Weekly INsight: The Secret Sauce

Last week, I referenced Andrew Ng, former CTO of Baidu, who said, “Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the new electricity.” That statement has bothered me all week. I want to agree with it, but there’s more to the story. AI has positive applications, buy it’s not a prime-time marketing solution. Marketing still requires human intelligence rather than AI.

INsight #1 suggests that machine-to-machine intelligence has not yet crossed paths with human-to-human intelligence. Marketers have all heard of how AI is driving segmentation and personalization. Based on my social and web behaviors, machines can place relevant ads to pique my interest to learn more about a brand or topic. I believe there is more bias built into this modeling than most marketers understand.

Consider this real case study that happened last Thursday evening while I was cleaning out my daily emails. Being a loyal University of Michigan Alum and fan, my favorite emails come from 247Sports about Michigan football. While I was reading an article, a video began playing, promoting “The Few. The Proud. The Marines.” Somehow, in my pre-Boomer years, I’m definitely not a very good target. Are they targeting all Michigan football followers on 247Sports? They must be smarter than that. I would love to see the algorithm that selected me out of the crowd, if there is a selection process.

I challenged myself not to rest until I could find the secret sauce that propels marketing in the Age of NOW! Something dramatic altered the course of marketing as we emerged out of the Age of Yesterday. There’s a secret sauce that has coated the marketplace. It’s not spicy. In fact, it’s so bland, marketers have missed it for too many years.

INsight #2 proclaims that the secret sauce is how we have become connected in the age of speed and technology. What began as a dorm room effort to connect fraternity members and friends now has 214 million users in the U. S. Then Steve Jobs created the iPhone which might be the most important invention in the last two centuries. We all know the iPhone is no longer a phone. It’s a smartphone. Of all the things we do on our smartphones, talking to another person might rank near the bottom.

Overlay smartphones with tablets, laptops and desktops and you’ve got the secret sauce that connects people with people, brands with people, brands with brands, and the list goes on. While these connections are linking together, marketing continues to be one dimensional, trying to break into these connections rather than becoming part of the connections. As a result, this one-dimensional thinking restricts marketing teams from exploiting the new buying dynamics consumers are experiencing. Could it be that the algorithms coders are churning out cannot get beyond one dimensional execution and that’s why I’m being interrupted with non-relevant Marine recruitment videos?

Connections go beyond the human connections. Machine connections are also a dynamic in play. Enter Google. Now, we can search the universe of knowledge because 99.9% of it is available through search engines. The secret sauce has invaded our reach into learning. Now, it’s not just the brands that are smart. Consumers are smart and they have learned how to use the secret sauce to their advantage. This simple dynamic is powerful. Consumers and buyers now rely more on friends’ recommendations than they do advertising, but that’s old news.

People rely on connections and that secret sauce has seeped into every pore in our bodies. The majority of Americans check their smartphone before their first cup of coffee. That’s being connected. Younger cohorts connect more by text and Snapchat than they do by talking on their phones. These dynamics have changed how buyers do business with brands. Until recently, most retailers and brands were oblivious to the secret sauce. Many still have not come out of the Age of Yesterday. Those who have will see their business grow while others will fade away.

Marketing’s challenge is to light the secret sauce on fire; to take advantage of how we are connected and interconnected. Marketing has to turn marketing upside down or inside-out. Traditionally, brands have tried a variety of push-pull strategies to attract buyers to experience the brand. Brands shouted, “Buy from me, buy now, and buy more.” Maybe the Age of NOW! strategy should focus on the human side of the customer with an approach that makes it easier for the customer to do business with your brand. In other words, create an environment that encourages buyers to engage with your brands and let the secret sauce do the rest.

Marketing has a lot of work to do to take advantage of the secret sauce. Marketing teams need to be guided by the idea that better targeting that will get more relevant messages in front of the right buyers at the right time to influence their emotional buying hormones and engage them to connect and explore the brand and ultimately inspire the next sale, not on the brand’s antiquated terms, but on the buyer’s terms. That’s the secret sauce on fire.

Bart Foreman – Executive Strategist @ Infinity Direct
Turning old ideas into new thought leadership

If you missed last week’s Infinity Direct webinar “Me First Marketing”, watch it on-demand here.

Bart Foreman • May 6, 2018

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