Shiny New Toys (Or: Data Comes From The Darndest Things)


“Data 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 Kyle Barber, SVP Global Performance Lead at McCann Worldgroup.

The holidays are a wonderful time to catch up with family, unwind, eat a little too much.  Yet all I’ve been hearing about this holiday season are the gifts – the fun or ingenious new gadgets my friends and coworkers recently acquired.

Electronic gizmos are adult toy substitutes that brings back memories of childhood wonder.  As a marketer, though, I’m captivated by the streams of data they collect and spin off. The ease of transferring data between devices via physical and wireless connections, coupled with the now-prevalent oversharing via social media, has resulted in a data bonanza.

These devices, much like tablets over the past few years, blur the rules of active engagement.  Take the Nike+ series of electronically enhanced sportswear, for instance.  Not only have the products sold fairly well, Nike has also extended the brand from a tool of athletic pursuit into a new community of passionate brand enthusiasts. Rather than just assembling a spreadsheet of personal best running times, Nike+ enables you to share all your personal bests with an audience.

Which Data Set Matters?

As a marketer, I am less interested in specific fitness data output than in how that data interests the consumer’s social media audience.  How does your brand connect with this device, this audience, this context, and what does it bring to the table that is valuable rather than interruptive?  Which data prompts likes, comments and sharing?  The seemingly uninteresting data set of running speed, jumping height or bench-pressing reps evolves into a social media marketing evidence bank that fuels future campaign design.

This brand strategy celebrates the best of our new consumer-centric marketing reality; instead of simply handing out rewards for patronage, Nike provides relevant content that is a natural extension of the story that the brand wants to share.  Whether or not your company’s products and services merit their own devices, the approach of content creation as a strategic catalyst is universal.

Advertising or Marketing?

The naysayers who discount social media fail to see the long-term branding play evolving in established platforms like Facebook, as well as nascent, long-tail communities with less than a dozen participants. Advertising will always play a role, but social media lets brands build marketing ecosystems that connect multiple online and offline channels with their respective data sets.

Like tablets or apps that reside inside the mobile and social platforms, these new devices provide more information about context.  Does the device capture my full attention or complement another activity I’m simultaneously performing?  If I’m not exposed to media or destination content, can I still navigate through the sales funnel and build long-term relationships with brands?

Brand builders embrace the social media space not because they can purchase banner inventory that features one’s Facebook friends. Rather, social media provides a venue for authentic conversations about how a brand connects with a consumer’s lifestyles. By amplifying the brand message with an appropriate audience, the cost of acquisition goes down. Marketers also embrace the platform as a natural meeting place to nurture and incentivize brand stewards. These devices supplement that experience and effectively measure consumers’ brand engagement.

Can Brands Influence Consumer Relationships?

JawboneUP is another interesting device that extends fitness monitoring into diet and sleep.  While this information is designed for individual consumers, the resulting data sets would naturally interest your physician.

Working with consumer packaged goods clients, I can’t help but imagine there are a number of meaningful ways to partner with technologies and communities built around the sharing of data from such devices. The primary barrier to success, I fear, is one many brands and agencies face today: reluctance to share data sets between parties.

I’m not sure if marketers stand to gain more from investing money, time and effort into creating their own devices and data sets, or instead partnering with today’s existing technology to share strategies. But to best explore how adults and their gadgets open up new marketing opportunities, brands should take immediate (if cautious) first steps today.

While no one explicitly asks for a Christmas gift that reveals all his or her personal information, the electronic playthings of 2013 are prepared to share more than the toys of my childhood. Smart marketing professionals will embrace the opportunity to use that data wisely and authentically.

Follow Kyle Barber (@kylebarber) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter. 

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