56. Intrusion (Marketing) 

   
There is a tech nerd in all of us. For some the tech nerd is the very persona we live and breathe, whilst for others it is a facet condemned to the deepest corners of our psyche. It remains in both instances that we, as humans, will always be interested in the technical wizardry of the next big developments. It is with this in mind that we explore whether there is a tangible limit to data that consumers are willing to pass back to brands and marketers. 

Alibaba recently showcased technology that allowed consumers to pay online transactions through taking selfies. This, albeit harmless, development does open up a whole new technological conversation around the use of the human body to impact on online decision making through tech. In this case, it seems a novelty that makes for potentially viral news but may not be immediately adoptable locally, or indeed globally, due to certain undeniable impracticalities.

Project Underskin takes the using of the human body one step further. It is currently developing a smart digital ‘tattoo’ that is implanted into your hand and interacts with everything you touch. Data can be transferred with a handshake or you can unlock, or lock, a car door by simply opening it (the opportunity to make catastrophic and humorous mistakes seems very readily available). Within this technological feat the limiting factors seem only those conceived by of our own imaginations. 

But what if data started to be collected from your body directly, from the inside, and this was something that fell into marketers’ hands? Would you be happy to be served ads that responded to signals from your body based on factors that generally fell out of your control? When retargeting becomes frustrating on our computer we can always clear our cookies, if anything on our mobile phone infuriates us we can always reset the phone, but to remove a smart tattoo is a lot more of a convoluted, and pricey, process. 

An example of a technologically remarkable product that hasn’t fully hit home with consumers is the Google Glass. Although impressive on a technical front the cumbersome interface was not fully intuitive and in some ways, relatively obtrusive. Simply, it did not mould comfortably into consumers’ everyday existences, rendering it a fad that was hyped and then fell by the wayside.

As marketers, in this acceleratingly tech focused digital age, it is important to correctly balance our excitement around new tech, and its opportunities, with a fully rational perspective that gauges where the line between award winning innovation and forceful intrusion lies.

(Photo – Eli Woodbine, Toronto, 2016)

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