Gemma Milne, co-founder of Science:Disrupt, consults on all things tech, science, startups, and culture. She is also a digital native. As someone who expects technology to work at all times and for brands to communicate with her in a “real” way, she is sometimes disappointed by her consumer experiences.
Milne sat down with CMO.com at a recent Chief Wine Officer event, where she had been speaking about how brands can better integrate technologies, how her peer group expects data to be used, and why bandwagons are best avoided.
CMO.com: What mistakes do you feel brands make when dealing with digital natives?
Milne: I think the most egregious one is the sheer lack of appreciation of our expectations. If something doesn’t work properly, we don’t think, “Oh, it’s a bit clunky.” We just won’t use it because we know we can find something better elsewhere. We’re very intolerant of things being slow or ineffective.
I also think that brands often try unsuccessfully to look cool and attract us by jumping on cultural bandwagons that don’t fit with them, or simply doing it too late. ... When they make a real effort to be novel or different, that's what makes them stand out for me.
CMO.com: What can brands do to make your peer group comfortable with sharing their data?
Milne: They need to either use data in an extremely novel way or an extremely useful way. If it isn’t used in those ways, we either think it’s a breach of privacy or we just think it’s a waste of time. Make our day better or save us time, and you have our interest. I think young people are actually more open to their data being used; we just want to know that it’s being used in a way that will improve our lives.
Citymapper, for example, isn’t just about getting around your city. It tells you which part of the train platform to stay on so that you get there quicker and which exit you should use to leave the station so that you end up on the right street. It’s these smaller touches that create great user experiences. Companies need to take that next step and ask what they actually want to do and how they can use the huge swaths of data available to them to help them do that.
CMO.com: How can brands get your attention?
Milne: I think that people of my age are experience-minded, rather than ownership-minded. When we buy something, we’re not just buying the thing. We’re buying it for some kind of purpose. Brands need to ask what the emotion is behind that purchase and how they can tap into that with the digital experience associated with it. I think it’s that idea of getting authentic experiences.
CMO.com: How can companies ensure they integrate new technologies into their marketing function effectively?
Milne: You have to include someone who can understand and build the tech right from the beginning. If someone in marketing can do that themselves, then great, but they often can’t. So bring in the person who will be responsible for building it at the ideation stage.
There's an analogy that I think is always useful in these situations. If someone goes into a shop to buy a hammer, think of the “tech” in that situation as the hardware store. Ask yourself why someone wants to buy a hammer. It’s because they want to put a nail in the wall. Why do they want to put a nail in the wall? To hang a painting. Why do they want to hang a painting? Because they’ve just moved house. Well, why is it important to hang a painting when you’ve just moved? Because they want to feel at home. Then you get to the real issue. It’s not about buying a hammer; it’s about feeling at home.
So if you’re looking into using new tech, and you have the person responsible for it involved when you’re having the initial conversations, you’re much more likely to come up with something novel or useful, rather than just a shop that sells hammers.
CMO.com: What technology in the marketing space really excites you?
Milne: I think artificial intelligence still has a lot of untapped potential. There’s so much data out there, and we’re just not analysing and using enough of it. It’s such a waste because there’s so much potential for what we can do with it. ... I think if we can start to analyse all of that information properly and automate interesting processes off the back of that, then it really comes to life.
CMO.com: How important do you think it is for brands to experiment with technologies?
Milne: I think there’s some merit in using tech because it’s cool and new, and you’re trying to do something with it, and I’ve seen some brands doing that. But I think it’s really powerful when you use something early, experiment with it, and then use it to do something meaningful. It’s more about tapping into what is actually useful for the technology.