SDN Journal Authors: Pat Romanski, Patrick Hubbard, Elizabeth White, Sven Olav Lund, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: @BigDataExpo, Microservices Expo, @CloudExpo, SDN Journal

@BigDataExpo: Blog Post

Creepy Big Data Marketing By @TheEbizWizard | @CloudExpo [#BigData]

Most marketers don’t understand how to draw the line between attentive and creepy

The Big Data Marketing Creepiness Factor

We've all been there: on our lunch hour we surreptitiously visit our favorite My Little Pony fan site. Then hours later we bring our laptop to a meeting and project our client's corporate web site for all to see - and right there at the top is a banner ad for My Little Pony: The Movie. How did that site know about our secret fetish? How embarrassing! How creepy!

When a marketer identifies a user's web behavior or search terms in order to subsequently serve relevant ads on other sites is an example of retargeting. The goal is to catch consumers before they're ready to make a purchase and serve them ads relevant to their expressed preference in order to close the deal - even though we consumers may have already made our purchase, or perhaps our behavior didn't mean we were shopping for anything after all. Either way, many people find retargeting creepy.

The creepiness comes from the impression that the marketer knows more about you than you want or expect them to know, and furthermore, they know how to follow you around. In other words, they're spying on you and stalking you. As I said, creepy.

Here's the rub: while marketers know that the creepy factor is counterproductive, discouraging the very purchasing behavior they seek to encourage, most marketers still don't understand how to draw the line between attentive and creepy - or how to reduce the creepiness factor.

Even worse: the big data technology behind retargeting is only the tip of the iceberg. Marketers are getting better and better at knowing more and more about you and at predicting your behaviors and desires. If you're getting the heebie-jeebies that some big company is stalking you - well, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

Creepiness Galore
Today the creepiness factor crops up in many places. A few years ago Target famously concluded a teenage girl was pregnant based on her purchasing behavior and sent her coupons accordingly - revealing her status to her now-irate father.

Another example: many retailers are now going crazy over iBeacons that identify when target users are in close proximity and can thus feed customized messages to their phones or other nearby devices. Let's say you google for a great handbag, and then go to the mall. As you walk by a store, your name appears on a big screen in the window and a Siri-like voice informs you the handbag you were googling is on sale inside.

All together now: creepy!

Needless to say, the pace of innovation in such Big Data-driven targeting technology is advancing unabated. There is so much noise in today's omnichannel world that anything a marketer can do to get your attention is welcome - and furthermore, the more information they can collect about you, the better. For the marketer, Big Data mean big cha-ching.

So, what did Target do to adjust their creepyville marketing to pregnant women? Bananas. That's right, bananas. Everybody eats bananas. Bananas are safe. So mix in coupons for bananas (and other safe items) with coupons for baby formula and diapers, and now it's harder to tell that Target is targeting you because you're pregnant.

In other words, they're still stalking you, only they're getting better at it. Creepy!

Breaking Down the Creepiness Factor
To be fair, marketers as a rule are very smart people, and they realize that crossing the creepiness line is counterproductive. Furthermore, many of them also realize that bananas are not an adequate solution. However, what marketers generally haven't done is spent enough time analyzing the creepiness factor.

The good news is that we can break down creepiness using many of the same techniques that marketers use every day. In particular, we need an understanding of different creepiness thresholds for different populations.

Different demographic segments will have different levels of tolerance for potentially creepy behavior. Millennials may be more tolerant than seniors, for example. We can also expect cultural and regional differences: I'm sure the French have a different perception than rural Americans.

And then there's the desensitization factor. For those of us who are online a large portion of our lives, retargeting was creepy in its early days, but now we're used to it. Thus, expect casual Internet users to be more sensitive than the uber-connected.

However, all of these population-dividing techniques are subject to the normal distribution. There will always be some percentage of any population - even, say, the most jaded urban American millennials - who find certain marketing to be overly intrusive. The question for marketers, then, is how much creepiness-related backlash are you willing to tolerate among your target market segment in order to market successfully to the rest of that segment?

And most important of all, how do you actually quantify what percentage of a specific market segment will find a particular marketing technique to be creepy? Simple: ask them. Every marketer should get in the habit of surveying members of its target audience segment by segment on any technique that might approach the creepiness line. If the first time you hear how creepy that new marketing campaign appears is on Twitter, it's probably too late.

In other words, big data helped get us into this mess, and small data will help get us out. The bottom line: creepiness analysis should be a mandatory tool in any modern data-driven marketing tool belt.

Beyond Bananas: Mitigating Creepiness
It's important to keep in mind that well-targeted, personalized marketing isn't always creepy. In some cases consumers welcome and value such marketing. So, what's the difference?

When people explicitly opt in to receive certain marketing messages, they're less likely to think the messages are creepy - but only if they remember opting in, and the messages contain content they expect and appreciate. However, even opting in isn't good enough if people are surprised by the level of information the marketer has about them.

In fact, surprise is the most significant element of creepiness. Marketing crosses the line into creepiness only when the receipt of a targeted message is surprising, or when recipients are surprised that a company has some particular knowledge about them.

If the teen had told Target she was pregnant and/or asked Target to send her pregnancy-related coupons, then nobody would have been upset with Target (whether dad would still be upset with her or her boyfriend is a different story).

Fair enough - but marketers won't be happy with this answer. After all, they have all this newfangled big data technology to help them target customers. The last thing you want to do is wait around for a trickle of opt-ins! Surely there's a way to address creepiness while still improving our ability to target our desired audience.

The answer is to get smarter about how marketers reduce the surprise factor. Keep customers informed about the information you're collecting about them, how you're collecting it, and what you're going to do with it. Furthermore, putting the details in the fine print won't cut it. You must be explicit.

And while most marketing activities don't require the formal opt-in process that bulk email does, it's still important to ask users' permission for increased levels of interaction and targeting, if only in a subtle and informal way. Therein lies the art of big data-driven targeted marketing.

The Intellyx Take: The Antidote to Creepiness is Conversation
The boy that stares at you throughout the high school dance but never says a word is creepy. But the boy that comes up to you and engages in a conversation is not. The same is true for marketing.

Remember that the most important lesson from social media marketing is that today's marketing cannot be a one-way street. It must be conversational, a back-and-forth between company and customer.

The same principle applies to data-driven targeted marketing. Yes, as big data marketing tools improve, companies will have greater insight into their customers' desires and behaviors, and increasingly intrusive technology touchpoints for interacting with those customers. But customers do not want to be surprised by such technology. They want to be informed, and they want to be empowered.

Never forget that the driving force behind today's digital transformation is the customer and their behaviors and desires. Marketing and its supporting technology serve to facilitate interactions with customers, but only on their terms, not the marketers'.

Don't be that creepy boy at the dance. Engage in real conversations with your customers and respect their desires, and you'll get the girl every time.

Intellyx advises companies on their digital transformation initiatives and helps vendors communicate their agility stories. As of the time of writing, none of the organizations mentioned in this article are Intellyx customers.

More Stories By Jason Bloomberg

Jason Bloomberg is the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise. As president of Intellyx, Mr. Bloomberg brings his years of thought leadership in the areas of Cloud Computing, Enterprise Architecture, and Service-Oriented Architecture to a global clientele of business executives, architects, software vendors, and Cloud service providers looking to achieve technology-enabled business agility across their organizations and for their customers. His latest book, The Agile Architecture Revolution (John Wiley & Sons, 2013), sets the stage for Mr. Bloomberg’s groundbreaking Agile Architecture vision.

Mr. Bloomberg is perhaps best known for his twelve years at ZapThink, where he created and delivered the Licensed ZapThink Architect (LZA) SOA course and associated credential, certifying over 1,700 professionals worldwide. He is one of the original Managing Partners of ZapThink LLC, the leading SOA advisory and analysis firm, which was acquired by Dovel Technologies in 2011. He now runs the successor to the LZA program, the Bloomberg Agile Architecture Course, around the world.

Mr. Bloomberg is a frequent conference speaker and prolific writer. He has published over 500 articles, spoken at over 300 conferences, Webinars, and other events, and has been quoted in the press over 1,400 times as the leading expert on agile approaches to architecture in the enterprise.

Mr. Bloomberg’s previous book, Service Orient or Be Doomed! How Service Orientation Will Change Your Business (John Wiley & Sons, 2006, coauthored with Ron Schmelzer), is recognized as the leading business book on Service Orientation. He also co-authored the books XML and Web Services Unleashed (SAMS Publishing, 2002), and Web Page Scripting Techniques (Hayden Books, 1996).

Prior to ZapThink, Mr. Bloomberg built a diverse background in eBusiness technology management and industry analysis, including serving as a senior analyst in IDC’s eBusiness Advisory group, as well as holding eBusiness management positions at USWeb/CKS (later marchFIRST) and WaveBend Solutions (now Hitachi Consulting).

@CloudExpo Stories
Recently, REAN Cloud built a digital concierge for a North Carolina hospital that had observed that most patient call button questions were repetitive. In addition, the paper-based process used to measure patient health metrics was laborious, not in real-time and sometimes error-prone. In their session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sean Finnerty, Executive Director, Practice Lead, Health Care & Life Science at REAN Cloud, and Dr. S.P.T. Krishnan, Principal Architect at REAN Cloud, will discuss how they bu...
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, will discuss how from store operations...
As hybrid cloud becomes the de-facto standard mode of operation for most enterprises, new challenges arise on how to efficiently and economically share data across environments. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Dr. Allon Cohen, VP of Product at Elastifile, will explore new techniques and best practices that help enterprise IT benefit from the advantages of hybrid cloud environments by enabling data availability for both legacy enterprise and cloud-native mission critical applications. By rev...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, James Henry, Co-CEO/CTO of Calgary Scientific Inc., will introduce you to the challenges, solutions and benefits of training AI systems to solve visual problems with an emphasis on improving AIs with continuous training in the field. He will explore applications in several industries and discuss technologies that allow the deployment of advanced visualization solutions to the cloud.
Join IBM November 1 at 21st Cloud Expo at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, and learn how IBM Watson can bring cognitive services and AI to intelligent, unmanned systems. Cognitive analysis impacts today’s systems with unparalleled ability that were previously available only to manned, back-end operations. Thanks to cloud processing, IBM Watson can bring cognitive services and AI to intelligent, unmanned systems. Imagine a robot vacuum that becomes your personal assistant tha...
The next XaaS is CICDaaS. Why? Because CICD saves developers a huge amount of time. CD is an especially great option for projects that require multiple and frequent contributions to be integrated. But… securing CICD best practices is an emerging, essential, yet little understood practice for DevOps teams and their Cloud Service Providers. The only way to get CICD to work in a highly secure environment takes collaboration, patience and persistence. Building CICD in the cloud requires rigorous ar...
Nordstrom is transforming the way that they do business and the cloud is the key to enabling speed and hyper personalized customer experiences. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ken Schow, VP of Engineering at Nordstrom, will discuss some of the key learnings and common pitfalls of large enterprises moving to the cloud. This includes strategies around choosing a cloud provider(s), architecture, and lessons learned. In addition, he’ll go over some of the best practices for structured team migrat...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Datera will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Datera offers a radically new approach to data management, where innovative software makes data infrastructure invisible, elastic and able to perform at the highest level. It eliminates hardware lock-in and gives IT organizations the choice to source x86 server nodes, with business model option...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend 21st Cloud Expo October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-14, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
Infoblox delivers Actionable Network Intelligence to enterprise, government, and service provider customers around the world. They are the industry leader in DNS, DHCP, and IP address management, the category known as DDI. We empower thousands of organizations to control and secure their networks from the core-enabling them to increase efficiency and visibility, improve customer service, and meet compliance requirements.
Digital transformation is changing the face of business. The IDC predicts that enterprises will commit to a massive new scale of digital transformation, to stake out leadership positions in the "digital transformation economy." Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, Oct 31-Nov 2, will find fresh new content in a new track called Enterprise Cloud & Digital Transformation.
SYS-CON Events announced today that NetApp has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. NetApp is the data authority for hybrid cloud. NetApp provides a full range of hybrid cloud data services that simplify management of applications and data across cloud and on-premises environments to accelerate digital transformation. Together with their partners, NetApp emp...
SYS-CON Events announced today that N3N will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. N3N’s solutions increase the effectiveness of operations and control centers, increase the value of IoT investments, and facilitate real-time operational decision making. N3N enables operations teams with a four dimensional digital “big board” that consolidates real-time live video feeds alongside IoT sensor data a...
Smart cities have the potential to change our lives at so many levels for citizens: less pollution, reduced parking obstacles, better health, education and more energy savings. Real-time data streaming and the Internet of Things (IoT) possess the power to turn this vision into a reality. However, most organizations today are building their data infrastructure to focus solely on addressing immediate business needs vs. a platform capable of quickly adapting emerging technologies to address future ...
The dynamic nature of the cloud means that change is a constant when it comes to modern cloud-based infrastructure. Delivering modern applications to end users, therefore, is a constantly shifting challenge. Delivery automation helps IT Ops teams ensure that apps are providing an optimal end user experience over hybrid-cloud and multi-cloud environments, no matter what the current state of the infrastructure is. To employ a delivery automation strategy that reflects your business rules, making r...
As people view cloud as a preferred option to build IT systems, the size of the cloud-based system is getting bigger and more complex. As the system gets bigger, more people need to collaborate from design to management. As more people collaborate to create a bigger system, the need for a systematic approach to automate the process is required. Just as in software, cloud now needs DevOps. In this session, the audience can see how people can solve this issue with a visual model. Visual models ha...
Enterprises are adopting Kubernetes to accelerate the development and the delivery of cloud-native applications. However, sharing a Kubernetes cluster between members of the same team can be challenging. And, sharing clusters across multiple teams is even harder. Kubernetes offers several constructs to help implement segmentation and isolation. However, these primitives can be complex to understand and apply. As a result, it’s becoming common for enterprises to end up with several clusters. Thi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Avere Systems, a leading provider of hybrid cloud enablement solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Avere Systems was created by file systems experts determined to reinvent storage by changing the way enterprises thought about and bought storage resources. With decades of experience behind the company’s founders, Avere got its ...
In the fast-paced advances and popularity in cloud technology, one of the most critical factors revolves around concerns for security of your critical data. How to assure both your company and your customers they can confidently trust and utilize your cloud environment is most often top on the list. There is a method to evaluating and providing security that exceeds conventional modes of protecting data both within the cloud as well externally on mobile and other devices. With the public failure...
Containers are rapidly finding their way into enterprise data centers, but change is difficult. How do enterprises transform their architecture with technologies like containers without losing the reliable components of their current solutions? In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 21st Cloud Expo, Tony Campbell, Director, Educational Services at CoreOS, will explore the challenges organizations are facing today as they move to containers and go over how Kubernetes applications can deploy with lega...