A: Read this, and weep.
To extend our recent theme of the need for robot brains, it seems the corporate marketing race has recently been outpacing its top management’s skill set. Hence, at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School, they are launching a new “CMO Program,” with “CMO” being Chief Marketing Officer.
The core problem, it seems, is that the mountains of surveillance data being gathered from the internet and toothbrushes are growing faster than our Dear Leaders’ capacities to turn it into shareholders returns.
Here is the explanation from Gregory Carpenter “the James Farley/Booz Allen Hamilton Professor of Marketing Strategy at the Kellogg School of Management and Faculty Director of the Kellogg Markets and Customers Initiative (KMCI), and Academic Director of the [new] Kellogg CMO program”:
[M]any executives have long viewed marketing as more art than science….Companies across industries are struggling to extract value from rapidly evolving technologies such as data analytics and social media, and CMOs will increasingly drive these efforts….[which] have created more dynamic and potentially more profitable opportunities for companies that can infuse marketing into every facet of the enterprise.
While tactics will come and go, the more significant challenge will be organizational. Companies will have to make a massive investment to find, attract, integrate, retain and develop key talent such as data scientists and social media specialists. To be effective, CMOs will also have to gain a better understanding of analytics, social media monitoring and the organizational challenges they pose.
These objectives will require CMOs to expand beyond their traditional responsibilities. Yet many marketing executives lack the range of skills and knowledge to excel in this changing environment. One of the primary obstacles for potential CMOs is that so much of the knowledge they must acquire to be successful lies beyond their formal marketing organization. With little time to learn on the job, the most successful candidates will focus on professional development in the years preceding their ascendancy. Leadership training programs have long been offered to aspiring executives, but CMO candidates must actively seek out mentoring opportunities in increasingly critical areas such as technology and data analytics.
Imagine for a second that you could interview a product. How often is it being used? For how long? And where in the house does it live?
Sounds crazy, but it’s increasingly probable as marketers mine for data beyond the usual places — web browsers, loyalty programs and smartphones — and capture information from pill packages, soda fountains and the most mundane of consumer implements, the toothbrush.Yes. The toothbrush.
Take the $49.99 Beam Brush, launched in January. It syncs with a user’s smartphone to record brushing time, and that data can be tracked and shared with dentists, orthodontists and, eventually, insurance companies.
Sounds crazy? No. Sounds entirely logical, if you understand corporate capitalism and its marketing race.
And here’s the equally predictable thinking behind such new devices:
“People often refer to us as a toothbrush company, but we’re not. We’re actually not interested in toothbrushes at all. We’re interested in health data,” said Alex Frommeyer, co-founder of Beam Technologies, based in Louisville, Ky. “In many ways, [data-tracking] is the entire point” of the Beam Brush.
In the quaint old days in which the TCT book was written, I used to keep track of how ads were showing up in places like urinals and the bottoms of golf holes. Now, the products themselves are being used not just as marketing stimuli, but as yet another way of spying on targets.
Ad Age sees wonders ahead:
[B]eyond fitness and health care, the data mined from sensor-equipped products could hold huge advantages for marketers. The biggest opportunity could be in more “simple product” categories — such as consumer packaged goods — in which data-generating technology helps marketers test ideas and could eventually guide everything from product positioning to distribution.
In effect, data allows marketers to get feedback directly from products, said John T. Cain, VP of SapientNitro and co-founder of Sapient-owned Iota Partners, an agency that “instruments” products and environments to understand consumer behavior.
“If you could talk to the products, you might get a completely different perspective,” he said, doing his best rendition of a 21st century Dr. Dolittle. “As the price of technology comes down, increasingly there will be and can be embedded sensing bits in products.”
Market totalitarianism anybody?
As we TCTers know, Facebook is in the marketing business — nothing more, nothing less. Its reason for existence is to make money by providing other major corporations with a new and improved vehicle for spying on people’s off-the-job habits and preferences.
As such, Facebook is 100 percent subject to the logic of big business marketing, including its competitive, ceaseless expansion and refinement.
Hence, the recent news that Facebook’s subordinate property, the Instagram photo-sharing “service,” has recently started offering Facebook’s real clients access to the new GazeMetrix image analyzer.
What’s that, you ask? Per Advertising Age:
Instagram’s rise is spawning an ecosystem of startups such as Statigram and Nitrogram looking to provide analytics to brands….GazeMetrix’s ability to see what’s inside photos without relying on hashtags to interpret which are relevant is its differentiator.
GazeMetrix is an early stage startup with image-recognition software to let brands track where their logos are being photographed across social media….The idea is to give brands a window into how their logos are representing them, as well as an opportunity to contact users who’ve posted photos of Starbucks cups or cats hugging Coke bottles, and ask for permission to republish them on their own channels.
Of the 25 brands GazeMetrix is tracking, Starbucks is tops in terms of the volume of photos featuring its logo. Runners-up are Coca-Cola, BMW, Monster Energy, Google and Corona.
Translated into English, what this says is that Facebook is gaining the ability to collect data on its victims not only through the words they click on and type, but also through computerized recognition and analysis of the pictures and symbols they post.
TCT wonders: How long until there are Facebook Life Cameras© hung in every home?
This political marketer with the hippie visage is Ethan Roeder, departing data director for Obama for America. Mr. Roeder has just published a New York Times op-ed titled “I Am not Big Brother.” He doth, of course, protest way too much.
Ethan says his “day job” — he fancies himself a movement organizer, but more on that howler in a minute — is “political data.” Sadly for him, it seems he feels somewhat besieged by public distaste for this job. He is not, he swears, “an all-knowing super-genius.”
But think for a moment, Ethan: Is that really what people hate about marketing in general and political marketing specifically? Do folks think the Ethan Roeders of the world are mad scientists running amok? Or is it more that they know the Ethan Roeders of the world allow corporate politicians to manipulate voters with more efficiency and no more honesty than ever?
Ethan doesn’t ask that question, of course. Instead, he heaps on more hyperbolic straw-man accusations against himself:
If I’m not spying on private citizens through the security cam in the parking garage, I’m probably sifting through their garbage for discarded pages from their diaries or deploying billions of spambots to crack into their e-mail.
If all those things are false, Ethan concludes, then he’s just a humble campaigner trying to help us all “engage” and share our ideas.
Of course, he also doesn’t mention the obverse of the coin with which he fancies he’s purchased his innocence, the assurance that “campaigns don’t know anything more about your online behavior than any retailer, news outlet or savvy blogger.” That flip-side is the reality that modern political campaigns are neither more nor less than ordinary brand marketing efforts, and votes are merely the purchase people like Roeder are hired to finagle.
“[T]echnology,” he says as if it’s some comfort, “is allowing campaigns to finally see through the fog of the crowd and engage voters one by one.”
That one on one relationship is entirely about product-positioning, and zero percent about candidates genuinely seeking ideas and proposals from constituents. (Not that Ethan doesn’t try to sell the latter notion.)
And what about that nighttime struggle? Mr. Roeder is also apparently a principal at a place called, Orwellianly enough, the New Organizing Instutute, where he peddles the idea that the encroachment of political marketing into movement organizing is somehow an advance, rather than a severe malignancy, in movement organizing.
He even has a brand name for his confusion — “engagement organizing.”
Engagement Organizers start with time-tested grassroots organizing strategies, grounded in the behavioral sciences and hardened in the field. We combine these strategies with emerging online tools and technology.
Translation? “Engagement organizers” are people who use marketing research on behalf of their clients, to try to surreptitiously provoke some action that would not otherwise occur. They are the Ethan Roeders of the world.
Remember the talking point?: “Not Big Brother.”
The public knows marketing is “a bunch of b.s.” Except, of course, it’s much worse than that. It is a bunch of b.s. deployed with scientific care for the most cynical of possible reasons, with itter disregard for the most important human needs, not least of which is a political economy compatible with ecological sustainability.
Rapid advancements in the digital world mean marketers must constantly change how their brands reach and relate to consumers. At the same time, the audience-buying community has also been advancing, growing increasingly more sophisticated as it drills down to target specific audiences in key demographics while offering new metrics and tools to determine ROI.