Data

Book review just published in the latest issue of Market Leader – reproduced courtesy of WARC.com.

“Everybody Lies” really is a very entertaining and insightful book about what is revealed by Data – with a focus on Google. Weakness is that the examples are mainly from USA

Here is the longer review in The Guardian 

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Was how Charles Handy defined “wisdom” at a recent event- it has stayed with me

It is particularly needed at the moment – as many in marketing are transfixed by new technologies and have persuaded themselves of two things a) change is pervasive and b) change getting quicker.

This second statement has been taken axiomatic for at least 15 years now and has been used as the hook to sell out any number of conferences – and  it can’t be true. If it was our eyes would be popping out with the sheer velocity of tech fuelled change.

Also it makes planning very difficult – if change is so fast surely what we plan to do will be rendered obsolete in short order. What to do?

Two further bits of wisdom to navigate by

Jeff Bezos: ” Think about what’s not going to change over the next 10 years and put your resources into that”

Bill Bernbach: “Human nature hasn’t changed in a million years. It won’t change in the next million years. Only the superficial things have changed. It is fashionable to talk about the changing man. A communicator must be concerned with the unchanging man -what compulsions drive him, what instincts dominate his every action,even though his language too often camouflages what really motivates him” ( my ital)

When you look at the best innovations in tech over the past few years they are essentially new ways to answer old and innate human needs. For example- “Find useful information as quickly as possible” ( Google) “Show off” (Twitter)”Be nosey about what your friends are up to” (Facebook) “Flirt and get off with members of the opposite sex “( Tinder). “Buy stuff cheaply and with the least hassle” (Amazon)

Which leads me to what I think marketers should do about tech fuelled change

1) Uncover what their customers really really want.

2) Brief your tech experts to find better ways to deliver it.

3) If it is new as well, that’s great. But don’t commission anything just because it’s new.

In the next post i will try to answer Jeff’s question – “what’s not going to change in the next 10 years”

 

 

(Book review published in Market Leader: September 2016)

Here are a few hours in the life of a modern everyman

I picked up my IPhone and Googled the location of my coffee meeting. Then I summoned an Uber and, on the way, planned my holiday on Airbnb. At our meeting we checked out a YouTube film and reviewed a Microsoft document. At the end of the meal I paid with my Visa card.

Matchmaking describes every brand mentioned above. Matchmakers (AKA multisided platforms) have integrated their way into every part of our lives. They connect members of one group (like people seeking a cab) with members of another (like taxi drivers looking for custom). Microsoft Windows connects app developers and end users. Visa connects merchants and customers. And so on.

It is not a new idea.

Women in ancient China connected potential brides and grooms, prefiguring the glut of online dating services today.  Bourses in the 18th century connected buyers and sellers of stocks and shares, just as E-bay today connects people with spare stuff with those who value it. The advent of the internet (along with faster processing speeds and high speed broadband on the move) that have turbocharged them, not least because matchmaker start-ups attract the big venture capitalists. Many of the high growth start-ups in the world are “Multi sided platforms” including Alibaba, Lending Club, Pinterest, Spotify and Tencent. The excitement about the sharing economy (and “unicorns”) is really the story of the march of the matchmakers.

A new book anatomises matchmakers– the circumstances in which they succeed and the new skills and capabilities needed to build and sustain a successful one. It’s packed with wisdom that you would not necessarily learn at business school. That’s why Matchmakers by David S Evan and Richard Schmalensee is a necessary read for anyone who wants to understand the future of the digital economy. Here are six pieces of wisdom and understanding I took away

  • Look for significant transaction costs that keep buyers and sellers apart and you have spotted the gap for a multisided platform. If it is time consuming or expensive or risky to find what you are looking for (house/holiday accommodation/partner in life/London Cab) then that is the space in which it a matchmaker can thrive.
  • Matchmakers are difficult to launch successfully because they have a chicken and egg problem. They need a critical mass on both sides of the platform to create value. It is not just about volume. The clue is in the original meaning of the word matchmaker. Amex’s launch succeeded because it connected enough successful people with the kinds of merchants that they like to use (High end shops, restaurant, airlines, hotels). When YouTube launched they needed “uploads” and “eyeballs” in sufficient volumes to become self- sustaining. Getting a platform to ignite into self-sustaining growth is the central challenge in the early years. YouTube’s founders had to work hard at encouraging people to upload and introduced design elements that made it easy to do. Platforms that fail to cross the critical mass frontier will fizzle out or run out of cash (See below)
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  • Both sides of the platform must have their interests looked after- getting the pricing right can be critical from the start. Often one side of platform does not pay at all as their presence in sufficient numbers is key to success. Searchers on Google do not pay just as women often do not have to pay to get into a nightclub.
  • Matchmakers end up as rule makers and have to worry about how users interact with each other. Uber drivers can rate their rides and vice versa. Airbnb have a very attentive customer service system to resolve disputes-for example when a renter has trashed the place. They have to be prepared to exclude bad eggs for the greater trust in the platform.
  • Matchmakers do not just launch tech platforms; they launch brands- a truly successful model for brand building that is not initially advertising led. Service experience and active communication to all sides are critical to building trust. Although investment in advertising is the servant of both growth and maintaining scale. EBay, Google and Airbnb all now use the classic advertising media.
  • Matchmakers thrive in a larger ecosystem. For example, Airbnb “sits on top of” Apples IOS operating system, which is also a matchmaker in the same way that Microsoft is. More broadly they sit within frameworks of regulation and other institutions such as trades unions and trade associations. Matchmakers disrupt (and thus come up against vested interests and opposition) which requires first class public relations.

“A multisided platform is one of the toughest business models to get right” say the authors.

It is surely, too, one of the most rewarding (if the venture capital they attract is a measure). Matchmakers is a 200-page handbook in how to do it.

This film is worth a watch to show how WeChat-which started as a messaging app- is evolving into a one stop killer app for search,social and shopping. (And you thought Google and Facebook were too powerful.). It’s success is due not to Chinese govt support but innovation to make the user experience a) very easy b)integrated c) time saving.

You can be sure that Facebook and other are eyeing WeChat with envy and trying to emulate it

I expect the anti-trust authorities in Europe and USA to have a say on this trend

Data brilliantly presented can crystalise a complex issue and to make us think. Fans of David McCandless (information is beautiful) will find plenty of examples in this show-distillations of the world’s data, information and knowledge into beautiful, interesting and, above all, useful visualizations, infographics and diagrams. I expected to see this at the show and it certainly delivered.

But what surprised me ?

  1. Pre-digital data still packs a punch

The most powerful example in the whole show was for me not a whizzy new digital data visualisation. It was over 200 years. It was brutally simple, static and in black and white. It was a visual showing how a slave ship was packed with men and women like sardines.IMG_6443

In advertising we know that emotion is a powerful persuader. This image, though, is bald fact – yet  it is more moving that the very best of the John Lewis ads because it does not try to tug at my heartstrings or tell me what to feel with stirring music. In fact it does the opposite: it invites me to use my own empathy and imagination to conjure up what the awful scene below deck in a slave ship would have looked and smelt like. I have to think for myself, which makes it a more powerful piece of communication by being implicit, than visually explicit storytelling

2) The phrase “cloud computing”  is misleading

Cloud computing conjures up an image of something fluffy, amorphous and insubstantial. In fact it is anything but. Every time you post on Facebook you produce yet more digital landfill. Your pokes and likes end up in a data centre like this one in Alaska

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A fine example of how a label can change meaning- a bit like called second hand clothing ” vintage”

3) Controlling you own data 

Edward Snowden gets a big shout out at the show for exposing how corporations and governments control and access our personal data. But you knew that already- what to do about it? There is an intriguing little prototype demo at the show of how citizens could control and licence their own data and give selective access to some and block others. Pertinent in view of rise of ad-blocking.

But where are the businesses?

This show which runs till end feb is worth going to – but it’s earnest and arty. For example there is not space commercial organisations like Sky Sports and The Met Office- both of whom have been brilliantly creative in turning data into entertainment. Cricket and those endlessly fascination  weather fronts have been transformed into things of beauty

 

is the business model of media owners down the years- and that battle has now moved to your smartphone.

Winning apps find ways to “scratch your itches”many times a day. Facebook  is the most energetic in enticing you back to their platform with a continuous flow of digital addiction-it started with “poking” for me and most recently I have found it irresistible not to look back on “memories from a years ago” ( most recent innovation) as well as “my year on Facebook”(which was as i recall launched last Christmas). With Facebook you feel that they constantly at your elbow nudging you check out your page and anxious should you drift away and fall out of the Facebook habit. They are right to be paranoid.

Snapchat has been making moves too – originally, it was a visual messaging app with an auto-delete after viewing.( that was its launch USP).  Then they curated “content snacks” from a whole range of media brands in a section called “discover” (see below)

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But that did not take off and so they have launched a “live” channel which consists of an edited selection of videos submitted by snap-chatters in a particular locality-

“London life” gives you a window into what fellow users up to based on the video clips they submit. It is weirdly fascinating content – rough and ready , generated by ” people like you” and and a “things to do” prompt. For people who submit it is also like a competition – will my clip make it to the final cut ? somehow you can’t resist checking it out – but to work the video mash up  will need to change everyday or even several times a day IMG_6245IMG_6246In the social media app market snapchat is a challenger that has to be inventive just to stay in the game up against a well funded heavy hitter in Facebook

What happens if you don’t keep evolving your app to make it irresistible ?

The recent fate of the CEO of Twitter is a reminder that it is easy to fall off the pace. Across the web you will find the husks of former shakers and movers – like friendster or friends re-united or myspace. It will be interesting to track the innovations of both FB and Snapchat in 2016 because they teach us a lot about how to win and retain attention in “the smartphone economy”- which is shaping up to be as ruthless and competitive as the newspaper market

Just back from the Marketing Society Annual conference where much of the talk was about how technology +data are leading to innovation. It’s all about brand building through better more personal experiences, services and speed of new products to market ( with advertising getting barely a mention.)

What are good examples of this? Here is one of my favourites

Disney ‘Magic Band’: “Park guests” use the Magic Band to gain access to the park, get in priority queues for the attractions, pay for their purchases at the concession stands, and even get into their hotel room. Each family member has a wearable band with GPS and radio transmitters that track each other’s location in the park. At the end of their stay, Disney presents the family with a photo diary of their park adventures, having used automatic cameras to snap pictures when the Magic Bands are nearby. And imagine the face of a newly-turned six-year-old who just had his favourite Disney character address him by name and wish him a happy birthday. Disney made a billion dollar investment to create a wearable accessory that changes their park experience completely.imgres-1.jpgimgres.jpg