It’s a bright, new, 2017 and we’re reading our way through the annual round of “what does this year hold for marketing” posts on the internet. Some are interesting and some are well written, a fair sprinkling are even both. Very few of them, however, seem to be connected with the real world in which most companies operate.
The future is artificial intelligence and big data
Looking across the various articles we’ve read, two big topics keep appearing again and again. The first is artificial intelligence and the second is big data and, according to a lot of articles, the two are closely linked. Basically the idea is that artificial intelligence will crunch through the big data to provide a limited-number of human marketers with profound insights into customer behaviour. Well over the long term maybe that is what the future holds, but we’re finding it hard to see it happening any time soon. Here’s why.
Artificial intelligence only analyses facts
Artificial intelligence has come a long way over recent decades and is now becoming a part of everyday life, but it’s still nowhere close to creating virtual beings who are indistinguishable from humans in every way except their super-high IQs and ability to process massive amounts of data. Artificial intelligence is essentially a product of the massive computing power which has become available over recent years, which has made it possible to create software which can follow ever more complex sets of rules and, in the absence of explicit rules, go through a process to try to find a close match for the situation with which it is faced. Artificial intelligence is what allows Google to make an educated guess on whether a person searching on the term “apple” means the technology company or the fruit, but it’s nowhere close to an in-depth understanding of humans and their behaviour.
Big data is only really available to big companies and even they get it wrong
Anyone who’s looked into advertising on social media will soon have learned that Facebook really emphasizes the fact that it has access to huge quantities of data on its users. It’s true Facebook certainly does, but there’s a difference between having access to data and being able to use it effectively. If you use Facebook regularly, the chances are that you’ve already noticed that even though the adverts you receive are supposed to be targeted specifically to you, a fair percentage of them are actually completely irrelevant. Frankly the same holds true of the various other social media platforms we use. In fact at this point in time, we think that targeting by geographical area is the most accurate system there is available to anyone and it’s also a system which works far better in the real world than it does in the digital one. People may or may not want to add their location to online profiles and even if they do, how likely are they to keep it up to date as they move?
Understanding what customers want still boils down largely to common sense
Customers contact local businesses when they want or need their products or services. What they want and need is an easy way to tell which company can solve what problem and how to get in touch with that company. Whether you’re a food company filling their stomach or a cleaning company making their home sparkle, the basic principle is still the same and the way of making content with people who are, literally and figuratively, in the right position to be your customers is still the same. We firmly believe that leaflet delivery in London is still the best way for local companies to target local customers and we believe that this will be true for a long time to come. As we’ve said before, the letter box is future-proof.