The magic of technology

We got accustomed to thinking that technology, whatever technology, as long as it’s shiny and new, will eventually solve a problem.

As a result, we have lost the ability to focus on the problem – though someone might argue whether this ability has ever been central. If left to itself, technology will not amicably and magically find its way into our lives. There has to be a feedback loop at some point, as early as possible, that matches the capabilities of the technology to actual, and positive, impact in the world. And if the match cannot be done, even after trying hard, it is ok to drop the technology and forget about it.

This inability to take the distance from technology is the reason why we have deepfakes and artifically generated faces. We are often so fascinated from what is possible nowadays that we forget to discuss about the convenience and rightness of what is created.

Technology needs more questioning and groundedness.

Take AI down to earth

A number of things a useful AI could take care of in place of the fallible human.

Understand that tomorrow is a bank holiday and suggest that you turn off an alarm set for weekdays.

Read from a list of favourite sites and actually recommend content from such sites.

Organize the notes you have taken in different articles and suggest connection between them.

Collect the common operations done after a certain meeting (e.g. set up a follow-up, send e-mail with notes, schedule update call) and prepare an automation for you to approve.

Send a notification when it’s time to head out of the office to go to an appointment that is scheduled in your calendar.

Remind that the annual subscription to a service is about to expire.

Break up a single, unique goal (e.g. organize summer holidays) in many different tasks (e.g. book flight, book accomodation, rent car, book train tickets, …) and send notifications when the prices on common booking sites are below the average for the period.

These (and many others) are example of a consumer-centric AI.

Many will tell they are just around the corner. But if you have ever interacted with AI, or even if you have just tried to do some of the above operations with your phone, you know that is probably not true.

It’s about time we take AI in the day-to-day, and for this to happen its promoters will have to forget about their agenda for a while and focus on the consumers pain points.

Who will make this happen?

A whole lot more

I can find all the praises for your product or service easily.

I can talk to one of your reps in minutes.

If I prefer so, your chatbot will guide me to the content most relevant to my situation.

I can painlessly answer a survey to help you improve your website, and with one single click give you consent to using (and share) information about my interests.

Your marketing will seek me out to offer more, for free, as long as I stay engaged.

That rep is still trying to schedule a follow-up call to offer a discount if I sign now.

And then, once I am finally your customer, if I need some information, I have to dig them out of an overly complicated help center page, or pray for a telephone number to appear below one of the folds of your website and wait in queue.

And if I decide that, for any reason, I do not need your service anymore, you frustrate the hell out of me with rules, counteroffers, bundles, and eventually a cold goodbye.

There’s no balance in the way companies allocate budget throughout the customer journey. Or perhaps it’s just they think the journey ends when the customer has paid.

There’s a whole lot more to it.

What marketing is not

The inability to listen. The idea that by interrupting and telling your story people will be amazed. The practice of segmenting into hundreds of small niches to feed them whatever they want today. The ideas of optimization, hacking, ranking, fans and followers. The belief that data is better than interactions. The effort to second-guess needs and wants to stay clear of the risk of asking. The easy shortcut of personalised and automated user journey. The unrelentless focus on growth.

Marketing is not ruining the world. The things above are. And at the same time they set expectations, both for marketers and customers, that cannot be met, leading to inevitable dissatisfaction.

Key insights and themes from the research include:

  • Data is a dilemma. But “big data” isn’t marketing’s biggest challenge. It is actually the “small data” – the data used to describe the small, specific attributes delivered directly from the customer through, as an example, the Internet of Things. 36 percent of respondents believe that small data will be the greatest challenge for the organization.
  • We’ve lost the ability to be human, and we can’t blame the machines. Some 41 percent admit that they are overly focused on driving campaigns, forgetting that they are building relationships. Nearly 30 percent admit they think of their customers in terms of targets, records and opportunities – interestingly an equal amount admit that they are also struggling to define and deliver returns from customer experience strategies.
  • Going small could bring our humanity back. Marketers believe small data will help extract better signal from the noise (45 percent), reveal the “why” behind customer actions and behaviors (41 percent), help focus on the people behind the data to deliver more human interactions (35 percent) and aid in filling key gaps across the customer journey (35 percent.)

CMO Council Research


When free and everything are the norm

Tripadvisor has made the news today for an unpleasant story about women behing sexually assaulted in hotels that are reviewed on the website. The article is missing a lot of important information, yet there are a couple of points worth making regarding web platforms and the type of expectations users have.

First of all, what we used to love about the internet (It’s free! You can find everything! Everybody has a voice! It’s freedom!) is gradually becoming more and more nuanced and problematic. People are increasingly asking for a different type of service, one that takes responsibility and action, a service that not only aggregates content, but also curates it and makes sure that it is of high quality on different levels. This is quite a huge reversal, and while I am not sure people really want the kind of restriction and control some are asking to counter the most sensitive problems, it is a growing demand that most internet-based services did not plan for.

Secondly, the very fact that services did not plan for this reverse makes them feel completely lost in the wake of similar requests. They lack this scenario from their DNA, and they are therefore extremely vulnerable. The “platform” mantra – according to which “we are just providing a platform to share content on, we are not responsible for the content itself” – is past obsolete by now. The attempt to respond by increasing the human control is often ineffective, partly because it is guided by the faint aspiration of addressing an emotional problem with rational tools. And artificial intelligence is demonstrating all of its current shortages when deployed to help in this area.

The way we look at internet-based service is clearly shifting. The shift is now driven mainly by extreme cases, that are often followed by extreme demands. There are huge gains available for the platform that will quit putting out fires and start planning for a long term scenario in which free, freedom, and everything are the norm, and the quality and humanity of the service (again, on various levels) will make a difference. I am extremely curious to find out who this player will be.