I told you about strawberry fields, You know the place where nothing is real, Well here's another place you can go, Where everything flows.
Glass Onion, The Beatles, 1968.
John Lennon wrote these lyrics in response to the growing conspiracy theories swirling around the Beatles; his band had effectively morphed into a glass onion, he reflected, structured by infinite layers of intrigue, rumour and gossip, a deep pool for fans to gaze into for meaning.
Today, we live in a glass onion like never before. Rather like that Powerpoint function that lets you play with the arrangement of images on a slide, trying to understand the pecking order and significance of influence in society is a game that has led to investigations into offshore tax havens and even the existence of a shadowy group of leaders called the Illuminati.
Well here's another clue for you all, The walrus was Paul.
So what’s this got to do with marketing I hear you ask? Well, the key of course is advanced data analytics, deep learning, machine learning, whichever flavour of insight you prefer…
We’re talking about the power of creating meaningful correlations between trillions of data points to guide business decisions. In itself, data analytics doesn’t seek to be layered, even though seemingly lateral sources of data will be smashed into each other to understand cause and effect; ultimately action-focused, the best analytics form part of a ‘single view of the truth’ that anticipates and rewards customer desire at every touch point, on the path from discovery to purchase of a company’s product or service.
Now of course every marketing Johnny in every disciple, from shopper through to content through to influencer through to good old fashioned TV advertising, needs to demonstrate that he understands the impact his work is having, and what the data can tell him to inform his future work.
Where it gets interesting, is when businesses start layering data analytics on top of all of this activity. The small content agency which is part of a boutique marketing services group, which joins up with the small media agency to better understand cause and affect for its clients; the ad exchanges which exploit this data to sell on to the former clients’ competitors; the global search behemoth that joins this data up with its own search data to affect natural search rankings, etc etc.
We’re even joining in with this. At Twice Reply, we are working with our colleagues in Germany, TD Reply, who have developed an extremely successful machine-learning driven dashboard, that can help its clients predict short term sales fluctuations based on marketing and external macro and local activities such as the economy, local social hype and the weather, with astonishing accuracy.
We have therefore found ourselves applying a layer of strategic and data insight above other ‘actors’ in the ecosystem, making recommendations that will need to filter down into agencies that don’t sit in our group, to execute in order to help either grow the client’s business grow or optimise its existing assets. How will these companies respond to these edicts coming from a layer above? Will they have a choice in the matter? Will it further commoditise and devalue the actual stuff of content that needs to fill the endless touch points of marketing communication? And who is sitting above us? Is there a shadowy presence waiting in the wings to feed our recommendations into their own algorithm, to extract even more juice out of the machine?
I told you about the fool on the hill, I tell you man he living there still, Well here's another place you can be, Listen to me.
So what does this mean for the marketing ecosystem? Consolidation is obviously key here, with the growing influence of the consultancies and systems integrators (yes, us) who understand the end to end marketing ecosystem, and can execute at every point. But there are also new start ups launching with frightening frequency, with their own algorithms increasingly attached not only to insight generation, but marketing automation, too. So the glass onion will continue to grow. Understanding what is real, and what is a dream, as each layer unburdens its fruitful meanings and recommendations, will be a fascinating journey indeed.