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A new era of personal data unlocked in an Internet of Things


Marketing in the 20th Century was characterised by mass media, broadcast television, and the rise of one-to-one marketing. Marketing today in the 21st Century is about leveraging those mass market channels to deliver messages targeted with such precision that zero media wastage is within reach. The ‘Internet of Things’ is unlocking a new paradigm in relevancy of messages, and for brands and agencies that get it right, the rewards will be rich.

In the last decade, John Wanamaker’s challenge of 100 years ago has been answered: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half”.

The combination of analytics for conversion tracking, with behavioural targeting and programmatic trading has unlocked a new level of precision that enables display advertising to be focused on the devices of people with relevant interests.

For the last decade, the sites people visit and a few of their actions there have proved a rich source of insight to fuel targeting, but with hindsight it will look like nothing more than an early warm-up act, compared to what’s coming.

The arrival of an Internet of Things will unlock a new order of magnitude in volume and relevance, as rich data from the physical world flows into the same consumer profiling tools. Brace yourself for what’s coming.

After years of hype, the concept of an Internet of Things is becoming real. From smartwatches and intelligent thermostats, to connected toothbrushes and eventually driverless cars, data is flowing to and from the physical world around us, and unlocking this type of messaging. This is technology people will love and readily opt into:

  • When a fridge is out of milk, it will add some to your online retailer’s shopping basket
  • When you miss a dose of medication, your drug company’s app will remind you
  • When your kids cheat on brushing their teeth, you’ll be the one getting reminded, and if they wander away in a crowd your app will tell you where they are
  • When your car is heading on a long journey, it will tell you what needs topping up, and book itself in for the next service
  • When your gym pass shows enough points, your health insurance will fall
  • When you’re away overnight, your pets will get fed, and if they’re unwell your vet’s app will tell you in a way they can’t

As sensors spread into the objects of our lives, and as the phones in our pockets become the dashboards for our daily lives, the way we live will gradually change. All of these are already being tested and the information from each brand is a service people find valuable, while at the same time driving sales for the sponsor.

For marketers this is the one-to-one future you’ve been chasing. Use it wisely, treat the data responsibly, create value and trust among your customers. One-to-one marketing is at the dawn of a new era. The responsibility of agencies, brands and their marketers will decide whether it’s an era in which the one-to-one marketing industry triumphs as a champion of the consumer, or is restricted because of abuse of trust to a small role on the side lines.

This article first appeared in the DM Commission's 2013-14 annual report, published January 2015

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