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?