For years, marketers viewed mobile as the next era in ad technology. But the term “mobile” cannot communicate the scope and complex nature of the evolving ecosystem of consumer home devices that are linked across wired and wireless networks. This is the system sometimes called the Internet of Things. Think of all the devices consumers have at home that are (or can be) connected to the internet. In addition to computers, phones, tablets and TVs, we have Wi-Fi-connected refrigerators, light bulbs, thermostats, home-security systems and speakers, to name a few.
Historically, we’ve looked at hardware with online capabilities as a unique marketing channel or conduit for delivering a message (the desktop computer being the key example). But these “things” offer something different.
They are data vehicles, not marketing vehicles. Having a screen that a consumer can interact with does not necessarily make a device a distinct marketing channel.
These devices are huge first-party data stores for marketers and the manufacturers. Think about this: Nest is not just a company that makes thermostats; it is a data company as well. These devices don’t present display-ad opportunities, but instead add to the vast pool of data points, which marketers can use to develop messaging ops and provide value and utility back to the consumer.
A washing machine notifying a consumer that he or she is running out of preferred soap (and helping to order more through an outlet like Soap.com) can be more meaningful than a consumer packaged goods ad delivered on a mobile device. Partnerships between manufacturers and brands can leverage these data stores to develop brand loyalty. A brand like Tide can build a customer for life as the consumer’s appliance stores the brand preference, reminds him when to buy and helps find the cheapest price.
It’s impossible to deny the immense value of such data, which has not been available before. But with great data comes great responsibility. Any appliance-driven data economy must be based on opt-in by the consumer. Consumers need to get real value out of sharing their data, so the onus is on the marketer to reciprocate. Marketers need to embrace these devices for what they do, which is collect hyper-specific data about one aspect of consumers’ lives.
We’re sitting on a pool of behavior and preference data for each consumer that can be leveraged for better marketing messages. But to stitch everything together efficiently, we need an advertising model that can aggregate these fragmented data points. Let’s stop looking for ways to shove advertising in consumers’ faces simply because there is a rise in connected devices.
Let’s look at how we can build a better picture of the consumer as an individual, based on all the signals in his house. There may be ad opportunities, but it won’t come in the form of banners or text ads, and it will likely be a different execution for every vertical.