Monday, December 15, 2014

(The Big Disrupt) The Internet of Things: The internet of Things and Creepification of Modern Marketing

We’re already the most watched generation in the history of the species and now with the advent of the Internet of Things (IOT), we will be the most tracked, monitored and potentially the most predictable batch of human beings to walk the earth as “things” get smarter, IOT enabled devices proliferate and companies get better at interpreting the vast amount of data produced by the technology.   

Everybody knows that besides making a dime, the most important priority of any business if it wants to stay in business is to know it’s customers but with the advent of IOT  and its by product Big Data, companies are going to know little more about their customers than they would be comfortable with.

At Uniliever, it’s CMO Keith Weed’s job to make sure the company never loses sight of its customers and thanks to IOT and the data it produces they’ll never have to as Weed at an event boasted “We can tell by a person's location if they are walking in a park and then if it is a hot day, we can direct them to the nearest place to buy a Magnum with a coupon – these are things we can already do now”[1].

Weed’s glee about being able to read into his company’s customers a little bit too well should trigger concern but consider iProspect’s CEO Chris Whitelaw’s answer when asked how would IOT enabled wearables would affect his business:

“Through access to data about your environment, a wearable device can anticipate and interpret intent. For example, in the near future your wearable will know that you are hungry on your way home and that your fridge is out of food, so search will suggest a local takeaway. The device might even know your favourite food based on past searches or purchases. By gaining a deeper and richer insight into the customers’ environment and state of mind, it’s possible for a brand to meet the immediate needs and desires of consumers”[2]
While you might argue that Weed and Whitelaw are doing their jobs and IOT allows companies to meet the needs of their customers more efficiently, it’s more than fair to question whether it’s OK that a company can track your location and suggest purchases in the noble pursuit of telling you the best place to get a popsicle, trying to feed you when you’re hungry or even if the know that you’re hungry in the first place. In a way we already have the answer to question as almost all modern tech companies are built on this creepy model of customer engagement.

This super creepy model of customer engagement prevails is because modern companies, whether they like it or not, have become data driven organizations and with the advent of IOT, this creepifcation of modern marketing only get worse as data pools expand and “things” get smarter.

Organizations everywhere are looking to get a better read on their customers and this creates a major headache as the expanding pools of data produces a strong demand for talent that can analyze the data but also make sense of the data in a way that meets the needs of the business in real time, particularly the customer facing organs of the operation. So far, companies have struggled pitifully to source people to take on this highly difficult task and will continue to do so in the new year as according to research carried out by Accenture “the United States is projected to create nearly 39,000 new jobs for analytics experts through 2015, but will only be able to fill 23 percent of those roles with qualified candidates”[3] .

Another issue cropping up with the advent of the Internet of Things is the pressure the technology puts on chipmakers to produce chips that can deal with vast reams of data produced by IOT enabled devices which will only get worse as a Gartner study project that “26 billion IoT units will be installed by the year 2020, generating $300 billion in revenue” [4].

So with the advent of IOT putting a strain on the HR and IT departments across the board, why do these companies seem so enthusiastic about IOT? The answer is dead simple: the opportunity IOT provides is too great to neglect. Companies simply cannot miss out on being a part of the revolution that IOT will enable: making human beings easier to read and thus easier to predict.

The biggest problem about the examples Weed or Whitelaw mentioned is not the privacy concerns (which are obvious) but that Weed, Whitelaw, and companies they work for, thanks to the data they have at their disposal, can manipulate customers into a purchase they wouldn’t have made without prompting. You could argue this is the whole premise of advertising but advertisers and marketers across the board have never had so much information on their customers to the point they can anticipate their next move or, to a certain extent, cause them.

In sum, expect the creepification modern marketing and indeed modern life to get worse as quite simply there’s too much of an upside should companies manage the organizational changes and skill demands created by the vast reams of data that will inundate companies because of IOT. What this means for us is a greater intrusion into our lives on an unprecedented level and I don’t know about you but I’m of the thinking that finding the nearest place a get a magnum (or anything else for a matter) at the expense of my privacy is not a good tradeoff.

[1]J. Davies, 2013, Big Data is transforming mobile opportunities, says Unilever CMO Keith Weed
[2] The Drum, 2014, Q&A with iProspect CEO Chris Whitelaw: search innovation, internet of things and wearables impact on search,
[3] B. Violino, 2013, ‘The Internet of Things’ Will Mean Really, Really Big Data,
[4]C. Green, 2014, How the Internet of Things will forever change the Data centre,

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