Social Intelligence, Meet the Social Sciences (Part 2)

What do you feel are going to be the biggest changes heading into the future of Social Intelligence and why is that important to brands?

Let’s face it, true Social intelligence is relatively new to all marketers and we are just now learning to harness its power and figuring out its role in planning.  Tragically, social influence and the undeniable “power of people” is maturing at a faster rate than our understanding of the informants “as people” or our capability of developing tools to help us understand what is “actually” going on. 

Where will all this be heading into the next 5-10 years and what should companies be prepared for? What do we see as the biggest changes in social intelligence (or any intelligence) into the future? And what should your company be preparing for today to gain early advantages?

As we evolve to becoming capable of using the vast amounts of information available to us, we will have to learn to create our understanding of people from the merger of seemingly disparate sources of human behavior analysis (analytics & observation) under the common goal of human understanding.

For the sake of this discussion, those two sources of information are lumped into the broad buckets of:

  • Social Sciences: Psychology, Sociology, Economics, Ethnography, Anthropology and all the disciplines that strive to understand people.
  • Big Data: Social, Digital, Mobile, Shopper, Reported/Survey, Activity, Public, CRM, and many new sources popping up daily fueled by the Internet Economy and the Internet of Things.

Only by understanding how to merge, compare, decipher and understand the grey spaces between data and humanity will we be able to turn data into observations into knowledge and then most importantly into actual intelligence.

The Social Sciences and Customer Intelligence

As marketers, we have always trusted psychologists, whether it’s the modern Cialdini (perhaps the most quoted social scientist in the past ten years) or the most notable behaviorists like Maslow, who we all learned about at some point in our schooling. And while the ideas and observations of these noted experts were proffered prior to the mass of data available with today’s Social Intelligence, all their theories and observations were wildly accurate at lumping human behaviors into an observational meaning of why we do things, want things and sometimes buy things.

With Maslow’s hierarchies, first published in 1943, we obtained a very specific and universally accepted understanding of human motivations in aggregate.   It was a mass view of human behavior.  

And early advertisers (our Mad Men) used those tenants to define the mass advertising that was designed to reach the mass audiences available to them. This made perfect sense.   Almost all marketing with any reach was mass targeted at that time and usually focused on no more than a couple of Maslow's  defined needs.   This was due to the limitations of technology, the limited amount of interactions available in an uncomplicated marketing environment  and the fact that the delivery medium was focused on the masses.  These factors led our strategies to be broad and focused.  "Truisms" like the importance of message frequency and the cruciality of maintaining a singular message reigned.

Watching the show Mad Men (and the fictional work created on it) holds a reflection up to an era where Maslowian motivations ruled Advertising and peek into how the real Mad Men of the time reached their audiences.  

For fun, I encourage you to watch this seminal clip from the show and count how many of these motivations you can find.  Give me your count in the comments!

And for a little contrast, here are some actual commercials from the 1960's. The same needs and motivations reign.  You will notice that the themes come across very clearly and often in an exaggerated way.

The first commercial, for Noxema, offers us Sex, Sexual Intimacy and Confidence literally against a striptease soundtrack with an exotic and beautiful woman begging us to "Take it off.  Take it all off."   Not exactly subtle, but no doubt effective to an audience who had not yet become numb to advertising.

It grabbed our attention, probably made us talk about it, was easy to remember and filled with sexual innuendo. Even today, these simple tactics at still at play with modern versions updated to things like Kate Upton seducing a hamburger.

Watch for the 007  commercial that
features the most horrifying
double-entendre ever aired on TV.

"007. For the license to kill... women." 

Where are we going with Customer Intelligence?

There is truly some great content in that montage. You can imagine that by the truths of two generations ago, they would work well. At the time, advertising was based on the idea that you need a handful of branded impressions a year to influence customer desire and ultimately purchase. As we had no way to target effectively, we painstakingly focused on crafting very specific messages that would appeal to the most basic of human emotions and the broadest of group profiles. And Maslow had laid them down for us.

As a modern marketer, however, I cannot distill the complexity of YOU into 20 words on a pyramid. People are brilliantly more complex than that and given the chance, we owe it to our customers to honor the complexity in each of us.  As the relationship transforms from a mass unidirectional relationship to true customer-brand relationships (sCRM) it is becoming essential that I don't view the only thing important to you is that you are a Mom, a Dad, a Health nut, or an image conscience teen.   While all those things may be true, it is only one of the truths that define our customers. The marketing trades are filled with examples of brands who still think we people are uncomplicated and who have received a communal tong lashing for treating their customers that way.

In a world where Moms are breadwinners and homemakers, they hate it when you define them as a Mom. Dads hate when you portray them as bumbling parents while they take over an increasingly larger amount of household activities. Teens are way more savvy than you give them credit for and see through the mildest of patronizing. Millennials are not a lost social media addicted culture who don't play by the rules. They are parents, business people and are about to become the most powerful demographic ever. One day soon, a Millennial will likely be your boss.

So today, instead of shooting for 7 impressions a year with a very specific message that I want you to remember about us, I feel a responsibility to get my brands 7 impressions a week. More importantly, I do not feel the need to be the person / brand / marketer who brings them those messages. I only need to create talk-ability, share-ability and relevancy to achieve that. Nor do I have to focus on one type of customer need. We can engage with people on their needs. We can create things our customers (or client’s customers) care about… even if for a fleeting moment. Customer Intelligence, moving into the future, will help us sort through the massive amount of information and influences to better create products, services and marketing that matters to people.

So Where Does Big Data Fit Into This?

It gives us the guideposts and information we need to explore.  It surfaces trends and points us in the directions to look. It is a treasure map that will guide us on the right path. But as with any treasure map, it is only a directional guide. Their are a lot of potential pitfalls along the path and a lot of decisions to be made along the adventure. With Big Data, those pitfalls include focusing on the wrong things, becoming mired in too much non-actionable data, oversimplifying the data into vanilla insights and not being able to effectively apply the data to our marketing activities.

Buckminster Fuller created the “Knowledge Doubling Curve” noticing that until 1900 human knowledge doubled approximately every century. By the end of World War II knowledge was doubling every 25 years. Today, human knowledge is doubling every 13 months and according to IBM, the build out of  the “internet of things” will lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours.

How can we possibly mine that data into insights?  

Don’t bother.  You can’t.  
And 99.9% of it is not very useful to marketers of products and services.

In the future, you must be able to figure out what that .1% of the data presented that is actually valuable and separate that from the environmental, circumstantial, automatic, phatic and unimportant.

Social listening gives us the ability to generally know what people think or feel about any given thing at any given moment. But, applied to an understanding of social sciences and with the help of the big data available, we can tell you why people think that and that should inspires us to create things that actually reach them as people, not as profiles, demographics, targets or segments.

And that is where Social Intelligence comes in and the biggest change we will see in the next generation of marketing. Gone will be the days of buckets, broad marketing, and the limited view of customer motivation. Social Intelligence, Social Sciences and Big Data will come together to paint the picture (a masterpiece, I hope) of all of humanity with all its complexities, variances and perspectives. And we as marketers will stop worrying about prescriptive methods of reaching you and start to focus on individual ways to entertain, engage, excite and involve you in our plans.

And of course, a lot of that will still be grounded in Maslow’s ideas, because when you’re right, you’re right.