Voice of the Customer @ #IBMconnect

IBMconnect-conf

The IBM Connect roadshow moves from Auckland to Sydney and then to Melbourne over the next few days. Come along and learn how you can turn data into business value.

The Known Unknowns – Small Steps Big Gains with Watson Analytics

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Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.
Donald Rumsfeld

My morning starts with a river of data. First up, there is email – a quick run by the inbox alerts me to urgent issues, questions, client inquiries and news. Every email I open, every link that I click and every article that I read is marked, tagged, tracked and collated. And then it’s over to LinkedIn’s news feed to check what is happening in the industries I care about. Having built a substantial network of well-connected and insightful connections over the years, I get a very quick sense of what is trending globally, what is vital locally and what needs to be reported or responded to. Finally, I switch to Facebook. I am blessed with opinionated and smart friends who share and increasingly, the richness and quality of news and insight available through that network is out-pacing all other channels.

But what am I doing here? I am working with Donald Rumsfeld’s mantra. I am looking to these networks to tell me the things that I don’t know that I don’t know. Essentially, this data is helping me look beyond my radar.

The same approach can be applied to marketing. In fact, for marketers to remain relevant and responsive – we need to be looking beyond our own radar.

For as long as marketers have been marketing, we have used media to reach our customers. We’ve equipped our teams with megaphones and messages and marched them to the perimeter of the business compound. To reach our customers, we buy and create media – after all, as the adage says, “fish where the fish are”. But this is the inside-out marketing model from the 20th Century – and social media has turned it inside out.

Turning to sites like Twitter or Facebook – or even LinkedIn for the B2B marketer – can feel like facing a firehose. The torrent of information coming through is astounding. Just take a look at the recent social media statistics for Australian audiences:

  • Over 13 million using Facebook
  • 13.5 million using YouTube
  • 2.5 million using Twitter

But it’s really not the big numbers that are important here. It’s what you do with them.

The known unknowns of our customer data

Just as I do each morning, marketers need to be thinking selectively about their customers. Rather than aiming to speak – or “connect with” all 2.5 million Twitter users in Australia, why not start somewhere easier? Why not start with the “known unknowns”? Why not start by figuring out WHICH of our customers are using Twitter or Facebook (ie a lot of them), and improving our understanding of those people?

Most modern CRM platforms have fields that allow you to collect the Twitter handles or Facebook profiles of your customers. Why not start by understanding how many of your existing customers have this information included in their profile? This gives you your known unknowns:

  • Run a report on your completeness of social media profile data in your database
  • Use Facebook custom audiences to match Facebook profiles to your existing email database
  • Do some profile matching via Twitter to do the same
  • Run an email campaign asking for that one additional piece of information. Provide a useful incentive. Make it worthwhile.

For most organisations, taking these small steps would take less than a day. And it paves the way for much deeper exploration.

Combining Voice of the Customer and Analytics as your over the horizon radar

Once you know who your customers are on social networks, it opens the door to a much richer experience for both you as a marketer and your customers as consumers. And what you’ll find on social networks is not the well-manicured conversation of corporate marketing – you’ll find the very direct “voice of the customer”. Generally, however, our “social listening” platforms are built around our own keywords. Our products. Brands. They are only sometimes built around understanding our customers pain points, needs and expectations. This means we are again working from the inside-out – working with the known knowns.

Thankfully, powerful natural language processing is beginning to provide the analytics horsepower we need to decipher social streams. I have explained previously about the way that IBM and AusOpen collaborate to transform customer experience at the Australian Open Tennis events – but analytics is no longer the domain of big business. With platforms like IBM Watson now available at an affordable rate (starting at around $50 per user), you don’t need to be “Tennis Australia” nor a data scientist to understand what’s going on with your market. You just need to understand your business.

Take a look at this video to see how you can use Watson and Twitter data to analyse retail sales. Look at the way that the language in the real time reports is structured around the way that marketers work. Rules are setup and then data populates accordingly. But most interestingly, because Watson works with natural language – it works with the language of the marketer as well as working with the language of the customer.

For marketers, this means that Watson does the hard work of identifying the most interesting facts contained within your data sets, letting you focus on making the right decisions about what happens next. For example (at 2:13), “sales by state” is flagged. Watson chooses the best representation of the data (in this case, a map) but also provides a “ribbon of data” that can be used to interrogate and analyse at a deeper level. Typing in a search related to what you need to know (eg “tweets by hashtag”) turns that data into a report that lets you see immediately what happened to your sales data and why.

Suddenly that river of Twitter data becomes understandable. A connection can be made between your business results and the social media data coming from a particular channel in a particular location.

And in case you need to tell the story of your digital marketing and your analytics to your executive team – or to your customers – with a few clicks, the visualised data can be compiled into ready made infographics. Now you not only have a custom radar to understand your customer – you can link your customer and business value together. Will this make you a better marketer? It will certainly make you more relevant to your customer – and that is a win all around.

Marketing and Dating: How to Get a Date by the Numbers

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Dating is big business. There are generic dating sites designed to help you find a date, a life partner or someone just to hang out with. There are also incredibly focused dating sites that are designed to introduce you to other people who have the same particular passions and interests as you. Maybe you are looking for a “sea captain” or perhaps you just hate it when Movember finishes and need to sate your passion for the tache. Whatever the case, if you look hard enough you’re bound to find a dating site designed just for people like you (yes, you crazy cat lady).

In many ways, the challenge of dating is the same challenge that marketers face. We’re all looking for that one-to-one connection – though often we struggle to a way to meet and start a conversation. In both cases (marketing and dating), digital disruption is creating both opportunities and challenges. And at the heart of this is data.

Inga Ting reveals that what we say in our dating profiles and what we want are often completely different. Dating sites – just like data-driven marketers – are less interested in “stated intentions” and more interested in actual behaviour. By looking at online behaviour – the things that we like, connect with, share and return to – marketers can adjust their profiling to reach and more deeply engage potential customers. This algorithmic approach relies not on focus groups and market research but on an adaptive approach which operates between your stated profile (self designed) and the actions you take online. In the world of online dating it means operating in-between spaces:

Behaviour-based matching is adaptive. It compares what you said you wanted with how you behave to work out things you might not even know about yourself.

For example, you said you wanted a partner with a steady income but you keep messaging “pro-bono computer game testers” and “freelance writers”, so the algorithm changes its recommendations.

Our profile

But, of course, while there can be volumes of data about ourselves online – we are also highly visual. The rise of photo based apps like Tinder for example shows that sometimes dating (and even marketing) is only skin deep. Relying on your photo and your location information, Tinder matches people based on whether they are close and interested (you swipe a prospective date’s photo to the left to reject and to the right to connect).

For those who are serious about dating, perhaps a single app is not the answer. The “multichannel” approach that works for marketers may yield better results. Take for example, the data from Axciom’s infographic (ht Will Scully-Power) that reveals that, in Sydney:

  • Single females outnumber males at all ages except the 18-24 age group
  • Potts Point is home to the most singles
  • Wine enthusiasts are most likely to reside in the Eastern and Inner West suburbs

If you were a male in the highly competitive 18-24 age group, a multichannel (or omnichannel) marketing approach to maximising your chances would include:

  1. Establishing your base profiles on high traffic sites
  2. Create a profile image that shows your passion for fitness and interest in fine wine (please be tasteful)
  3. Spend time in cafes in Potts Point using Tinder

Of course, you could pepper your profile with quotes from Shakespeare, but that may be overkill. Remember, that the algorithms will override your stated profile anyway – so your true intentions will always be revealed in the data – based on who you swipe right and who you swipe left, who you message, like and connect with. And like all good marketing, the question comes down to ROI, engagement and outcomes. I hope you get your algorithm right!

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The Amazing Case of the Disappearing Technology

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Technology is stuff that doesn’t work yet.

— Bran Ferren

Bran Ferren’s words echo across the wifi to us like a premonition. The former President of R&D at Walt Disney Imagineering’s deep understanding of the way people use and engage with technology is only starting to play out in the devices that we so readily take for granted. The fact that we can call a piece of technology, a “device” at all shows how far we have come; after all, a device is something personal, knowable, intimate. And it was only twenty-odd years ago that carrying a “mobile phone” could put your back out. Personal technology is shrinking at a considerable rate.

Big Machines, Small Data

For decades, technology has driven business innovation, resulting in the rise of professional services firms, technology companies and most recently, software platforms. Until the early 90s, we designed systems around single business functions – like purchasing or order management. While this was a huge improvement on previous systems, it entrenched departmental silos and required duplication of work – put simply, the same information had to be entered into completely separate systems. Occasionally, the IT teams were able to integrate systems – connecting some pieces of data together, but this also required governance, standards and compliance – which added cost and complexity to already complex systems.

At the centre of this data frontier were the CIOs – vital drivers of innovation and productivity in almost every business. And held tightly in their grasp was information.

We realised that the faster we could crunch business information, the faster we could make decisions. Accordingly we built electronic supply chains, implemented ERP systems and automated what we could. We brought disparate systems together with a single package providing a reliable flow of data from one department to another. We had massive computers pumping relatively small amounts of data through relatively small, connected pipes. In some cases, remote controllers would be hooked up to servers via dial-up connections – and these ran multinational businesses!

The focus for all this innovation was the “back office” – far away from the prying eyes of the customer.

The Rise of the Front of House

While ERP innovation was driving efficiencies within the hardened arteries of businesses, the sales and marketing folks were still working from the same trusty rolodex and dog-eared business cards they had used since the Great Depression. But Tom Siebel had other ideas. His company was to do to customer relationships what SAP had done to finance and enterprise resource planning. The vision was – as it remains today – a single view of the customer. Like many grand visions, the reality remains tantalisingly out of reach.

But this focus on customer facing business functions, brought sales and marketing into the connected enterprise. Customer billing systems, processing, pipeline and opportunity management and a range of other functions were all digitised – and the field of business re-engineering flourished. Consultants had learned through the ERP years that return on investment lies in business users actually using these systems – and that meant customisation, training and change management. In large enterprises, this task was enormous – but was largely contained by the limits of the business. The focus was on engineering the business not extending beyond the safety of the firewall.

After all, even the top of the range, slimline laptops were clunky, heavy and slow in performance. And the business systems were ugly, hard to use and the data networks were notoriously unreliable. It appeared that innovation was always going to stop at the dizzy limit of a thin blue ethernet chord. And everything from the design of the software and hardware through to the challenges of remote access served to remind us that we were always operating out of our comfort zones – that we were dealing with technology that could both help and hinder us.

Outside-In Innovation and the Crowd

While most businesses were licking their wounds after the dotcom bomb, a new generation of tech entrepreneurs flew below the radar to create a whole new way of connecting the dots around businesses. These emerging social networks skipped the B2B market and launched direct to consumers, corralling vast swathes of the population into tightly bunched, loosely connected groups.

Similar to the way that dolphins collaborate to feast on an abundance of school fish, fast moving digital platforms like Google, Facebook and Yahoo skirted around our flanks and drove us together. Overwhelmed by the speed but excited by the possibilities, we willingly handed over our privacy, location and even identity in order to join with others who were “just like me”.

These platforms, working at warp speed, innovated at the speed of customer experience. They were unencumbered by years of process, archaic business systems and entrenched ways of working. They pushed out new features to the delight or disgust of their members, changed as necessary and moved on.

Sensing a fickleness in the consumer landscape, these fast growing startup enterprises blitzed past the “sense-and-respond” mantra proffered by management consultants the world over and created “lean” businesses that responded to changing conditions through automation, strategic outsourcing and peer-oriented customer service. The suggestions of the crowd – the paying customer – drove changes in business models, product features and even business strategy.

And all this outside-in innovation was happening from the comfort of our homes, with the convenience of technology we could hold in our hands.

The Internet of Things Gives Way to the Internet of Me

The real revolution in all this is three-fold:

  1. Consumers have built their own ecosystems around the experience that they want to create and curate for themselves
  2. “Technology” is disappearing from our lives, shrinking to a size that can be incorporated into our daily fashions
  3. Data is proliferating and permeating devices, systems and everywhere in-between

At the moment we are seeing the Internet of Things gaining traction in our homes, workplaces and public spaces. Connected by low bandwidth protocols like bluetooth, devices like Withings weight scales function like an analogue machine, displaying your weight – but add an additional dimension powered by the web and big data. Not only is your weight captured, your profile is queried in real time, and your height details are returned. Then your BMI is displayed while your latest reading is transmitted back to the cloud.

In some retail stores, sensors like iBeacons track your movement and signal your identity based on the apps running on your phone. Store assistants are proactively updated on your current status, interests and so on, and are ready to more readily assist you. Sound creepy? It’s already happening.

This is no longer the internet of things, but the internet of me. We are creating personal versions of the same kind of ERP networks that were developed in the 90s – linking our payment systems (banks) to our supply chains (shops) through sensors, apps, profiles and devices that we carry or wear at all times. And all of this is happening largely out of our view. It’s invisible. And once it becomes invisible it becomes “the way of life”.

No Left v Right Brain – And Other Mythconceptions

Myths

I love this infographic on various urban myths that permeate our modern existence. By author, David McCandless, it visualises some of the most Googled myths and misconceptions – with larger bubbles indicating that it is a common search term. Some of my personal favourites include:

  • That you SHOULD wake sleepwalkers
  • That bats are NOT blind
  • There is no solid division between the LEFT and RIGHT hemispheres of the brain.

What surprises you?

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Who Needs Another Day in Password Land?

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I have a sneaking suspicion that the most successful call to action in the world is Forgot Password?. That small link that sits below a password field is my friend. After all, I have passwords for every blog, social media site, news sites, business sites, bank, retailer and online tool or cloud provider that I use. The use of passwords is, in itself, a personal big data challenge that I have yet to solve.

I have a password manager on my phone, some of which is current. Some outdated, and some automated. I have a list which I keep which is slightly unreliable – mostly because I fail to manage it scrupulously. I have randomly scrawled password scattered through notebooks I can no longer find. There is encryption for the cloud (which also requires some kind of key) and there is even fingerprint identification that works with iPhone 5 (which is actually pretty convenient – even if slightly scary in terms of identity management/theft/security/tracking).

So I was interested to check out the new password manager from There’s Only 1 U. Actually, it was the video that tipped me over. Produced with a great sense of self-deprecation, it captures the frustration that many of us feel when it comes to password management and online security. To be honest, it’s a scene too long, but it did the trick.

Is it useful? I’ll let you know after some hands on use.

First indications are positive

Like most password managers, there’s some pain up-front to set up your sites and accesses, but the long term gain is what is on offer.

The UI and step-by-step setup is relatively straight forward, though very wordy. I was able to easily use the phone’s camera to scan my face and setup the security. There is something reassuring about scanning your own face as a secondary form of authentication. And so far, I have not been able to trick the scanner by using a photo.

There is a good selection of websites, apps etc that can be easily and quickly configured for access. And it’s relatively easy to add your own custom sites using the same process. Of course, you can still use Touch ID or you can use the facial recognition engine.

But the question is traction. Will I use it again? Will I uninstall? Will I just forget about it? Ask me again in a week. In the meantime, register for the app here or get more information about it here on their website.

The SMEG Police Brought to You by Adobe

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You’ve probably met the type – or had them pitch you. They’re the FUD masters, sewing fear, uncertainty and doubt, knowing that at the end of the conversation they have a lead to follow up or maybe even a project. They talk big numbers, after all, 40% of the Australian population use Facebook, 3 million on Twitter and well, everyone in the country on Google. Surely you can’t afford NOT to have a presence in these digital territories.

In the world of small business, we’ve been hearing these pitches for years. These “Social Media Expert Gurus” (SMEGs) would sweep in, dazzle business owners, soak up budgets and then disappear when it came time to report back on results and outcomes. More recently, we are seeing larger enterprises follow this same course. Sometimes the entree comes through the Board or senior executives. They are swayed by the “social media savvy” and “digital swagger” of the SMEG and quickly find themselves signing up for hefty retainers attached to uncertain outcomes.

But the immediacy and impact of social media can be addictive. And even the most cynical executive can find themselves enthralled.

Every time someone reads, clicks or shares a link or piece of content that we have created, it sends a small dose of dopamine into our brain. This release provides us with a sense or reward, pleasure – and encouragement. It’s why (for the marketer) digital marketing or social media can be addictive. It is also why those who don’t use social media fail to understand the way that participation can become contagious – or how content can go “viral”.

Adobe have taken aim at this phenomena with their Mean Streets video. It’s a fantastic take on the rollercoaster of social media vanity metrics – Likes and Fans. Will it help you spot a SMEG in the crowd? Perhaps not, but you know who to call when you need to be bailed out.

Twitter Kills More of Its Darlings-Tweet Analytics for All

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In writing, you must kill your darlings.
— William Faulkner

Ever since my first reading, I have loved William Faulkner. His genius leapt through the page to punch the reader in the throat. And while this quote about murdering your darlings – your favourites, your supporters, your most dearly treasured – can truly be attributed to him is doubtful. But when it comes to creativity, there is a certain dramatic logic to it. After all, it’s easy to learn to love something that you have struggled to bring to life. And for the reader, that struggle – in the reading – is also acknowledged. We read in struggle or defiance as much as we read in love. So when an author kills her darlings, the characters, situations etc that she created, the reader also shares in the loss. The drama. The agony. And the surprise.

And this is the great reward.

But when I see this approach applied to businesses – especially to startups – I baulk. In this always-connected world, it’s a struggle to create something new, useful and easy to adopt (unless it’s a puppy). It is hard to “cut through”. Hard to build an audience and generate traction with a cynical community. And it is hard to attract customers, scale through your technical challenge, attract funding and talent, and build a culture that empowers employees, attracts customers and satisfies stakeholders.

In short, the challenge is in creating a participatory ecosystem with enough value to go around.

TwitterAnalytics

With this in mind, I greet the release of Twitter Analytics with a smile AND a shrug.It is great for Twitter users who have an interest in data, impact and so on, but it is yet another anti-ecosystem move. It’s like LinkedIn’s recent decision to close off API access to sites such as Nimble. On the one hand it makes sense. “Consolidate. Be all things to all people. Own the platform.” But on the other hand, it’s limited and limiting. It’s an attempt at monetising without an ecosystem vision. And it is an affront to the users who have invested not just in the platform (Twitter, LinkedIn and yes Facebook too), but in the ecosystem as well.

In some cases our investment has been made in dollars, but that usually pales into insignificance when we evaluate our time, effort and process commitments.

Now, there is no doubt that Twitter Analytics will be useful because it provides people like myself with access to powerful data analysis tools. I dare say, eventually, it will evolve into a suite of tools that I can pay for too (more ways to monetise).

But the release of Twitter Analytics will stop external growth and investment in the Twitter ecosystem. It means that the plethora of businesses (large and small) that have sprung up thanks to the goldmine of real-time data available through social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and yes, even Google+ have one less reason to be. And thousands of less customers to attract. On that list will be everyone from Tweetreach to Hootsuite.

But the bigger challenge that comes with killing your darlings, is that they are not yours alone. And when you turn on something your customers love, you lose a little bit of that love that we had for you. And eventually, as with all disruptions, there will come a time when something or someone newer and shinier will come along. That’s when you – Twitter – will want every ounce of loyalty to play out. But by then you’ll have squandered it.

If I have learned anything from the world of software, it is that ECOSYSTEMS WIN in the long run. And if you really do want to change the world and be part of every person’s digital life, the likes of Twitter and LinkedIn would do well to think big – not just for themselves, but for all their stakeholders. Kill your darlings by all means, just make sure your aim is true.

Disruption from the Medieval to the Digital World

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vatican-libraryOne of the most exciting and interesting projects I came across during my time working with IBM was the digitisation of the Vatican Library. A great humanist project, the Vatican Library was created during the Renaissance when books were literally hand crafted. Scribes, illuminators, binders and printers would work together to create objects that were as beautiful as the content.

It was Nicholas V (1447-1455) who decided that the Latin, Greek and Hebrew manuscripts, which had grown from 350 to around 1,200 from his accession to the time of his death (March 24 1455), should be made available for scholars to read and study.

On his death, Pope Nicholas V (1447-55) gifted his extensive personal library to the Vatican. Containing Latin and Greek codices as well as secret archives of the Popes, these three collections formed the basis of what would become the Palatine Library under Nicholas’ successor, Sixtus IV. A dark and damp space accommodating shelves, desks, benches and a growing collection, the knowledge contained in these spaces soon burst forth.

VaticanLibrary Under successive popes, the collection grew. Sixtus V rebuilt the library, adding frescos, large bright windows and benches. Of course, as was the custom of the time, each volume was held fast by a solid chain. There were strict rules about reading and copying but books were also loaned. The records of these loans are still in existence. They’d make fascinating reading in their own right.

But the flow and accumulation of knowledge could not be stemmed. This new, beautiful library was soon flooded, with books washing out of the main rooms and into hallways and adjoining rooms. The torrent could not be stopped. In fact, it was bolstered by the Pope himself. Pope Clement XI (1700-21), for example, actively acquired manuscripts and volumes from all parts of Asia, effectively establishing the Oriental Collection.

But not all these acquisitions were completely free of drama or controversy. One of Nicholas V’s first contributions to the library was the secret archives of the Vatican. Now covering over 1000 years of history, the Archivum Secretum Vaticanum separately houses  a treasure trove of precious documents on 85km of shelving. Furthermore, some of the acquisitions have raised eyebrows over the centuries:

For example, the first 6 books of the ‘Annals of Tacitus’ were known to have been stolen from the Monastery of Corvey. In the early 16th century Pope Leo was able to acquire them, and fully knew the circumstances. In 1515 he made printed copies of the manuscript, and ‘graciously’ sent a set of the ‘printed’ books, specially bound, to the Abbot of Corvey. [You can now see translations of these on Wikipedia.]

This, of course, raises questions around ownership, copyright and ethics. But it goes deeper – to the root of power, knowledge and human experience. It impacts identity and community and touches our foundational institutions no matter whether they are educational, political or cultural in nature. Understanding the flow of this far reaching impact is how we identify the fact that we are living in a state of disruption. Elizabeth Eisenstein, in her discussion of the impact of the invention of the printing press outlined five impacts of this “new media”:

  1. Experts coming under pressure from new voices who are early adopters of new technology
  2. New organisations emerge to deal with the social, cultural and political changes
  3. There is a struggle to revise the social and legal norms — especially in relation to intellectual property
  4. The concepts of identity and community are transformed and new forms of language come into being
  5. Educators are pressured to prepare their students for the newly emerging world

Today, we face this same torrent of disruption. This time, instead of hard, physical and space-consuming books, the disruption is driven by the accumulation of data. But we don’t have the hand-picked curatorial power of the Vatican Librarians. We don’t have a carefully crafted, focused collection. We have a vast sea of bits and bytes loosely connected by strings of relevance, some social cohesion and meaning and an electricity and data grid that spans the planet.

Eric Schmidt from Google famously stated that we now create as much information in two days as we did from the dawn of civilisation up to 2003. A princely figure worthy of any Pope. The Vatican Library pales by comparison:

In September 2002 the new Periodicals Reading Room, where the most important material is available to readers on open shelves, was opened to the public. At present the Vatican Library preserves over 180,000 manuscripts (including 80,000 archival units), 1,600,000 printed books, over 8,600 incunabula, over 300,000 coins and medals, 150,000 prints, drawings and engravings and over 150,000 photographs.

The Vatican Library was conceived as a vast humanist initiative. And it is one that has stood the test of time. But in this push to digitise every aspect of our lives, I wonder whether we are missing something important. As Ben Kunz suggested, there is somethind deeply personal and decidely human about our relationship to books and knowledge.

After all, our memories are deeply tied up with these dusty old objects that haunt our lives. And no matter how many blog posts or videos we produce, they never have as much impact as a table thumping tome. Just think, for example, how many businesses have disappeared or merged over the last 20 years. How many of them will still be here in 1000? Amazon may rise and fall, but I’d lay money on the fact that the Vatican Library will still be there in 3014.

Disrupt Your Strategy – Planning for Audiences not Generations

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I have never been a fan of demographic profiling. Sure, this information, at scale, can reveal certain things about a population – and this can be useful to understand whether there might be a connection between our age and (for example) our propensity to over-eat. Or contract disease. Or buy new cars every four years.

But populations don’t interest me. They feel like a dead weight around my sense of, and interest in, humanity. Instead, I prefer audiences – which is perhaps why I studied theatre rather than statistics.

It’s also why I am continually fascinated by digital technology and transformation – and it is why social media continues to attract the attention of people, corporations and governments. For digital transformation is not just about bringing the non-digital world online – it’s challenging the very nature of what we consider “our selves” to be.

As marketers, we are constantly drawn to the idea of demographics – the cashed up profiling of the Baby Boomers, the anxious, try-harder Gen X-ers and the slacker Gen Ys. But like any generalisation, these labels are easily unpicked. There are plenty of Baby Boomers who are slackers and plenty of cashed up, power wielding Gen X-ers. And Gen Y are just starting to flex their creative, financial and intellectual powers – and there is more goodness to come. Rather than simply relying on this style of profiling, we should be working harder to understand these audiences. We need to map their behaviours, attitudes and interests, not just their age, sex and location.

This is why I quite like the work that marketing automation firm, Marketo, has done on Generation Z. And while, yes, they have started out with the age-focused label, the research carried out by agency, Sparks and Honey, reveals the patterns of behaviour, interests, attitudes and insights that can help build a deeper understanding of this audience. While the data reflects a US-based audience, there are cultural parallels that are useful indicators such as:

  • Do-Gooders – an interest in making a difference in the world
  • Shift FROM Facebook – Facebook lost its allure when the parents arrived. Gen Z are embracing newer platforms like snapchat, secret and whisper
  • Creation trumps sharing – Gen Z embrace the prosumer ethic of digital media creativity.

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But to really understand this “Gen Z” audience, I would go further. I wouldn’t stop at the age of 19. I would ask:

  • Why would my brand be relevant to audiences exhibiting these behaviours
  • Why would these audiences choose to purchase my product/service/thing
  • Which values embodied by my brand augments the life, behaviour, experience or purpose of this audience
  • How do these behavioural profiles help me understand my customers regardless of age / demographics

And when it comes to planning, insight and future proofing your brand, I’d look to opportunities to self-disrupt your strategy. Ditch the path of lazy profiling, put the work in to really understand your audiences, and then invite them into the process of creating a brand that has a purpose. Start by delving into the data behind the Sparks and Honey research (below) – and then work on your own business by starting with the audiences you rely upon.