Since we are able to completely dictate the nature of our blog posts, I will be focusing my blog post on topics that were not referenced in the provided question.
I was a bit startled when I read the article. I knew that data had become the new currency in technology and some would even claim that it would become the new “oil”; however, I never really conceptualized what the influence of data gathering and analysis looks like in terms of businesses.
The reading ends with a narrative about Belgium’s Grimbergn and their need to rebrand. The company decided to use data rather than a design team to rebrand the packaging of their beer. By creating a mathematical model, the company was able to discover the best attributes the branding needed to possess to target consumers. The brand design the model created had a 3.5% increase in approval rating.
This kind of data driven targeted marketing occurs in America as well. Not too long ago, Target had done a similar marketing tactic. Target discovered that women tend to remain faithful to a few brands in their lives, but are more likely to change to a new a brand when experiencing a life changing event (such as pregnancy). Thus, in order to onboard new lifelong customers, Target decided to create a model which would use an individuals’ search history and purchase history to determine if they recently became pregnant. For example, if a woman started to purchase magnesium and other prenatal vitamins, the model would identify them as newly pregnant. If determined to be pregnant, Target would begin to send the individual coupons for diapers, cribs, etc. Of course when this marketing tactic became known to public, Target was heavily criticized and as result, Target decided to hide its targeted marketing by still sending targeted coupons but disguising the coupons along with other “general” coupons (like for towels and hand soap).
While it is now fairly known that marketing and ads are targeted to consumers through data, the idea that soon products will be branded based off consumer data is a bit more horrifying. I believe it is because I would like to think that while marketing may manipulate me to purchase a product, I get to determine the quality and thus, get to “choose” whether or not I will purchase it again. Tortilla chips are a great example of this. Sure, certain branding and marketing may sway us to purchase certain chips, but in the end, if they do not meet our taste needs, we will simply purchase another brand.
However, if a product was branded to target me as a consumer, it could blind me to the existence of other products. As a result, I would never reflect on the quality and thus, lose my agency as a consumer. I think I can best explain this “product blindness” through a narrative:
I have always purchased pink Venus disposable razors. I just knew that these were the razors that were best for women. But why would I think that?
The razors are packaged to put that exact idea in my head. By designing the razors to be pink and visually pleasing, Venus targets consumers that socialized feminine and in turn most likely women. Yet, their most important branding decision was to name their company Venus. The name Venus has strong ties to femininity and empowerment. Its competitors have names such as “Bic” and “Schick”– names that feel masculine. Thus, the decision for me to purchase Venus was already made for me. I am a woman that likes to feel strong and good about myself. As I scan through the products in the aisle, only one product makes me feel that way: Venus Razors. However, I have never once considered if another product would be better in quality. I have never thought to pick up a Bic razor and in all honestly, I somehow created a classism with razors and viewed Bic razors are inferior. The strangest and maybe more eery part is, as you can see, no where on the package does it say these razors are meant for women.
I have blindly consumed Venus Razors for a little less than a decade. Thus, I would like to think that I would be able to try out the product, see the quality, and determine if I will continue to purchase it, but as you can see by Venus Razors narrative, that is simply not true. Our consumption choices can be predetermined by companies. They can choose not only to target us as consumers but subtly blind us from other options. One could argue that I am a woman, and like what Target discovered, am less likely to change my consumption choices so it makes sense why I have never left Venus. However, I have changed the kind of tortilla chips I like every few months based off my taste preferences at that time and my favorite clothing brands change on my current fashion icons.
Thus, I do think data analytics is powerful and has amazing potential for innovation. However, I am worried about it in the context of businesses and I do think there needs to be regulation in place to prevent mass corporate manipulation. What will the future of consumption be? What will the effects of this kind of predetermined consumption be on culture and overall society? It is scary to ponder those questions and hope that a more critical discussion starts on data analytics rather than the one the article had which was “digitize everything”, because clearly that is not the best idea.