Data is King, and the King is Watching

Happy Anniversary, Boots!
A few weeks ago, my Roper boots and I celebrated our 20th-ish anniversary together.  I love these boots, not for the fashion statement, but because function has started preceding form more and more as I get older.  I took a picture on Instagram and posted it to my Facebook account. A few days later, I had a Facebook ad pop up on my phone app for a country and western clothing outlet. Now, I am in no way a country western dresser, I just enjoy a comfortable and dependable pair of feet coverings.  Clearly, my photo had been mined, analyzed and disseminated, and I had been tagged as a Nashville-loving good ole boy. So, that got me thinking ... just how deep does this mining go?

Ad that appeared on FB

So, it's no secret that data gets mined and used to target advertising.  There is a mega-ton of data available driven primarily by social media and increased mobile use. Every time you shop or check in on FourSquare, you are providing detailed information about you and your "move around" habits. That's obvious.

What is not so obvious is the metadata being collected "behind the scenes".  For instance, every photo you take is tagged with gobs of information, from your location to the type of phone to the picture settings. Heck, you can even encrypt top secret information in a simple digital photo, as the infamous Russian spies did a few years ago. Point is, there is more data floating in cyberspace about you than most can comprehend.

Interestingly enough, there was a great AdAge infographic demonstrating just how data get disseminated out there in the Internet ether.  It was difficult to screen grab, but I've included a picture below (linked to page):

So how is it used? Clearly, people much smarter than me can write complex algorithms to grab, analyze and correlate massive collections of data ... in seconds. The potential impact that this information and data could have is awesome.  Marketers and business managers are just starting to realize this, and the "mad grab" of data is just starting.

In the distant past (and by past, I mean cyber-past, so 2 or 3 years), agencies collected information and used it to assist their business clients in making marketing decisions. The Geico gecko is a good example of a data-driven marketing concept. Geico had planned to "kill" the gecko after it's introduction, but the marketing data showed that the little guy was extremely affective at driving traffic and gaining new clients.

Let's face it, who couldn't love this little guy?

These days, companies are starting to bring data mining in-house.  Big firms, such as P&G, Unilever and Kimberly Clark are starting to collect and analyze data without going through agencies. The primary reason is for control and faster reactions times. Agencies will argue that companies don't have the proper capabilities to mine the data and can get distracted from and neglect their primary businesses, so they should leave it up to the professionals. 

Of course they said this.

I believe, however, that in the near future (and by future, I mean cyber-future, so 2-3 years), new resources and tools will become available for large and small businesses alike to capture and use this data.

Some tools are already available, such as Salesforce, Infusionsoft, Meltwater Press.  Many are difficult to use and require a great amount of time to manage.  As well, with so many different services and service levels available, it is almost impossible to determine which "trend" to latch on to.  Like every new technology that has been introduced, data mining will soon become cheaper and easier to manage, and winners in the industry will eventually surface.

For now, however, we'll all just have to depend on our own data and be willing to put time and effort into analyzing it.  It will be time consuming, but companies that fail to do so will fail to move their organization onto the same playing field as their competitors.

I am excited about the progress and potential.  Many people have a problem with "Big Brother" watching and analyzing our every move and using our own personal data to predict our needs and desires.

I say ... bring it on.

We still have a long way to go, as evidence by the fact that I have made several home-brew supply purchases over the past three months, but only posted one random picture of boots.  Instead of western wear promotions, I should be flooded with home brew adverts!  So, clearly the algorithms need to be tweaked.  Or, maybe this is intentional.  After all, I clearly do not need to be persuaded to buy home brew supplies, but haven't purchased new boots in 20 years.

So, let this serve as my notice to "Big Brother" ... my Ropers and I are fine.

How do you feel about "big data" targeting advertisements?  Please leave a comment below!