Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Technology for Marketing

Today I paused from daily project estimation to look further ahead.

The over-riding theme of the new media gurus is the racing pace of opportunity, the relentless surge of ever faster processing and ever bigger databases. Goodbye to the old snail's pace of Moore's law - doubling every 18 months. While the number of worldwide web users grows even faster, the network also becomes even more of a collaborative medium, so the number of content suppliers is growing faster still. And that content becomes ever richer with information. Within a few years, some believe that the volume of captured measurable usable information will be doubling every few days.

Meanwhile, in another strand of technology for marketing, we need more and more powerful algorithms to analyse all this data. All the ancient laws of CRM are being re-written. An oft-quoted ideal is to go back to the personal relationship of the local corner shop but with ultimate choice and flexibility. All that personal data, we just need to learn to use it in the way that best satisfies the customer.

So far so predictable.

But there is a parallel development, something that is not so welcome to the marketer. Something that is just glossed over by the futurologists. It is true that we are getting more types of information, but at the same time we are getting more careful about how it is used. Thanks to the legacy of the junk mailers and spammers and ID fraudsters, the customer is understandably cautious about leaving identifiable data. Marketing did jump ahead on the coat-tails of speeding technology, but legislators are catching up.

Meanwhile the organisations that are collecting the data are changing all the time - every year there seems to be a new social networking site of the moment. So the sources of data are becoming more fragmented too.

This still means that there is new opportunity. But it is a different sort of challenge. We need to be more sophisticated in our marketing. More careful with use and audit of data. Where we do not have all the personal information that we would like, we need to make greater use of probabilities and control groups and statistical models. It needs a new type of marketing. Maybe a new type of marketer.

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