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OMD Sense. How brands are using online info to benefit of consumers

OMD Sense. How brands are using online info to benefit of consumers

By Sam D’Amato and Ben Haley, OMD.

“A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies”. - The Cluetrain Manifesto, Levine et al

A few months ago, the Sense Newsletter ‘Tide of Transparency’, explored how consumers’ relationships with brands were evolving. Consumers increasingly demand that brands are open, direct and honest with them.

Successful brands will be the ones that use their customers’ comments and conversations, whether motivated by complaint or compliment, as an opportunity to communicate and improve their offering.

In this Sense Newsletter, we take a look at other side of the coin. How what we do online forms an important part of who we are, as individuals. How brands can use this information to our benefit, or our detriment.

Be it Twitter, Facebook, Bebo, MySpace, LinkedIn, YouTube, your own blog, website, or comments you have left on others, just about everyone reading this will have engaged in a conversation in one of the many online communities out there.

‘Foreverism’ is a term that relates to the many ways consumers and companies are embracing conversations and relationships that have no end point.

Your personal profile will live on forever in a constantly evolving encyclopaedia of your life that leaves you constantly connected and traceable.

Through Twitter feeds, Facebook status updates, Flickr photo uploads and ever more sophisticated tools like Google’s Latitude which enable you to pinpoint the location of people at any given point in time, we will be able to find, follow, interact and collaborate with anyone and anything at any time.

It doesn’t even end with death. Our virtual selves live on, through Facebook’s new facility that allows our friends to memorialise our page.

In Japan, QR codes (the black and white patterned square bar codes) adorn graves, rendering their inhabitants virtually immortal. Scan the code via your camera phone, and you will access websites detailing and picturing the lives of the deceased.

The implications of all of this for consumers and companies are incredible. Once people realise the benefits of being forever present and visible, the possibilities are endless for those they trust.

A thought provoking example in a recent Wired article (source1, see below) by Russell Davies proposed a situation whereby Fed Ex send you a text asking you to hold out your arm. As you do so a cyclist passes by dropping a letter into your palm.

Using this example as inspiration, one can soon see that the possibilities are endless.

Smaller, portable devices will benefit from being able to connect to ‘the cloud’. This enables faster processing of information.

You get instant translations when abroad, more detailed price comparisons and reviews when shopping, photo recognition of places and people; your trusted brands get information about where you are, what you’re buying and who you are with.

There has been much talk in the past year about data and privacy. Renowned computer scientist and author James Martin stated, ‘today people worry about privacy - that their computers know too much about them.

Tomorrow they’ll worry about the opposite: we’ll want a personal machine that knows everything about us so it can offer us the best possible assistance (source 2, see below).

Whether or not this is true for the majority is currently being debated. According to recent research published by the Information Commissioner’s Office, data privacy p y p y ranked alongside preventing crime in the list of the most pressing social concerns currently said to be facing the country, giving it a higher priority rating than equal rights, the NHS and national security.

Marketers must seek to reassure their brand’s consumers of the benefits of sharing personal data, and assuage their fears about it being used for the wrong purposes.

The IAB says that behavioural targeting accounts for 10-15% of online advertising. Enders Analysis predicts this figure will reach 30% by 2013.

However, various studies (source 3, see below) have shown that at least 30% of internet users delete their cookies (a key component of online behavioural targeting) at least once a month.

The desire from advertisers is undoubtedly there; the public may need some further convincing.

It’s not particularly new, nor necessarily difficult, to convince consumers to give up useful information.

Over two-thirds of us have loyalty cards (source 4, see below). The Tesco Clubcard, with 13 million users, and the Boots Advantage card, with 16 million users, are great examples of where consumers can see the (financial) benefit of giving small amounts of data to organisations that they trust.

Over time, these schemes have assembled a huge database of where we live, what we buy, and how often we shop.

What makes us trust the likes of Tesco and Boots with our data? Is it our regular and long-standing interaction with them, or simply because they give us small incentives and rewards?

When considering how we use consumer information, companies thus need to think about the consumer first.

Think less about sales and more about providing a better service. The brands that use their customer data to make their service not only tailored and relevant, but better, more useful, interesting or entertaining, will be the ones that win with consumers.

Sources: 1-Wired 26/5/9; 2-‘The Meaning of the 21st century’; 3-Comscore ’07; Nielsen ’05; Jupiter ’05. 4-PSOS/Identity and Passport Service 

Ben Haley
Insight Manager, Manning Gottlieb OMD
Direct: +44 (0)20 74705482
Mobile: +44 (0)7798 630564

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