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Image: iTotal Control Advert by Cogent Elliott
I was going to call this post ‘Sex, Lies & Big Data’ and then realised how passé that is. I’ve kept it as the first line however as I have a hunch that it may have more search engine currency than its replacement. Whilst in part this post is about big data (and sex and lies), its wider coverage has I think given the vast majority of those that care an adequate understanding of its volume. This post is predominately about user experience design (UX) and the crossroads of innovation where marketing meets product development.
Big Data Cover-Up’s
A colleague in creative planning recently gave a presentation on research methodology. It focused on getting to the truth of the matter in hand. Whilst taking a holistic approach, implementing cross-channel campaign attribution models and striving to create a single customer view are all important, it is equally important not to let them obscure the little things that we can more easily address and change. Big data can hide the true value of information, the nuggets of insight that can really make a difference. As the presentation set out, in order to reveal true insight, ring-fencing and querying specific data sets to cut through the noise and tackle a single objective has never been more important.
Having spent several proud years in the music industry, specifically digital music distribution and direct-to-fan Ecommerce, this really struck me. Here’s why.
In case you wondered, the music industry is in fact overflowing with lies, cloaked in Big Data. There is a general acceptance that quoted statistics are just an interpretation of the actual number in question. It kind of works though, as many people who work in music consider it their duty to uphold the dark arts that constitute a chart position and the associated exposure. Whilst arguably less relevant than in the era of Top of The Pops, the recorded music charts are a good example of the cloaking effect that big data can have, hiding valuable micro-trends under layers of aggregated consumption data. For example, Arctic Monkeys are actually way more popular on Spotify in the UK than Miley Cyrus, in spite of her twerking catapulting her to No 1. at the time of writing. Valuable insight? Absolutely, as it gives context to the data, revealing the actual behaviour of a specific audience, in this case users of Spotify.
Utility X Aesthetic
There are various examples of how revealing micro-trends is often the key to understanding an audience, enabling delightful user experience design and consummating the marriage of utility and aesthetic:
Sticking with the Spotify audience for a moment, Channel 4 recognised its salience with one of their core audiences and used this to explore a simple way of promoting TV shows by making their soundtracks ‘discoverable’. They created a simple Spotify playlist application featuring music from E4′s most popular shows (Misfits, Made in Chelsea, Skins etc.). Music fans and E4 fans alike could then search shows based on their preferred musical aesthetic; a creative use of existing technology and content to augment the E4 user experience and engage a TV audience through music discovery.
Image: Channel 4′s E4 Spotify App
Another good example of applied audience insight, utility, aesthetic and marketing savvy is AGA’s ‘iTotal Control’ extension of its luxury oven range. iTotal Control allows AGA owners to control their oven remotely; via SMS text, a dedicated app or mobile website, neatly catering for all out of home environments. This absolutely delivers on the product promise that AGA makes to its AB target audience, “With our increasingly busy lifestyles – and the natural changes in routine over time – AGA Total Control fits in seamlessly with how you live your life, offering ultimate flexibility and convenience.”
To me, E4′s Spotify App, AGA’s iTotal Control, along with the likes of Nike’s much reviewed fuel band, are not only brilliant examples of creative technology but of how marketing, combined with product development, has become a key strategic initiative for successful business growth.
All of the above ultimately comes down to developing interactions for the context and environments in which products and services make the most sense to us. Google have termed these ‘zero moments of truth’ but I’m calling them ‘trigger environments’, because that’s what they actually are.
So here’s the thing. Whist we all know sex sells (or a least grabs our attention) I was both amused and intrigued to read that a display ad-campaign run on porn websites by US fast-food delivery outfit, Eat24.com, has started a trend in online pornographers courting mainstream advertisers, teasing them with low CPM rates to access the significant volume of consumers who subscribe to their services. Now perhaps I’m being a prude but I’m thinking that for the majority of mainstream advertisers, porn sites may not constitute the best environment in which to embellish, or indeed even approach the notion of user experience. God forbid the porn-networks should progress to real-time bidding triggering ads based on live user activity data! I’ll leave it to your imagination to assess the potential ‘interruptions to service’ brought to you by your favourite brands.
Appropriate trigger environments then, are central to the saliency of a brands mission, architecture and products. It is essential to establish them at the outset of any attempt to design a brands user experience. To do that we need to filter big data. We need to identify and analyse the most relevant information. Trigger environments and UX sweet spots that deliver true utility are captured by focusing on the ‘little data’ that frames a brand in the context where it makes most sense; whilst searching for music in the case of E4 or switching on the oven whilst out of home in AGA’s case. The environment is where marketing and product design should start and be put to the test. That may sound like a no-brainer, but far too often the right environment for a brand is misunderstood or worse ignored in favour of the potential audience volume offered by channels that simply don’t fit.
As real-time data and digital connectivity become more and more integrated with advertising, outdoor as well as online, we not only need to ask how, when and where we grab the audiences attention with stunning copy and imagery but increasingly, ‘what is the products trigger environment and how can our marketing solutions become an integrated part of the product or service we are selling’.
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