Data Is Everywhere ... But Make Sure to Use It Correctly
Every year or so, I pen a column about data: raw data, databases, interpolated data, and its uses in print.
Last month’s “Johnson’s World” was one of those columns. I showed real-life examples of accurate “raw” data that was extrapolated by making improper assumptions, resulting in inaccurate (and sometimes embarrassing) marketing faux pas.
That article sparked more than the usual amount of reactions, indicating the high level of interest in this topic.
Why my fixation with data? Data is everywhere. Watch television? The “trusted anchorman” of the past who typed out his story and then reported it on the air is gone, replaced by someone who is reading a data stream from a teleprompter, which they most likely haven’t seen before. Fact is, the anchor doesn’t even know exactly where it came from or how accurate it is! Concurrently, additional streams of data flow across the bottom of your TV screen.
The raw data on the television news may or may not be accurate, but the words are manipulated, edited or spliced so as to convey what may be a different message than the original data contains. Perhaps that is why the public’s trust of the media is at an all-time low.
Data is merely information; it is what you do with it that counts. If we have the right data and get the data right, print is a powerful marketing and informational tool. Get it wrong, and you’ve just lost all credibility, meaning you have no more perceived value than a Twitter feed.
This is where print has great value if used properly. In this day and age where the public is with good reason intensely skeptical about the information it receives from broadcast media and the internet, print is still considered more trustworthy, than competing, media.
In last month’s column, I gave examples of data done wrong. This month, I’d like to show you an example of data properly used.
Bandsintown has a website and an app that will tell you, as you might guess, which bands are in town. Visit bandsintown.com and you’ll get a comprehensive listing of upcoming concerts in your area. The site logs your IP address and uses it to determine your geographic location.
But wait, there’s more! Connect Bandsintown with your Facebook page and it will look at the musicians you’ve “liked” and then send you notifications of tour dates. I attend a lot of concerts, so I’ve come to rely on this service. More often than not, my first alert comes from Bandsintown, allowing me to score great tickets. The only reason I “like” artists on Facebook is to receive accurate notifications from Bandsintown.
But wait, there’s more! These guys have developed an algorithm that examines my tastes and then makes additional suggestions for bands I might like. This algorithm is uncannily accurate and works equally well for famous acts, obscure bands and local talent. Figuring out that I might attend a David Allan Coe concert just because I’m a Junior Brown fan was quite a stretch, but accurate.
A Personal Connection
By carefully curating my data, Bandsintown’s communications with me are welcome, in fact, anticipated with relish. I’m happy to hear from them, and I’m happy to provide them with additional personal info so they can serve me even better.
Several other organizations have the opportunity to do the same thing. Both TicketWeb and Live Nation know what my tastes are because I’ve bought tickets through their online services. Both send me emails with “Just For You!” in the subject line. They’re lying. They aren’t “just for me.” They are sending generic lists of concerts that have nothing in common with my tastes. Many of their “recommended” gigs are bands I’ve never even heard.
TicketWeb and Live Nation have the data. They don’t misuse it; they don’t use it at all. What a missed opportunity.
What’s the moral of the story? Data is everywhere. Its quality varies greatly. Use it carefully, but use it. In a day and age where Facebook, Google and Amazon force-feed us creepily personalized ads, people expect personalization in marketing and informational communications.
Do it right, and you gain a loyal customer. Do it wrong, and you may very well cause offense.
Don’t do it at all, and risk being dismissed as irrelevant. In communication, going unread is the unkindest cut of all.
Steve Johnson, president and CEO of Copresco in Carol Stream, Ill., is an executive with 40 years of experience in the graphic arts. He founded Copresco, a pioneer in digital printing technology and on-demand printing, in 1987. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.copresco.com