strategy

Cambridge Analytica: Hysteria Hyped

Photo Credit: Huffington Post https://bit.ly/2unxdhe

Photo Credit: Huffington Post https://bit.ly/2unxdhe

Cambridge Analytica and Facebook hysteria. Put aside political preferences and selling of user lists (although emails lists are regularly purchased). Let’s focus on what’s also under assault this week breaking the internet – so-called “psychological warfare,” better known as digital marketing.

That’s right, people are freaking out that they were marketed to and how well the marketing performed. But the reality is that the user targeting and messaging doom and gloom scenario described by the Guardian and genius of Mr. Wylie are actually the norms of modern-day digital marketing. That is, using sophisticated audience targeting and tailored messaging. It happens every day, all the time, all over the world.

Mr. Wylie’s fancy algorithms to find people most likely to click – that’s called data science.  Thousands of companies invest in data science to drive their businesses, maximizing return on investment.  This isn’t just a Facebook, Google, Amazon thing – it’s a way the world works thing.  And 99% of time smart, good people do their best and the right thing for customers and companies.

Ever see one of those “recommended products” sections? How about an email for “products you may also like?” Data science and digital marketing in action. The notion that this is the first time everyone is experiencing this is outrageous. Think about it, everyone complaining about data science today has experienced it many times within the last 24-hrs and had zero issues with it.

Back to Cambridge…it’s Important to understand the way Cambridge used the data isn’t novel or magical. Looking closely at what’s been reported, using the data from 50 million app subscribers accelerated and reduced the cost of what could’ve been closely replicated through traditional digital marketing methodology. Works something like this…

1. Build basic websites, Facebook pages and Instagram profiles. Even launch their own Facebook app instead of buying data!

2. Target users based on numerous political attributes – profile interests, TV shows, celebrities, politicians, geography, etc.

3. Launch political/cultural ads to determine the degree of users’ liberalism or conservatism

4. Measure people’s engagement with the ads then tailor subsequent ads/messaging

It’s that straightforward but would absolutely take some time to be done well.

Furthermore, people are really losing it over how effective ads were. The fact that messaging can be tailored to groups of people is being called “spooky.” But it happens to everyone ALL THE TIME. Every speech. Every meeting. Every ad. Messaging is tailored to the audience. How about the new video where the gentleman describes putting great content out into social media – hello! Social media teams around the globe do that every day. In fact, there’s a huge industry dedicated to communicating effectively called public relations - been around for centuries, leveraged by politicians and companies. Usually people enjoy being told what they want to hear, it’s not seen as offensive or controversial.

The truth is a user would only keep being served ads if he/she liked, clicked, watched ads or visited sites. Stop engaging with ads, stop receiving ads. Which means people are actually upset about their own actions. This is like people complaining about ads for products they liked and bought – think about it.

And, Interestingly, even candy bars are causing a ruckus. The seemingly alarming discovery by Wylie that certain people like Kit Kats, is not rocket science and accessible via the Facebook Audience Insights tool or more slowly via expensive 3rd-party research databases. In fact this author made a similar discovery once that revealed an audience indexed high for frozen yogurt and small pickup trucks/SUVs. Rather than turning this universe-altering finding into something like “Operation Kit Kat” and calling the CIA it became nothing more than Operation Water Cooler topic and a lighthearted way to start meetings. Cool story bro, but we never held photoshoots in front of Chevy Colorados and Toyota Tacomas with people eating Pink Berry (maybe we should have tried that…).

Broken down to its simplest form, here’s a translation from hysteria to marketing speak. Ph.D. in rocket science not required.

“Identify people” means create an audience

o   Use your own email database or ad targeting info like demographics, interests, shopping behavior, prior ad engagement

“Ads designed to get a reaction” means strategic messaging and great creative assets

“Sophisticated secret algorithms” means use data to determine people most likely to click

o   Propensity to purchase models for existing customers, scoring (ranking) leads

The right moments” means media strategy and where people are in the funnel

o   Awareness – consideration – likely to purchase

“Get better over time” means measuring results and improving

“Serve ads based on people’s reactions” means behavioral targeting and sequential ads

o   Different messages displayed in a particular sequence

Hopefully this article contributes to quelling the hysteria a bit. In the end, it’s important that we understand what we’re so upset about and look closely at how information is presented to us. Political preference and marketing are obvious causes of angst in this instance. If marketing’s got you down, realize this is the way the world works and has been for quite some time. If it’s politics, understand modern marketing isn’t unique to the right or left. Though content is everywhere and nonstop, you the user still has power over what you decide to click, watch, visit and buy. The game’s not over. You still have a choice. And regarding that choice…there’s an algorithm for that.

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Joseph Nolan is a NYC-based marketing consultant and thought leader with over a decade at major brands in auto, ecommerce, lifestyle and fitness. Opinions are his own. Feedback, article ideas and business inquiries welcomed at joe@jonomkt.com. Learn more at jonomkt.com + @josephjnolan.

 

Lessons from the Trenches: Adjust Your Focus

On a patch of dirt roughly 45 yards wide and 50 yards long, not a blade of grass in sight. Nestled on a city street next to an old junkyard piled high and deep with car parts and pieces of rusted metal machinery…a blistering 95-degrees with 90% humidity on balmy August mornings transformed into 35-degrees with a 20-mph wind on weeknights at the end of October.  The Manhattan skyline so close across the Hudson River you could touch it, pride tattooed on your chest for the whole world to see…

An economically and ethnically diverse lot of 50 freshman traveled six days a week to this infamous, dreaded practice field from 30 towns across Northern NJ, some with a commute more than an hour long each way.  Every player was a gridiron star in their hometown now embarking on a journey to see if they could endure the daily grind on the field and in the classroom at one of the state’s most challenging athletic and academic high schools – St. Peter’s Prep.

There were good days and bad days just like anywhere else.  However, at the corner of Grand and Warren in Jersey City, it seemed like every day was gameday – commute to school, six or seven classes, practice 3-6 PM, commute home, 2-3 hours of homework, repeat – for FOUR years. Everyone learned quickly and it wasn’t a secret, this lifestyle and level of commitment for 48 months was simply a battle of attrition.

So the 50 freshman players stood in alignment with the traditional “silver dome” helmets next to them forming perfect rows ready to stretch out before another grueling practice.  A million things going on in the mind of a teenager, and though geared up and ready run around and hit and get rocked, football was often the furthest from top of mind.  Fast-forward to the mid-point of the season and the combination of pure physical exhaustion and perplexing exams made the toughest kid feel like crap.

From the deep in the belly of a boisterous, big guy who worked as a police officer by morning and life coach moonlighting as a football coach in the afternoons, Ed Roselle bellowed loud and proud every day across the stretching lines, “How do you feel?!” The team replied in unison, “Good.” He repeated, “How do you feel feeeeel?!” 50 strong replied, “Good good.” And last in escalating tone and pitch, “I said how do you feel feel feeeeeel?!!” The freshman squad yelled, “Good good goooood!” Then practice began.

No one ever actually felt good. But thanks to Coach Roselle, suddenly no one cared. No one cared about their parents being upset about a bad test grade or their girl friend breaking up with them. At that moment in time 50 minds became focused on the task at hand – playing football. The lesson? It’s what you focus on that matters. Focus is what separates top performers from everyone else. There’s always going to be good and bad; focusing on the right thing at the right time is what gets you through the bad and leads to more good.

Do you have that feel good focus? Does your team?

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Lessons from the Trenches is a series about leadership and success from experiences in athletics and the corporate world.  Joseph Nolan is a Los Angeles-based marketing and digital executive with over a decade of experience at leading companies in retail, ecommerce, entertainment and health/fitness. Opinions expressed on JoeSocial.com are his own. Please direct business inquiries and suggestions for future posts to joe@joesocial.com.