Enchanted Objects: A Boon For Consumers and Marketers Alike?

christopherhansenData-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Christopher Hansen, president at Netmining.

Last summer, Ditto Labs CEO David Rose appeared on “The Daily Show” to discuss his book “Enchanted Objects,” a term he uses to describe products that connect to the Internet to provide utility.

When Rose discussed the data created by these objects and how it can be used to enhance consumers’ lives, I started thinking about how marketers could leverage that data to create additional insights and marketing opportunities while providing utility for consumers. It would be a data exchange that truly benefits all parties.

I’ve written before about how consumer appliances are becoming new data warehouses, but enchanted objects go one step farther by adding, perhaps, a non-endemic dimension of use to the product. It made me consider household objects that every consumer uses – and how those might be improved by marketers to strengthen the bond with consumers through a framework of shared data.

These ideas likely won’t make it to market any time soon, but they can act as guides for brands looking to enter the world of enchanted objects.


Activity-tracking wearables are extremely popular with consumers right now, and Nike has had its Nike+ system for years. But shoes can be much more than a basic odometer for workouts. Nearly everything we do as humans involves our feet.

“Enchanted” shoes could tie into a health app, monitoring activity, physical changes, trips to the doctor and weight gain and loss. While annual physicals are great for preventative health, they don’t detect fast changes, such as rapid weight loss or gain, which could be signs of underlying health issues. A connected shoe or shoe insert could detect those things and, in all likelihood, identify worsening arthritis or even early signs of cancer and other diseases.

This data is valuable from a doctor’s standpoint, but it also helps marketers understand consumer behavior. A brand like Dr. Scholl’s, for example, can use the data for marketing and R&D purposes. Or you could drill down to the data to examine childhood development, which could allow CPG brands, such as Kraft and Mondelēz, to understand behavior at a really young age. This could inform how they market and design products for children and parents, perhaps even leading to a change in focus area.


I’m not a dentist, but I’d imagine that many people brush their teeth incorrectly, or at least inconsistently. A toothbrush that actively gathers data about brushing habits and patterns is useful, especially if it can recognize the likelihood of cavities, tooth decay or gum diseases.

Oral-B is already selling a Bluetooth-connected toothbrush. Armed with actual toothbrush data, the company, along with other brands such as Colgate and P&G, is likely to change the way it markets products toward consumers. Furthermore, it will develop new products based on how toothbrushes are used.

Again, there’s a great deal of utility here when it comes to children. Kids are programmed to work toward incentives. By connecting the toothbrush to a reward system, children will work toward goals. My daughter just received a toothbrush that plays One Direction for two minutes so she knows how long she needs to brush. There is plenty of room here for marketing crossovers. For example, if there is a reward in an online multiplayer game, such as Minecraft or Club Penguin, for each month of teeth brushing, kids will likely participate.

Garbage Can

Why should we connect the pedestrian, utilitarian garbage can to the Internet? We could apply an incentive structure to the garbage can, allowing retailers to reward consumers for throwing away less and recycling more.

Garbage cans equipped with bar code scanners can gather data about what we throw away. A CPG brand like Kraft would benefit from marketing around a minimized carbon footprint. It could theoretically build a campaign around greener packaging and incentivize consumers with coupons based on their recycling. The campaign would be built around data pulled from the garbage.

These three items are simple examples of how enchanted objects can provide equal utility to consumers and marketers. We may never see these exact products, but brands across all verticals should think beyond the collection of consumer data and look at how it could be used to benefit consumers’ wellbeing.

This may be a lofty goal. But this combination of data and utility will ultimately result in marketing that is less about simply getting a brand in front of consumers and more about creating lasting connections that resonate and generate mutual value.

Follow Netmining (@Netmining) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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