2018 Media and Marketing Trends across Content, Data and Technology. PART 3: DATA

Data is the flavor of the month

Skidding around the door like a late, naughty school-kid, comes our third post on Data Trends for 2018. Get in here, you scallywag!

Data science and its marketing is a subject that is here to stay, which to us, is refreshing in an industry too often full of whimsy and subjectivity. Over the past few years, however, our industry has developed a twisted relationship with data. At times we’ve seen it as a silver bullet, overplaying our hand, measuring “things” just because they can be measured without objectively interpreting the meaning or impact of what we’re doing; hello, fan count! Then there’s the bright, new shiny stuff in the world of emerging data trends that is cooooool. But first, we need to wind our way through the woods of regulation to get there. So let’s talk first about what’s around the corner and then reward ourselves with the awesome shiny toys of the future.

Measurement in a mire

It’s well known that we have an ongoing issue in terms of measurement; for example, while research says that online video is the present and the future, the major players can’t align on industry-wide benchmarks as they relate to it. Sure, action is being taken – internal councils are being formed, third-party integration solutions and independent industry audits are being conducted… but a lot of it is simply sound and fury, given that the actions aren’t necessarily solving the brand owner’s problem. Industry bodies such as the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Media Ratings Council (MRC) have been active in trying to progress discussion but you only have to look at their recent Digital Video Impression Measurement Guidelines, released in October 2017 for public discussion, to see that we’re not making progress fast enough. When you don’t have major media players such as Facebook and Omnicom at the table, there’s a telling sign. Also – notice the narrowing of the title? Now, major players, such as Nestle and HP are going out on their own; we predict that others will follow and that solutions will come from the brands and media intelligence firms this time, rather than the platform players, establishing metrics that matter to their business rather than industry-agnostic measures of old.

Walled gardens rise as a butterfly effect takes hold

There’s no way of putting this mildly: the free ride for brands on digital media – particularly as it relates to data acquisition is well and truly over and the stakes are rising for publishers.  The EU’s General Data Protection Law (GDPR) brings consumer protection firmly into the limelight. What’s worrying is how many brands, agencies and developers have their eyes closed to it but to do so is dangerous from a reputation, legal and financial POV. Why? Read our previous post for background, with advice from MENA media legal eagle, Fiona Robertson.

A perhaps unintended consequence of the GDPR laws is the rise of the walled garden, aka closed platforms. Platforms will now have to work harder at providing truly compelling, free services in exchange for audiences to provide them with personal data. No way will they be giving customer data away for free anymore. While GDPR is designed to protect its audience, it means an increase in advertising investment from brands seeking personalized customer interaction and validated audience data from platforms. Expect brands to be a lot more discerning about their media spends, a lot more demanding when it comes to data quality and unfortunately… for the smaller publishers to suffer they don’t get their ducks in a row. Throw in the universal uptake of ad-blockers and the repeal of net neutrality (which we are still in denial about) and you can see just how well-protected these walled gardens will be.

We asked location tech firm, Blis’, Managing Director Puja Pannum to weigh in. “Understanding audiences and where to reach them is a marketer’s number one priority before their first dollar is spent, and with more and richer data, targeting capabilities naturally improve. While it’s an absolute priority to protect consumer data, it is also beneficial [for vendors] to be transparent with brands about ROI and footfall data. But to do that, it needs to go both ways,” said Puja. “Brands need to be as transparent and open about their analytics and data sources, like loyalty card data and Google analytics, as vendors are about ROI. Currently, this is the only missing element in end-to-end transparency, something players on both sides should be striving for. In 2018, promoting the sharing of these kinds of data will help brands and their chosen partners build campaigns on more data sources and benefit from a holistic view of what’s working versus what’s not.”

Human + machine gives birth to Digital Twins

One of the more interesting aspects to come from the fusion of Internet of Things (IoT) and machine learning is the Digital Twin. A Digital Twin is a virtual replica of physical assets, processes and systems which uses data to enable understanding, learning, reasoning and prediction. The aviation, aerospace and automotive sectors are the leaders in this field, whereby real-time analytics of critical aspects (such as tyre pressure, temperature, distance and speed) have been used to optimize efficiencies.

Where Digital Twin technology starts to get really interesting is in the area of predictive modeling and future-proofing, where we’ll start to see not just the what but the why, generated by the emergence of the “Digital Thread”. The Digital Thread is the contextualization or connectedness of data, informed by the integration of large and multiple data flows, both real time and historical, leading to actionable information – such as establishment of digital twins being able to accurately predict a range of outcomes at scale.

Gartner predicts that by 2021 around half of large industrialized companies will be using Digital Twins. All this said, Digital Twin technology has been around for decades – were it not for Digital Twins, the Apollo 13 mission may well have been doomed – it was this practice that enabled them to mirror how they could rescue the mission when it ran into trouble. Without Digital Twin technology, there would be no Mars rover Curiosity! Take a look at the video below, to see how curiosity, technology, ingenuity and data join forces to make miracles!

Thanks for reading our 2018 trends across content, technology and data. Please feel to drop us a line and let us know what you’re thinking about in this realm and of course, we welcome your feedback too!


Crisis management and tone-deaf CEOs: How brands are creating untold losses through introverted communications

While it could be Game Over for United Airline’s CEO Oscar Munoz, it’s Game On for Emirates Airline and others.

Upon winning the accolade of PR Week’s Communicator Of The Year last month Oscar Munoz, United Airlines’ CEO, said “Communication and communication strategy is not just part of the game, it IS the game.” In our industry, never are truer words spoken. After Oscar Munoz’s response to a crisis this week, one can only imagine his giant facepalm.

April, it seems, is the season for kicking corporate own goals. In just a matter of weeks we’ve seen all manner of corporate and senior spokesperson public mishaps, from Sean Spicer to United Airlines. Crises that are mismanaged and subsequently  inflamed by internal stakeholders are sending stocks plummeting, drastically impacting both revenue and business continuity, giving rise to popular boycotts and creating media feeding frenzies.

The United Airlines Crisis

Just a few days ago, a Chinese doctor on an overbooked United Airlines flight was violently removed – on the airline’s command – and was left bleeding from the head, on a stretcher. His crime? He was a paying customer declining to leave on the basis that he had patients to see at the destination. The reason for his removal? United needed his seat – any seat – for their own employees. You can read the sordid story here. As you can imagine, passengers and public were shocked; the incident, recorded by other passengers, quickly became viral.

Rather than taking a humble step back, apologizing and demonstrating action and compassion for the victim, Oscar Munoz, the company’s CEO went on the offensive, describing the passenger as “disruptive and belligerent” and stating that the airline had simply followed company procedures. This, from the CEO named “Communicator of the Year”….

Cue: a 6% stock nosedive – roughly equating to $US1bn.

Cue: social media outcry and savage trolling. Like the fake image you see as the header on this post.

Cue: the media frenzy.

Cue: claims of racial profiling.

Cue: an international boycott, particularly in China, which is a key market.

Cue: a scathingly witty and on-point response by their nemesis, Emirates, which not only delivered a brilliant attack but also hijacked United’s tagline of “Fly The Friendly Skies” (with Emirates).

…And didn’t everyone have fun with the memes!

United Airlines satire

…Not to mention that wickedly funny parody ad from Jimmy Kimmel.

For United, this won’t just go away. What we are witnessing is just the beginning of  what is likely to be sustained financial and reputation damage and exposure. We are yet to see just how this impacts the airline over the longer term (it’s further compounded by the public outcry to the airline’s “leggings ban” just two weeks ago).

While the situation on-board was ghastly, the CEO’s response made matters worse; his was selfish, cold and astonishingly tone deaf to the situation and public sentiment. The fact that he backtracked with a softer statement – after the stocks had taken a tumble mind you – was not interesting to the media or public and at any rate, it appeared commercially motivated and insincere. 

There’s also a bigger play here. It’s in the context of the Open Skies dispute – a ‘Dynasty’-like saga between the Gulf airlines and US airlines. United has handed this disaster to Emirates on a golden platter. Emirates, with their relatable and ongoing campaign featuring “America’s Sweetheart” Jennifer Aniston are winning the battle for American hearts and minds. And this is a point so many senior executives fail to remember; ultimately, we are in the business of winning hearts and minds.

It doesn’t matter how many lobbyists and lawyers and politicians the US airline consortium throw at the Open Skies scenario, travelers are going to vote with their feet. If the public believe that they are going to get better, kinder, more attentive service from the Gulf airlines, then attempts at hurting them will just create a bigger backlash toward the US carriers – and we’ve seen signs of this with the recent laptop ban.

Certain other brands must be breathing a sigh of relief. Finally the attention has turned a little from them. But that’s another story entirely… or is it?

Brand Extroversion vs. Brand Introversion

Looking at the recent spate of crises, from brands such as United to public figures such as Sean Spicer, there is a common thread worth noting. At Bravo Romeo, we talk about introversion and extroversion in communications. By definition, introversion is the act of directing one’s attention toward or getting gratification from one’s own interests, thoughts, and feelings. In an age of economic uncertainty and hard revenue targets, it’s seemingly too easy for executives to get caught up in the day to day and lose sight of the bigger picture. Placing this in the context of United’s response, you can see an introverted communications mentality at work. They’re blinkered, they can’t see the woods for the trees, they are simply caught up in their own world instead of listening to the perspectives, needs and wants of others.

This is not best practice for a modern day business. A business operating in the technological world of new media must be responsive and proactive. They must be Brand Extroverts.

Why Your Brand Should Be an Extrovert

For brands, extroversion is all about forming positive, authentic relationships with customers and stakeholders. Relationships that endure. It’s about having a public that love you when times are good and still stand by and defend your brand when times are bad…. because the public know you have a proven history of caring for them and that you demonstrate interest in them.

Being a Brand Extrovert is a process that is incremental; and it takes hard work. It requires a long term communications program, not a “hit-and-run”, on/off campaign-based approach. Think of your communications activities as milestones in a long marathon, rather than individual sprints and having more granular, more two way conversations with the public.

Being a Brand Extrovert means having a communications and a content marketing strategy that gives equal priority to both the needs of the audience and the business. It involves listening to the customer, reaching out proactively and developing products, services and communications around their needs.

This is a business strategy we’re talking about here – not “just” a communications strategy – and subsequently it must have buy-in at the highest level with the communications lead given a permanent seat at the boardroom table.

The mentality of brand extroversion needs to run through the company, from the CEO to the Receptionist; as an internal and external communications culture. See it as part of your corporate DNA – because the minute a company looks to serve itself ahead of its customers, it is setting itself up to kick an own goal.