The recent Lenovo Superfish fiasco shows that marketing technology is no panacea. Some marketers seem persuaded that simply relying on things like “big data”, analytics, or third-party advertising platforms, will displace the need for more traditional means of reaching out to customers. Sadly, they are mistaken.
As an old-school marketer and creative director, I am not averse to technology. In fact, I am one of those rare ones who can be equally at ease with right-brain or left-brain activities. I am both an artist, and a programmer.
But behind every piece of technology, whether software or hardware, is just something some people developed. They are humans, not Divine, and are therefore always prone to errors, and also, unfortunately at times, prone to errors in judgment as well. Even if sometimes an intention may be good, the deliverables may invariably not be convergent with those intentions. And what’s worse, there will also be those with less than noble intentions. So, to believe that technology is foolproof and perfect, is naive and foolish indeed.
Data and technology are dead, very unlike living beings, and are mere microscopic reflections of a whole human being. As such, they offer us marketers nothing really valuable to discern what our customers want and need. At most, it is a lazy way to harvest many facets of information at a short span of time. To really know someone, or a community of people, you walk with them, talk with them, live with them. Only someone who has lived the same lives, can hope to understand what his community is. Anything else is sheer arrogance and ignorance.
We humans are also esoteric and complex. There is no real way to discern at a “bulk” level, what each of us truly thinks and feels. To engage each of us, we revisit the oldest forms of engagement – storytelling, creativity, emotion.
Thousands of years ago, a native American village will sit together, and engage in conversation and contemplation. A monastery will see a multitude of monks and visitors attending a liturgy together. A small village will witness its people rising early, greeting each other, and setting off to the fields or out to sea together. This is who we are, and this is how we interact and bond.
As marketers, public relations practitioners, or advertising creatives, we too need to revisit the same age-old paradigm of human engagement. There is no short-cut. There is no lazy way. There is no easy way.
Bond with people. Talk with people. Empathize and understand people. Then go to our drawing boards, and continue to invent and create, with media that our customers like to see, in stories that they can identify with, with emotions that are shared. Technology is the smallest part of this process. Creativity and storytelling are the far more important parts. Just read human history, and you can see that the most engaging things to us are stories… well told.