Marketing's 2017 Shiny Object Obsessions? Bah, Humbug!

It’s literally almost the end of the year. A heavy burden rests upon me as I stand between you and MediaPost 2018. I feel I must write words of wisdom, deliver sage advice for the new year, or look back on things of importance from 2017.

Instead, I will write about things more, well, stupid. Or at least stupid in my book. Specifically, I want to talk about all over-hyped shiny objects that were so 2017.

Here’s one: Amazon’s Echo, or as you and I know her: Alexa. Have you seen it working as a break-through marketing platform yet? I mean, other than for Jeff Bezos’s bank account? Or any voice-operated platform for that matter?

They are mightily clever, I have to admit. We have literally dotted our whole house with Alexa following the Christmas gift unwrapping, and even allowed Jeff… er, Alexa, into our bedroom. The consequence was that, after setting a 7 a.m. alarm, I had to run around the whole house, shouting “Alexa, stop!” in various rooms.



I love the shopping list, the personalized news briefing whenever I want, the music selection, and other smart skills that Alexa brings. I am sure the same is true for Google Home owners. But I have yet to discover, or stumble upon, a marketing/advertiser driven bit of skill that I wanted to activate. So far… a big marketing snooze.

Speaking of marketing snoozes, there’s Big Data! How come, to this day, “Maarten’s Law of Big Marketing Data” still stands? It goes like this: “With every increase in marketing data, marketing insights decrease with an equal amount.” I posited that law in 2012. It is now almost 2018. Marketers today are still saying that they have more data than ever, and are still more confused than ever. This can’t be right.

And AI has not done anything to help things along. I think, in fact, there’s a whole AI cottage industry that exists solely to drive innocent marketers to invest in stuff they don’t understand, probably don’t need (yet — unless and until they build an in-house marketing science team to create understanding and benefit) and very surely use only to a minimum of their capability (apart from Jeff Bezos and a few other exceptions).

And let’s not forget chat bots. They might be the online marketers’ love child, but I don’t like ‘em. “How can I help you today?” “I want to know how to set just one alarm on Alexa in one room, without every room going off at 7 a.m.” “Here are five answers related to 'alarms'” — of which, none are what you need. “Was my answer helpful? How did I do today? Would you recommend this service to a friend?”

No! No! And another NO! Chat bots are about as useful as the standard response letter generators that you’ll find in your email inbox. If this is the best personalized, one-on-one precision marketing can do, than count me out.

I’m far more impressed with people who pick up the phone when I call them for assistance, and actually help. Shout-outs to Apple and American Airlines, companies that, over the past week, both delivered a human being at the end of the line who could solve an issue when it needed solving.

All that other stuff? Bah, humbug!

3 comments about "Marketing's 2017 Shiny Object Obsessions? Bah, Humbug!".
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  1. Maarten Albarda from Flock Associates (USA) replied, December 29, 2017 at 4:36 p.m.

    Thanks Paula: same to you and yours!

  2. James Smith from J. R. Smith Group, December 29, 2017 at 6:03 p.m.

    Maarten:  On your big-data points...In my experience, there are data types and business line-types...each knowing their respective areas.  Finding a data-type that knows the business has usually been a rare find. Universities aren't exactly over-producing data analytic grads, which is somewhat due to students avoiding "math" and other perceived sources of mental anguish.  So at least in-part, it's a human resource concern.  Big data analytics (and it's pragmatic utility) might continually be behind the hoped-for curve until we resolve some of these issues.

    Maybe it's also time for private sector experts to reach out and partner with academics to improve the human supply side.  Do you agree?

  3. Kevin Horne from Verizon, January 2, 2018 at 1:31 p.m.

    "It's literally almost the end of the year."

    Literally. ALMOST.

    Ahhh, the bright shiny object of nonsensical Millennial speak...

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