If data is the new oil, relevance is the new platinum.
This of course opens up one highly relevant question: what is relevance?
Most of all, relevance is individual. What might be relevant to you (getting a new kidney) might be ultra-irrelevant to me (my kidneys are fine). There is no “general relevance”. Even if something might affect a lot of people - such as the presence or absence of oxygen, the relevance remains highly individual. Will I suffer from the lack of breathable air? Will people I care for suffer? Even if I am enlightened and care for all mankind…it is still ME who cares…or not, so the rule of relevance = individual remains intact.
The same of course is true for all marketing initiatives and messages. Marketing is not about what you say, but about what I hear. The only judge of relevance is me. Will I benefit from the presence or absence of your marketing message? Yes? No? End of story!
It’s All In The Timing
Next up: relevance = timing. If I tell you next week’s lottery numbers now: highly relevant timing. If I tell you last week’s lottery numbers… not so relevant. Stuff is only relevant if it has the power to change my future well-being. Information that impacts my future is relevant. Information that addresses the past is spam. An offer of 30% off a TV I am about to buy impacts my future positively. 30% off a TV I already bought addresses the past and thus is irrelevant, and irrelevant information is highly annoying. 30% off a TV that I will never buy does not impact my future at all and is wasted marketing money. Why? I will not waste any of the valuable glucose in my brain to process that information.
Enter the third aspect of relevance: the amount of energy I have to invest to access or act on potentially relevant information. This is why geo-fencing, beacons and ultra-localised information are often very relevant. If I buy a bottle of wine and get the information that this or that cheese goes really well with it, the first two laws of relevance are fulfilled. MY wine. My FUTURE. If the cheese is easy to buy, like just down the aisle… perfect. If that cheese is only available on a specific Mediterranean island which takes a two hour flight, a four hour boat trip and a five hour hike to get to, not so relevant any more. Location is relevant because it makes access easy. The same is true for apps: the access to a service is easy. One click: done! New advertising is all about tweaking the kind of information individuals can get to easily. That is also why video is so powerful. No need to read…just kick back and watch. Relevance = ease of access.
So, relevance is about creating an easy way to improve the future well-being of an individual person. If you agree to this definition, ask yourself two questions.
- Does your marketing do that?
- Why not?
The Flux Of Relevance
Booking media is no longer about how much budget you allocate to which media channel, but about what kind of media your customer has easy access to, if she or he wants to improve their future well-being. This obviously depends less on the channel and more on the situation your customer is in. On the road this might be a smartphone. In a car: the navigation system. At work: your desktop. In a hotel room: the TV. In store: a sales person…ideally equipped with a tablet to increase ease of access.
Recently I took an early morning walk in Stockholm, where I saw a cool suit in a store before opening hours. So what did I do? The same as you might do: I took a photo with my smartphone. Back in the hotel I looked up the store online, found the suit and was happy. Later I called the store and asked if they had that suit in my size. They did at a different location near by, so -using the navigation system in my rental car- I drove there, bought the suit and some shirts. My future well-being was improved. All access was easy… for me. For a media planner it would have been hell! I was jumping channels like crazy and if one channel would not have worked, the whole chain of seemingly unrelated events (smartphone , PC, landline, navigation system, purchase of suit) would be down the drain and the suit (including some shirts) not in my closet.
Right Time, Right Device
The challenge of relevance-based marketing therefore is “simply” to be there. At the right time. On the right device. Sounds easy. But often it’s ultra hard to do. What helps is high tech:
- Detecting situations
- Predicting needs
The first is mainly done by programs and sensors. From simple click analysis on a website to detecting the need to clean and replace parts in your coffee machine, programs and sensors are ready to detect behaviour and context. Add smart analytics to the mix and you can fine-tune the likelihood of predictable needs arising.
But what about unpredictable needs? What about predicting that your customer might buy a red shirt, although she or he never bought anything red before? This can be done via two means.
A) Social buzz analysis can predict a certain likelihood of stuff to happen in general. Medical and epidemic research uses this kind of thinking all the time. Not only your test result, but also the general likelihood of having a certain disease against your test result gives the right likelihood of you having that sickness. This can of course be fine-tuned according to general means like location and gender.
But computers can go much further. Your computer knows you better than your spouse.
B) Smart analysis of your actions on your online device, such as the analysis of Facebook likes, can predict your future actions with unparalled precision.
The analyses of just ten Facebook likes allows a machine to predict stuff including future purchasing decisions better than a work colleague. After 150 the algorithm outperforms a relative, after 300 the machine knows you better than your life partner.
Like Buddha noticed 2500 year ago: humans are driven by cause and effect. That makes most of our actions highly predictable. Everything predictable can (and will be) automated.
Does Relevance Kill Creativity?
Does this leave room for art and creativity? Absolutely. Predicting a need can and will be done by all your competitors as well. NOT being able to predict your customers’ needs will kill your business fast. Predicting needs creates relevance. And relevance is at the core of all we do.
But relevance alone does not get the job done. Attention, attraction, desire are even more rare then relevance. And the manufacturing those three remains an art form. So if relevance is platinum, attention, attraction and desire are made from the most precious metal them all: Californium.