Brands are now being drawn (by the lure of cost effective sales) into an online version selling out of the back of  a van on a rainy trading estate. What to do ?

Well two answers

-When buying programmatic, cost effectiveness can’t be the only metric – a smarter programmatic is needed that controls for quality too. Brands need to demand this – and not merely the reassurance that they will not appear in some tawdry click baity site ( or worse)

-Control your own context by becoming a publisher online. This difficult for brands and not for everyone. This piece (just published  in Aurora) explores how, why it is difficult and some of the insights into how to do it well from a really useful new book by Laz Dzamic ( declaration of interest- i worked with him at Google)

 

Page 33

 

Sir Martin Sorrell has made his first investment at his new company in a shop called Media Monks- which “is a creator of agile and dynamic digital content” What Sir Martin does, the industry talks about. So, let’s not break the habit of a lifetime

  • Is this a hot investment ?
  • Why is Content an important thing for brands to understand?

The word itself is not a good start- it suggests yet more digital detritus pushed out to widespread indifference. As you start Googling you are probably not thinking “gosh, there is a shortage of information here”.  In 2004 Google indexed 38 Trillion pages on the web.

A new book, The Definitive Guide to Strategic Content Marketing by  Laz Dzamic and Justin Kirby that grapples honestly with what it takes to be good at Content. It is an insider’s guide based on interviews with people in the business. It even has a chapter of highly articulate detractors who say that this is all just modish nonsense  (Declaration of interest- I worked with Laz at Google).

Here are some of insights I took from the book: –

Creating stuff people choose .What people want online is stuff that they choose to look at or use or participate in-this is a decent working  definition of  Content.  You have to stop seeing marketing as something that is done to people – but done for people’s benefit. ( it is an appealing idea right now as digital advertising is going through a bad patch- seen as a form of pollution as evidenced by the rise of ad-blocking)

Use data for empathy  Brands need to being really good at analysing and using data differently. As people go about researching, choosing and buying (in any given category) they send off “signals” about what interests them and what they might be receptive to in those moments. These “data signals” are the starting point for human empathy. In that moment do you just try to sell to them or do you imagine what they will find fascinating or irresistible or useful. Very few companies are good at this kind of data analysis, and you know who they are: Google, Facebook, Amazon. Most probably, you will have to work with their data and, in all probability post your content on their platforms – and pay their advertising tax to attract people to it

Content is easiest with existing customers in high interest categories .Because you know who they are, what they have bought and they have given you permission to use their data. ExampleSo, you have just booked a holiday – in that moment you are probably open to Content. TUI did just that – new bookers were delivered a sequence of useful stuff about, for example, check in, destination information other services such as car hire and excursions.  (See P 136 of the book ).This kind of Content is really an extension of service and is a more sophisticated and digitally delivered version of something companies have always done.

That said, digital makes it different because it increases the number of occasions when your customer is in contact and therefore available to Content. In practice it leads to a detailed map of customer contact moments and a Content delivery plan.

Learn about your customer every day .It could be the best thing you can do- as it will force you to learn what really interests your customers and what they really want. Every day you will be looking at data that keeps you honest. If you create Content (say information or advice or entertainments) that people don’t bother to look at then you will have to improve because lots of others are vying for your customers attention. It’s hard work and requires constant energy and investment. Truth be told is it is very difficult to create Content that the general public wants to look at – ask any newspaper editor, film maker , song writer, novelist, successful blogger or vlogger. It is a full time job. Even then you have no guarantee of success- so what chance does a brand have ?

Brands have to partner with people who know how to do it .Brands start way back in the race to create great Content. In order to get to the start line they probably have to partner with people who already have an audience and a profile. Famous folk often. When I was in the Zoo at Google I spent quite a lot of time advising brand owners on how to set up YouTube channels. I came to the conclusion that most should not try unless they were prepared to invest in a regular stream of great films and partner with successful YouTubers in order to boost their audiences. And there is no point in doing this if you are not clear on why you are doing it. In fact it could look like a rather desperate attempt to cling onto someone else coat tails so…

Be credible The Internet can often feel like a vast ocean of unreliable but endlessly fascinating stuff. If you are going to add to this you need to answer the “why” questions. Why are we doing this and why will our Content be valued by people? In fact, these are probably the first questions you should ask.

So is Content marketing the answer ? It can be very powerful done well- but it is difficult to do well – as illustrated by each of the six points above

Sure, there are the famous “viral” hits – from videos of stunts or amazing pieces of film or great ads or some magical piece of new technology (VR is the great hope right now)- but these are few and far between and difficult to repeat. So don’t fall for that snake oil.

Creating great Content is a major investment in strategy, planning, data analysis, partnerships and creation. You have to think and behave like a media owner – which most brand marketing companies are not set up for.

But if you are going to do it, this new book by industry experts is required reading. It gives you the inside track on what’s needed, the pitfalls and who you might want to work with.

And what of Media Monks? Well, my guess is that they will also be doing a lot of advertising (if they don’t already).  That is where the money still is. The big players-Google, Facebook and increasingly Amazon- will have to muck out The Augean Stables of digital advertising. They have to, as it’s their business model. Oh, and by the way, it funds loads of free services that we value.

(This article was first published in Directory – and is reproduced with their kind permission)

Son (25) and daughter (23) have returned home after university: the perfect opportunity for this planner for some close-up observation of two millennials with their always- to-hand smartphones and dirty, untidied bedrooms.

I pause at this point to give some advice to fellow sufferers who have failed to train their children to “TIDY UP THEIR BEDROOMS!”. The advice is this: it’s too late. There is no point in bellowing things like “PICK YOUR CLOTHES UP OFF THE FLOOR” through closed doors as your children fester in the sheets of their unchanged bedclothes. You should simply adopt at air of Buddhist calm and accept the inevitable. You will be much happier.

Anyway, back to the social observation: –

Right here, right now, anywhere, anytime. These millennials, now re-installed chez Saunders, are tooled up with and glued to devices, which looks very similar to those flip open thingies that Captain Kirk spoke into whilst fending off aliens on planet Zog. Star Trek has come true.

Son sits at dinner with a slight smirk on his face as he messages friends in China on WeChat. Daughter grabs the remote control from my wife because she is too slow at downloading the latest episode of “Made in Chelsea.” “FFS, it’s like watching a moron” she says affectionately as she prods buttons in a blur of fingers and thumbs.

Son ignores us during the evening meal as he searches for cheap flights to Japan so he can visit his girlfriend.  He might not yet be able to dematerialise in one place and materialise in another but otherwise the world is at his command. He can order or book seemingly anything with just a few prods of fast moving thumbs. He can banter via an app with friends in four different locations around the world. He is living a life of semi- planned spontaneity in which arrangements can be made at the last minute and change live and in real time.  He has the power. He has the freedom. Beam me up Scottie.

Or does he?

There are also limitations and constraints. Stuck at home, he doesn’t fancy spending half of his trainee income on overpriced rental accommodation. The taxman is taking his cut to recover student debt.  Several of his friends have little or no income so they can’t come out.

Property is stupidly expensive in London but quite cheap still in Berlin, but, sadly, some beery backwoodsman called Farage has screwed up his plans to work where-ever he wants to in Europe.  His parents and other property owning oldsters have “eaten all the pies”.  New labour’s winning anthem has turned sour – things are not getting better. In fact, they may get worse.

This is THE BIG TENSION.

It works like this: empowerment + freedom runs up against the pressure cooker of constrain. The most resilient brands in the future will be those that help resolve THE BIG TENSION. What my children want is (surprise, surprise) Value and Service, just like their parents. But how they want it is different: –

Tough customers. They are ratty when things don’t go smoothly (“they haven’t got a mobile site FFS!”). Expectations have been raised/new standards set by a generation of constantly innovating brands that live in their smartphones. If your brand does not wake up to their exacting service expectations then things are not going to go well for you. So, what are their demands?

Quick and easy through a smartphone. With a couple of prods with their thumbs (BTW- talking at out loud at your smartphone- via Siri for example- is still way too embarrassing)

It is a smart move to design for mobile first. Want a brand to model your design on? Look at Booking.com- Google’s largest customers. They are pretty much always page 1 of search and work constantly to make their e-commerce as smooth and frictionless as possible

Don’t just use their data without asking. They know that Zuckerberg’s mob is a bit scuzzy and have tried to get away with things in the past through impenetrable T&Cs. They know that when you are encouraged to “sign in through Facebook” that it is just an attempt scrape your data. Clean up your act in this area. Embrace the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It is your friend.

 Cheaper and quicker (and quicker). Amazon. Enough said. Try Googling Amazon innovations and you will see what I mean – Prime/One Click checkout/Drones. It is all getting quicker. Want Jamie Oliver’s new book? My daughter did:  the cheapest price is also on Amazon and she can have it tomorrow.

Design in flexibility. “Book now pay after you stay.” “Sign in four of your friends”, “Cancel whenever you want with no exit charges” “No contract means that you are free to go free to stay” “Only drive when it works for you. No office. No Boss” “Request a ride and you will be on your way in minutes”. These are promises made variously by brands my children love including Booking.com, AirBnB, Netflix, Uber and Lyft. They make perfect sense to a generation that does wants to act spontaneously but cannot come up with the cash.

Upgrade the experience all the time. To live life through a smartphone is to experience constant improvements and enhancements. Every year your phone gives you a big software makeover (you know the one that takes at last 15 minutes) with new bells and whistles. Meanwhile over at Facebook and Snapchat ferocious amounts of A/B tests are happening in order to design new enticements to keep you in the habit (“You have memories to look back on”, “You and Patrick have been Facebook friends for 10 years”, “Jim likes your post”). It’s Darwinian innovation of course – if they don’t evolve then you will fall out of the habit and they will be swept away as Myspace was. The effect of all this restless paranoid innovation is to make the smartphone an endless pleasure ground of daily upgrades, which become, of course, an expectation- a new norm.

Abolishing the BIG TRADE off .The most resilient brands in the future will be those that help resolve THE BIG TENSION- and they do this by abolishing THE BIG TRADE OFFS. Here’s how it works:-

Long ago we were inculcated with the idea that we had to accept trade-offs. You could get it tomorrow but you had to pay through the nose to get it delivered. You could get (say) great Sport on TV but you would be locked into a long-term contract. You could get a cab home from central London at midnight – but regret it when you saw that crumpled receipt for £35-00 the next morning. You could book a great boutique hotel in Berlin but you would have to pay a % up front to secure the booking and do it several months in advance. You could work for a great company but in so doing lose your soul to the narrow pursuit of shareholder value over all else. You could decide to get fit by working those abs but you had to join a club and pay monthly direct debits.

The brands that are big in my children’s lives have systematically dissolved theses trade-offs. Delivered tomorrow and cheap (AMAZON). Book now and pay after (Booking.com/AirBnB). Cashmere jumpers and less that £100-00 (Uniqlo). Get it now without being locked into a contract (Netflix). Dynamic and socially responsible: most good companies promise this as part of their recruitment of young graduates. Value and service ( most modern brands except Ryannair – and even Michael O’Leary may have seen the light)

Where-ever you see an old fashion trade-off, there is an opportunity.  Just take the words either/or and replace them with the word and.  See where it takes you. If you design your brand for those toughest, most demanding and spontaneous of customers-the millennials- you will prosper and even be admired.

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the privacy of our own keyboards people give up all sorts of interesting insights into what they want – and no  data source is better that search. So..

Google trends is always worth a look – as well as Think with Google for a barometer for changing consumer culture- and therefore what people now expect of organisations

A few of stats that struck me (below) : people want to find out stuff right here, right now and on their mobiles. Researchers often say this is because consumers are becoming more “demanding”- but I don’t think that is our self – perception. This is just the new normal. Basically what its says is that your company or organisation has to have got its act together on

a) Being easy to find on a smartphone

b) Offering up relevant and useful information (that is easy to find) on a smartphone

c) Being easy to buy from on a smartphone

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