Castor and Pollux were twins, sons of Leda, the daughter of Thestius, King of Aetolia. However, they had distinctly different fathers. Castor’s father was the Spartan King, Tyndareus, while Pollux was fathered by Zeus. who seduced Leda in the guise of a swan. Disturbing, for sure, but if you know Greek mythology, you know that odd behavior and strange, dysfunctional families were the norm on Mount Olympus and in the Greek city-states below.
Referred to as the Dioscuri (which means “Zeus’ boys”), Castor and Pollux were benefactors of humanity, with a particular emphasis on travelers, sailors, and athletes — but not marketing professionals.
Sadly, Castor was mortal, and Pollux was forever. So when, one sorry day, Castor popped his clogs, Pollux pleaded with Zeus to sprinkle some immortality dust on Castor’s corpse. No sooner said than done. Nice one, Zeus! The twin brothers subsequently took their place in the firmament, as the constellation Gemini.
Gemini, GDPR and the Blockchain
Gemini, incidentally, is the birth sign of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) born predictably on May 25th, 2018, a few days after my writing this blog. You can think of GDPR and the blockchain as heavenly twins like the Dioscuri. They are the benefactors of personal data. GDPR (Castor) is, of course, human and mortal, while the Blockchain (Pollux) is immortal — fathered by the Japanese deity Satoshi Nakamoto and in the guise of an algorithm, in consort with the mother of all cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin.
Both twins will work heroically to prevent the abuse of personal data.
GDPR will provide legal recourse, ensuring businesses adopt proper procedures to prevent data theft and exploitation. The blockchain will provide technology that makes personal data secure and brings it back under the control of the individual (see Permission.io, Datawallet.com, Datum.org, PillarProject.io, etc.)
The Merchant’s Perspective
After reading a very recent blog post (It Is Time To Take Back Your Data! That Means Now! And Now Means Today!), a marketing guru (John Miglautsch) had this to say.
“My contacts in the UK say GDPR will be the end of the list industry. In mail order, which pioneered the use of measurement, testing in marketing — we’ve worked very very hard to make sure data is used to avoid spending a lot of money contacting people who don’t want to hear from us. In my opinion, GDPR undermines nearly all marketing data use — but allows spammers to blanket consumers thoughtlessly.
I started in mail BEFORE computers were used in Marketing so I’m not wedded to the recent. I feel there is an epistemological war between the faith-based hypothesis of predicting what individuals will do vs. making good offers and moving with the market.”
I read this with interest. Here are my thoughts, line by line.
Into The Marketing Maelstrom
“My contacts in the UK say GDPR will be the end of the list industry.”
GDPR may well prove to be Nemesis of the list industry. Sadly, that industry has done very little to protect personal data. When I think of that industry, btw, I am obliged to include in it those dark web operators that happily sell lists of stolen data for high prices. I am also obliged to include the likes of Equifax who never once asked me, or anyone else if they could store my data — and then promptly got hacked and lost it. Such list businesses gave that dog a bad name.
But if a list business only ever uses the contact details of people who specifically opted into their list, in theory at least, it should survive GDPR unscathed.
“In mail order, which pioneered the use of measurement, testing in marketing — we’ve worked very very hard to make sure data is used to avoid spending a lot of money contacting people who don’t want to hear from us.”
I may be wrong, but I personally think that GDPR provides merchants with an opportunity. It definitely is inefficient to contact people who don’t want to hear from you. We live in a world where the level of such unsolicited contact is both massive and oppressive.
For example: about 48% of US mail is junk mail according to the USPS, which means roughly 848 pieces per household per annum, or 2.32 per day: dead trees, wasted time and how did they get my details? We can add in: cable TV — about 48 unsolicited ads per hour, radio — 20 unsolicited ads an hour, one billboard for every 500 citizens in the US, neon signs, and don’t get me going about the internet — an average of 375 ads per day. Thank god for ad blockers.
(See The Crazed Battle For Your Attention for more details.)
The “cost of attention” which means the cost of gaining someone’s attention, has increased by a factor of 7 -9 (see the Harvard Business School report, The Rising Cost of Consumer Attention: Why You Should Care, and What You Can Do about It) in the past decade. And in that decade, the response of the marketing industry has been to more aggressively interrupt your life, unbidden and unwelcome.
I genuinely appreciate any business that cares enough to do precise targeting. And businesses that invest in permission marketing — they’re the best.
“In my opinion, GDPR undermines nearly all marketing data use — but allows spammers to blanket consumers thoughtlessly.”
As can be seen from the above stats, spammers are already blanketing consumers thoughtlessly and I doubt if they can ramp up the volume much more. The consumers are already up in arms. For example, ad blocking grew about 30% last year to about 23% of US residents, 11% worldwide.
“I feel there is an epistemological war between the faith-based hypothesis of predicting what individuals will do vs. making good offers and moving with the market.”
In case you don’t understand the word epistemological, it means “relating to the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope, and the distinction between justified belief and opinion” according to my Apple Dictionary — because, yes, I had to look it up.
John is right on the nose with this. Machine-learning algorithms can be remarkably accurate in prediction, but they can also be wide of the mark. The reason they get to be wide of the mark is this: There is a shortage of genuinely skilled “data scientists” who know how to dance with data. And that’s likely to remain the case for many years because there’s a lot more to data science that throwing an algorithm at a heap of numbers. Marketing is not a science — not yet. It depends too much on psychology, which is also not a science — not even close.
My opinion is this: Combined with the blockchain, GDPR will create a business environment where permission marketing dominates. It will be a spoiler to every business that thinks it’s OK to interrupt people without so much as a by-your-leave. It will be a boon. It will also be disruptive to many businesses. But if it didn’t exist the blockchain would soon bring the same disruption.
A new world is emerging — one where people own their data.