Editor's Note: The following is a guest post from Brian Wong, founder and CEO of Kiip.
When the Information Age began, it was unclear where we would go with this new technology and what we could or should do with it. Individuals and companies alike attempted to use it for their own gain, throwing things at the wall to see what would stick. In advertising, this meant ugly banner ads and invasive pop-ups, giving consumers a negative outlook on the industry as a whole. As recently as 2016, survey results revealed that 60% of clicks on mobile advertising were accidental — not exactly great news for advertisers.
However, with time, advertisers have learned from their mistakes and are now attempting to create advertising experiences that consumers actually enjoy and value. Additionally, the emergence of connected devices affords advertisers more opportunities to create memorable experiences, and brands should consider these technologies the future of a more agreeable, consumer-first approach. In 2016, Americans were spending nearly 11 hours a day on their devices, and Rob Soderbery of Cisco predicts that 40 billion devices will be connected to the Internet of Things by 2020. The possibilities for creating meaningful engagement through these devices are endless.
Connecting to advertising
For brands and advertisers, this is great news. We are able to reach billions of people through a variety of platforms and devices like never before, because the most effective platforms already exist inside their homes and in the palms of their hands. In March, Instagram reached a whopping 1 million advertisers, which together are expected to generate $3.64 billion in revenue by the end of the year. And despite the rising use of services like AdBlock, 77% of people say that they would prefer to filter the ads that reach them rather than block advertising completely.
So what does this mean for us, the advertisers, who don't want to be the bad guys anymore?
It's all about using this technology appropriately with genuine care for the consumer. Let's read between the lines of "filtered ads" here: We can interpret this term to mean ads that are carefully curated and offer customers some sort of reward for engaging with us. Ask not what your consumers can do for you, but you can do for your consumers. This is where brands can benefit from utilizing marketing-as-a-service.
Marketing-as-a-service strives to provide consumers with a reason to interact with a brand or company, one that directly benefits them. It's no longer about telling your target market something, it's about taking the next step for them, connecting the dots and servicing consumers with what they need.
This practice becomes even more effective when moving from a single device to a handful of connected devices. Why? A little thing called data.
Data as a staple
Lately, we are seeing more and more data-driven advertising campaigns. These campaigns typically take one to three key insights and create a large-scale event or piece of content that resonates with people. One example is Always's #LikeAGirl campaign, which was inspired by the insight that only 19% of those surveyed thought the phrase "like a girl" had a positive meaning. The campaign was powerful and has continued to grow and expand, and is often looked to as a great display of corporate social responsibility.
But while campaigns like this are valuable, they primarily serve the brand. When brands use data to inform big campaigns, they sell more product, gain media attention and win awards, but their focus should be using data to show consumers that they care about adding value to their lives. As brands and advertisers, why limit ourselves?
If data gives us the power to truly connect with consumers on a deeply personal level, why not use it all the time? When we choose to treat data as an everyday way to serve our consumers, rather than a once-a-year treat, we really see those relationships and that brand loyalty bloom.
A better way
The data from connected devices is the most useful tool for advertisers in their mission to make advertising more personal and relevant to consumers. Rather than bombarding consumers with pop-up ads while they're Googling "how to change a lightbulb," how about leveraging the connected light bulb they have installed in their living room that's being controlled by a phone or tablet (also known as a hub device)?
With data from these hub devices, we can see their preferred lighting setting and offer them a coupon for a household decoration from Urban Outfitters that matches their vibe. Another example: tap into their connected grill to see they have a love of red meat and offer them recipe suggestions featuring McCormick spices.
The more devices consumers are connected to, the more closely we can examine their specific behaviors and cater to their needs. Gone are the "Mad Men" days of small groups at the top deciding what people want and selling it to them. The vast array of insights we can gain from connected devices allows us to avoid misguided speculation.
By using the data that connected devices provide us, we can show consumers that we see them as individuals, instead of just dollar signs. To do this, though, requires a real dedication to appropriate data tracking.
Being responsible and adding value
In November 2016, Spotify made headlines with the "Thanks, 2016. It's been weird" campaign. The campaign examined every bit of user data across the platform from the past year — including song play counts, playlist curation and artist streams — and pulled the most standout, relatable numbers to create an extremely engaging and unique marketing campaign. The effort was such a hit, the streaming platform's repeated it for the 2017 holiday season.
This strategic use of data found the perfect balance between specificity and privacy, and Spotify made its users feel seen, not watched. Since then, Spotify has continued using its streaming data for concepts like its Time Capsule playlists, which were the talk of Twitter when they dropped in September. This should always be the goal of advertising: to use data responsibly in order to create the highest possible value for consumers. With connected devices, the amount of data increases, as does our ability to effectively appeal to and serve consumers.
Advertising today is about content and experiences. Connected devices can give us a valuable look at our consumers' behavior, allowing us to offer them something valuable in return. By getting to know them in this way, we can continue moving toward a more symbiotic brand-consumer relationship.