Smart Device Doesn’t Equal Smart Marketing

The digital marketing world is abuzz with the possibilities unlocked by wearable technology that promises to make marketing smarter. But are mere devices enough to make digital marketing effective? Read on to find out.

Wearable technology is all the rage today. Every way you turn, you will either be bombarded by articles and analyses on products such as Google Glass, smart watches, the Nike + Fuelband wristband and similar products that can be worn and that promise to make consumers’ lives easier and better. The wearable technology industry is worth $800 million dollars and expected to double in a year according to Juniper Research.

Wearable technology intends to influence the world on two counts:

  • it will simplify or/and up the sophistication in customers’ lives influencing customer behavior in big ways
  • it will capture intimate data with permission from customers which could provide the extra edge in data that digital marketing firms around the world will need.

Sarah Rotman Epps from Forrester calls this the Smart Body Smart World paradigm where wearable and embedded devices will revolutionize not only consumers’ lives but also marketers’ understanding of them. These devices are geared mostly towards providing utility to the person who wears/uses them. They are also capable of collecting data at a personal level not achieved so far.

A simple example of this phenomenon is the Nike + iPod sensor. Attached to the shoe of the runner/walker, this sensor sends information regarding the workout to the application on the iPod which can be stored and monitored. This is just a small instance of the potential of such devices. A device called Snapshot by an insurance company called Progressive Casualty Insurance is said to track real-time driving behavior to ascertain consumers’ risk and adjust their automobile insurance policies accordingly. According to the company, users make significant savings thanks to the data.

This technological advancement, however, still has some hiccups that need to be fixed. For starters, consumers have to be convinced that they require these products. Data related problems such as unlocking and sharing of data that could be confidential becomes the next roadblock. Data reliability is still not very good with these devices yet and marketers could easily be led astray. Privacy measures will also be a big concern for consumers.

These sensor-laden devices only means to an end. They cannot achieve their purpose without

  • skill and know-how from marketers’ end to be able to interpret the new volumes of data
  • ensuring that the insights finally lead to contextually relevant messaging

Critics of the wearable technology claim that the concept is shortsighted in its future potential. This may well be true. Let’s suppose marketers tackled all the roadblocks and aced the interpretation, managing to gather actionable insights from the same. So contextually relevant messaging and utility is delivered. Sounds great, but it’s all still missing something.

There is the supposed promise that these sensor-laden devices will encourage more rational decision making, a habit that marketers could well tap into. But in solely depending on these devices and the data they collect, marketers would be missing out on the emotional aspect of pre-purchase decision-making (this is more prevalent in B2C decision-making processes). The requirement to appeal to audience emotion has existed from the beginning of advertising. Take for instance the sequence in the popular series Mad Men, where Sterling Cooper has to come up with an effective campaign for Kodak’s projector wheel. Enter Don Draper, the Creative Director who draws inspiration from his own life experiences, and what ensues is an emotional presentation of how photographs and the act of going through them evokes nostalgia of a powerful sort. So a projector wheel becomes the carousel of nostalgia.

In fact the same emotional appeal can be observed in Dove’s recent campaign where a forensic artist shows women how different their perceptions of themselves are in comparison to how others see them. Perception differences are always eye-openers. Combining them with an aspect that most women are touchy about, i.e. beauty, was an idea that was nothing short of brilliance. The result of which is countless women sharing the ad and making it viral. But the cincher? Communicating to women across the world that Dove understands their insecurities and is reaching out in reassurance. Surely such a great brand must make great products right? Well that’s precisely what Dove wants you to believe.

Campaigns that evoked a whole lot of emotion last year include:

  • P&G’s Thank You Mom campaign
  • Red Bull’s Stratos Jump (large amounts of anticipation and thrill were generated)
  • Nike’s Find Your Greatness campaign (inspiration)
  • Google’s ‘Dear Sophie’ ad

Needless to say these campaigns raked up plenty of positive sentiment for the brands. So what does this essentially translate to? While smart devices may deliver data to enhance targeting, influencing customer purchases still requires marketers’ to appeal to the emotions of the audience.

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