Under Armour’s recent acquisition of MyFitnessPal and Endomondo is telling. Why? Because it’s the latest example of smart brands taking action to cope with the fact that, for advertisers, the Internet of Things (IoT) has yet to live up to its hype.
Brands’ abilities to access and leverage the kind of IoT data that makes marketers salivate is hampered by the existence of myriad manufacturer fiefdoms and lack of universal protocols (along with privacy concerns).
These small, self-contained ecosystems of data are a major limiting factor. Their existence means that almost any campaign requires a dedicated partnership with the device manufacturer in question. Manufacturers are very careful about how they share their data. Some brands, like Under Armour, are getting around this issue by building their own network of apps and services.
We’re making progress, albeit slowly, on two important fronts: integration and innovation. Integration is the principal challenge of updating and connecting the dots between existing CRM and social platforms, databases, and new connected, real-time inputs. That’s why Under Armour’s acquisition is smart. It could be the first of many types of deals that attempt to make integration happen faster — by force, if necessary.
The second front, innovation, involves new, creative uses of technology to provide value and utility in lieu of advertising or messaging. In the context of connected devices, the best advertisers/vendors are starting to think more like product designers than ever before. Everything, from the way a simple message or offer is delivered to more complicated/interactive programs, is designed for maximal utility and minimal intrusiveness. It can’t feel like advertising; it has to feel like it’s solving a need.
Once we unlock the wealth of data afforded by connected devices, we will have the power to dramatically improve customer experiences. Brands will be able to make their relationships with their customers feel truly personal, not just “personalized.” The best uses of data allow us to feel like we connect on a human level, to feel remembered, to feel like we matter and that we’re heard.
These devices will also lengthen the view we have into brand relationships. With IoT and wearable technology, brands can play a more active role in cultivating the relationship they have with buyers long after a purchase is made. This affords more control over that relationship via a two-way information exchange, and a huge opportunity to gather data, make improvements, and identify opportunities to innovate based on small, micro-interactions and use patterns that they had limited access to before.
In the end, the conversation about the “Internet of Things” shouldn’t be about the things. It should be about powerful, lasting and humanly relevant relationships between businesses and their customers.
Now, if only it would all only happen faster… .