Check out these marketing strategy website images:
where’s the virtual upright wheel-chair?
photo from IBOT Mobility, designed by Dean Kamen & team
Imagine this: Juan enters a bar in a wheel-chair, pushed by Alice. Fred the bartender turns to Alice and asks, “Would he like a drink?” Juan is perfectly capable of deciding for himself, but Fred doesn’t get it. Back in the real world, Dean Kamen revolutionized many disabled people’s lives with an upright wheel chair that changed everything – putting Juan’s head level with Fred’s. But where is the virtual upright wheel-chair for all consumers, who are generally talked about or even to, but rarely listened to?
A large number of companies now claim to listen to consumers, but they tend to listen for market research, not for the words of individuals. That is, companies collect user feedback and consider it as they develop new products or programs, but they still sell to customers as segments. They guess at preferences rather than asking consumers directly. In short, they make offers; they don’t generally consider bids. They produce configurations to meet market needs, but they don’t produce to order.
*The new balance of power*
But that will change. Consumers will begin to have the ability to set terms with institutions: Would you like to buy my data? Or, I’ll give you my data because I want you extend me credit. Or, Will you build me a system or design me a dress with these and these specs?
Of course, the underlying power balance of size versus the individual doesn’t change, but the fact remains that the consumers have the money that the institutions want. In our current world of abundance, no one has to persuade an institution to sell its goods. But now institutions will have to design for their customers, treating them as individuals. This is not so much because customers want it; they have always wanted it. It’s because competing vendors now have the capability to do so, and no company wants to be the last.
Once users get control over data that was previously controlled by institutions, many markets will change fundamentally. Currently, most data about users as consumers is in the hands of financial institutions and marketing intermediaries such as ad networks, who sell the use of it to one another. (Alas, we are talking only about private institutions and commercial data here.) Increasingly, these institutions are beginning to develop some kind of consumer strategy, if no more than Fair Isaac’s MyFICO, a website that lets consumers pay to see their FICO scores (one from each credit bureau). It was during his time at myFIC0 that Scott Mitic, who went on to co-found TrustedID [I’m an investr], “got” the powerful connection between consumers and their data. But these services aren’t core for the institutions and – let’s face it – they are rarely sincere. In the end, Mitic left to realize his vision elsewhere.
Indeed, the more convincing efforts are start-ups that have consumer power in their genes, and individuals as their primary source of revenue. They see an opportunity to provide control over the use of such data directly to the individuals who generate it. Like a bank holding money, they hold the data on behalf of individuals, not on behalf of marketers.
“Users in charge” can be an empty promise – everything from “have it your way!” to “the customer is king.” But three start-ups, in different spheres, are planning to offer true control over their information directly to consumers. Note that this does not mean privacy – in the sense of “I can stop people talking about me.” Nor does it enable someone to change a poor credit record into a good one, or to disown a bad reputation. It means control over the use of it, not the facts in it.