How to Avoid Convergence Collision

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by: Matt Rhodes

At the E-consultancy Future of Digital Media conference last week the focus was on two magic words “relevance” and “engagement”. In Ian Jindal’s stimulating and lively talk he correctly pointed out that marketing hasn’t actually changed much, even though where we choose to communicate our messages may have. Consumers are at saturation point so the only thing left is for companies to get better at attracting customers from their competitors. The ‘How’ was the focus of the day. There were three themes:

  1. engaging customers around content using publishing techniques
  2. how to add a layer of social discovery around your brand
  3. finding ways to manipulate data to do our marketing for us

Many Intermediaries, product manufacturers and retailers are developing strategies around multimedia content to engage customers. Thomas Cook showed a particularly impressive video of their new 360 degree marketing strategy, complete with store front touch screens, co-browsing between customer and agent and every conceivable video clip you could imagine to show you what your resort will be like when you get there (which somehow I felt took the discovery out of it). The issue for most companies with this approach is the sheer cost of it and the skill sets needed to become programmers and publishers, as well as focus on your core business. The other issue was that there was one viewpoint that appeared to be missing from the strategy – the customer’s! Thomas Cook is still in broadcast mode.

The jury was out when it comes to engaging customers effectively using social network sites like Facebook. Brands are just not managing to attract the levels of fans they would like and I believe that it’s because people are, well, hanging out with friends and simply not in buying mode. Companies that have developed non intrusive, useful and engaging tools like Mydeco’s Roomshare seem to be having more success. Considering 56% people go to a brands home page to check out information first, it might be better to find a way to encourage people to stay there. For sectors like Insurance, where aggregator sites like and cashback sites like have contributed to a reduction of customer lifetime value from 3-5yrs to 1-2yrs, the focus has to be on finding better ways of retaining their customers once they are delivered to their door.

Understanding data is essential to running any business and more importantly what action you take from looking at it. The new kid on the block is APML or attention profiling markup language. It is a common standard to describe your interests, likes and dislikes and how much each means to you (weighting). The idea is that your attention profile is owned by you and is portable so you can decide which websites you want to share it with for more relevant surfing. Currently Amazon is the only company doing a good job of recommending to us what we’re interested in but they own your profile and the process isn’t transparent. In theory it’s a great way to reduce information overload but it feels like a very long way off, if at all feasible. When I think about how I tag my bookmarks with words like ‘cop’ (which to me means community of practice, not policeman) and when I think about how often I change my likes and dislikes, it feels like someone is going to have to do a lot of work to maintain this profile (either me or a very clever programmer). I would love to hear your thoughts on this whole area!

Don’t get me wrong, as data fragments into smaller, accessible pieces, there are many innovative ways to play it back to your customers in really useful ways. Some good examples that add a valuable social layer for customers include the new AMEX Members Know community where members can see the most popular hotels and restaurants based on anonymous purchase data and Flickr’s use of the Exif data hidden in your digital photos about which camera was used to take a photograph which is the served up as a league table of the best digital cameras. We’re going to see a lot more of this.

I tend to agree with Simon Waldman of the Guardian who commented that sometimes qualitative measures like “Why are you on our site and did you get what you came for?” are equally important. Having conversations with your customers might just reveal what they actually want from you!

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