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The Myth Of The Digital Shortcut

What Donald Draper wouldn’t have given to be an ‘ad man’ in 2014. No more sitting around in bars scribbling on napkins while watching people going about their business. No more trying to work out what they’re thinking and how they want to feel in order to sell that feeling back to them, for a company that’s expecting a miracle.

Today all Don would have to do is look at the data.

Our data trail is everywhere. Tiny nuggets of gold created and left behind after almost every action, collected in every tweet and by every store card, Google search and Amazon purchase.

Information about our customers that we could never have known ten, let alone twenty or thirty years ago is ours for the mining.

My supermarket knows what days I shop and how much I spend, so they create targeted offers just for me. A $50 voucher if I keep spending the same amount four weeks running. They serve up discounts for things I buy, without really knowing why I buy them and why in that store.
They mine the data. They know what I do, but they don’t really see me.

Marketing and advertising are shifting from being in the service and persuasion business to becoming data driven behavioural economics industries. Today marketers don’t have to take a best guess—if they get it wrong they can always point to the data.

The data seems like a shortcut to understanding our customers. But the data in isolation is worthless without the intention to make people’s lives better. We can use it to game people into buying two extra packs of toilet paper this week, or we can choose to do something significant that will probably keep them coming back for a lifetime.

Image by RTP.

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