The CMO Show: Aric Dromi unlocks the marketing universe

Could embracing “machine wisdom” be the key to unlocking the marketing universe? Self-confessed troublemaker Aric Dromi is on a mission to find out…

The future of marketing will be driven by machines – we’ll just need to nudge them in the right direction, says Volvo’s chief futurologist Aric Dromi.

It’s about shifting mindsets, Dromi says, away from computers as vehicles for serving up data needed to perform analysis, and towards embracing technology as a powerful tool to free up our time for “more human” pursuits of empathy and creativity.

“I think one of the greatest lacks in the industry right now is imagination,” he says.

“We have all these great tools that enable us to collect information, but don’t have the right people to actually convert that information into creative, crazy ideas that can create engagement with users, customers and consumers.”

There’s a new social contract emerging between users and digital engagement, Dromi says, where privacy is a commodity we happily exchange for value.

“We need to stop thinking about privacy when we’re looking at these things, and more about the value exchange that we get because we are willing to expose ourselves if we get the right value.

“It’s as simple as that.”

Join hosts Mark Jones and JV Douglas as they discuss the coming decades of marketing automation, the true value of Snapchat, and how blockchain is actually a philosophical model for digital engagement on this forward thinking episode of The CMO Show.

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The CMO Show production team

Producers – Megan Wright & Tom van Leeuwen

Audio Engineers – Jonny McNee & Daniel Marr

Got an idea for an upcoming episode or want to be a guest on The CMO Show? We’d love to hear from you: cmoshow@filteredmedia.com.au.

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Transcript

Participants: Hosts: Mark Jones and Jeanne-Vida Douglas

Guest: Aric Dromi (AD)

JVD: We’re here.  We’re recording.  The CMO show is at Ad Tech 2017 and I’m here with Aric Dromi.  He’s a futurologist and  troublemaker.  Welcome to the show.

AD:   Hey, great to be here.

JVD: Now, you just gave a fascinating presentation and basically you were looking at how software is increasingly making recommendations for our consumption habits.  Now, in the old days, marketers were effectively really intuitive people that could double guess what was going to convince people to modify their habits or change their behaviour in some time, in some way.  What marketers needed to know was how humans thought.  They needed a lot of human intuition.  What are the sorts of aptitudes and skills marketers now need, given that this type of technology is actually currently impacting the way they operate?

AD:   I think one of the greatest lacks I see in the industry right now is imagination.  We have all of these great tools that enable us to collect information, but we don’t have the right people able to actually convert that information into creative, crazy ideas that can create the engagement with users, with customers, with consumers.

We cannot increase our brain capacity.  We reach a certain level.  Software, you can always put another processor, you can always put more memory, you can always distribute it in places that human cannot be in so many places at the same time.  We need to start repurposing our analytical skills into creative skills when it comes to marketing, and really come up with these ground-breaking ideas that we could never imagine before.

JVD: So if you like, technology’s providing the information, but we still need to provide the wisdom?

AD:   I think technology is providing the wisdom.  We need to become smarter, using that wisdom.  So we need to find a way…  I always like to describe, we evolved from IQ to EQ, and then I’m missing the ETQ.  The emotional technology quotient.  How can technology use my brain as an algorithm within the way it’s perceiving reality.  I can use technology as an extension of my cognitive and organic needs, and become one with this technology.  I think, if we are able to connect to a machine, learning in a better way.  Look at it in a simple way.  We are still reading the same way of [unclear 00:02:42].  We are reading an average two pages a minute.  Machine learning can read millions of pages every second.  Let them do the reading, and come up with the right conclusion for us, so we can nudge it into the right direction.  We can still be the navigator, but we don’t need to be the driver.

JVD: That actually is really interesting because it leads me into the next idea I was hoping to discuss.  You spoke a lot about the way technologies are transitioning from delivering, or marketing technologies are transitioning from delivering consumption options, to predicting consumption options.  Can you talk through some of the technologies that are actually doing that?  That are currently in operation.

AD:   Well take any app that exists on your phone today.  We tend to install the app, and the app is asking, “Hey can I access your location?” Not many of us are actually noticing that, “Can we access your locations” even when they are not using the app.  “Can we access your camera?” “Can we access your microphone?” “Can we access your calendar?”   And we tend to approve these things because we get the necessary value.  As we are creatures of habit, technology can actually, you know, machine learning can actually learn from who we are, what we eat, when do we eat, when we wake up in the morning.  It’s not one specific technology that I can pinpoint but it’s this reciprocal relationship between different types of environments.  Locations, environments, a sensor environment, a different type of sensor environment, altitudes.  Anything you can think of, that simply collect the data about you and feed it into, you know, feed it into the beast, at the end of the day.

You do start to see these wonderful…  like I had this exercise with students.  I had 70% of students that I was working has Apple Watch.  And we had this exercise, how do we make Apple great again?  Because it sucks today.  And I asked them, “What is the value of a heartbeat?” Because 75% of you guys has an Apple Watch that monitors your heartbeat.  What is the value of a single heartbeat?  What is the value of this bio feedback that we start to get from users, into understanding better marketing, better sales structures.  You do see, we are moving from wearables into ‘invasibles’.  Into this NFC chips that can actually be put in my arm.  This Google tablet, that a pregnant woman can just swallow.

It’s like the blue pill and the red pill from The Matrix, except it’s monitoring the foetus for the entire pregnancy and she can start communicating with the foetus on her smart phone.  And what’s the value of that data?  So everything starts to come inside our bodies.  If it’s our brains, our heart, our veins.  You have these chips today that can monitor diabetes.  I heard about two sisters that live in two different places in the US, one of them was severe diabetes.  Her sister found a doctor that can implant the diabetes chip in her sister.  She can monitor her sister with her iPhone, and call her any time she can see changes.  We have these things right now.  I think it’s less about technology.  It’s more showing people the value that they get.

It’s like this dichotomy of, you know, privacy versus freedom.  What the hell is that?  We have never been more free and more private in our life.  We need to stop thinking about privacy when we’re looking at these things, and more about the value exchange that we get because we are willing to expose ourselves if we get the right value.  It’s as simple as that.  It’s really not an issue of technology, it’s an issue of how we create the right buzz to deliver the right value.

JVD: You mentioned, almost in passing, too, that Snapchat has an extremely sophisticated – I think you referred to it as a bio-filter, is that right?

AD:   I look at it as a bio-sensor.  So the kids, you know, my kids… I got exposed to Snapchat for what I do at work, and then I had no one to communicate with because my kids add me and then they block me because I’m too old to be on Snapchat.  I ended up communicating with my wife and friends our age, and we are making these funny faces.  But the ability of Snapchat actually capturing my face, my expression, and adding layers over it, is more sophisticated than any other company I’ve seen, commercial company that I’ve seen on the market.  Now imagine that you expand on that.  You take it from the face to the entire body.  You take it from the face, you take it to buildings.  And yet enable marketers and creative directors to enhance experience through digital airing, that you can simply view for a Snapchat glasses.  They do have a very, very interesting bio-sensor that, for me, it’s their core asset.

JVD: That’s really interesting.  I have a 13 year old so I have a lot of exposure to Snapchat.  There’s been a lot of, I guess, market – negative market response about Snapchat’s valuation.  I think it’s been 25 billion US  dollars and that it’s some kind of bubble.  Now it sounds though, like potentially, what the market is doing is reading Snapchat the way we read Facebook, or the way we read traditional social media valuations, in terms of their current profitability.  It sounds though, as though Snapchat might have something in its core technology, that ultimately will prove significant, will deliver significant value but we’re just measuring it wrong.

AD:   I look at the value of Snap… Two things.  The first, I think Snapchat is valuable because it’s threatening Facebook.  It was great when I worked with students.  Suddenly all of them are asking for friendship on Facebook.  “I have so many friends on Facebook right now.”  We are young, they are in their 20s.  They are treating Facebook like LinkedIn.

JVD: Right.

AD:   But they didn’t add me to the conversation on Snapchat because I’m too old to be on their Snapchat.  So it’s – it’s very, it’s creating a high level of pressure within Facebook because they – they will on human communication as the way we are communicating and there was Facebook dominance in that aspect.  I think another thing is, the way I see it, is that we take companies like Snapchat, which are fully digital.  They control the next stage of digital interactions, of human interaction, cognitive interactions and we value them against a paper based system.  I think that is wrong.  I think Snapchat should have never went on the New York Stock Exchange Market.  They should have actually joined the blockchain revolution and tried to really engage in a new financial structure that makes much more sense for that type of company.

JVD: Now blockchain is one of our favourite topics at Filtered Media.  Can you just tell us a little bit about, or give us a definition, for what blockchain is?

AD:   Block chain is communist –  communism made right.  [Laughs]

JVD: Central operation.  Central ordering.

AD:   Yeah.  I think blockchain would have been the child of Ayn Rand and Karl Marx.  Right, take them, then you get blockchain.  I think it’s a – I don’t look at blockchain as a technology.  I look at it as a philosophical idea of how society should interact when we are fully coded into a digital landscape.  I think the barriers that exist right now is that it’s the same barriers that Linux had.  It’s a great idea in the wrong hands.  Block chain became irrelevant when quantum computers became a reality.  We need to rethink the technology, the technological architecture.  But the idea itself is brilliant.  It’s creating a flat structure of the world of interaction.  And there is, I haven’t seen anything better than that to shape society.  I think again, people tend to look at blockchain as a standalone thing.  It needs to be in the context of VR, in the context of an AI, and crypto-currency.  It’s not just meant for crypto-currency, it’s made for digital interactions.  That’s how I see it.

JVD: Can you give us an example of how it might operate?

AD:   Ooh, that’s… I think one of the nicest ways, one of the nicest implementation of block chain I follow is some of the, I think it’s the Saudi Arabia government that said until 2020, the entire government administration is going to run on blockchain.  It’s a way to cut bureaucracy in a whole new way.  Think Uber should move into a blockchain, to create a much better service infrastructure.  But more than that, if you think about the way we communicate, digitally communicate with the world.  Unless you make a voice call, everything is like send, receive, send, receive, send, receive.  There is not full duplex immersitivity.  I think blockchain can actually change the way we communicate with each other.

Look at emails.  One of the most hilarious, shittiest systems on the planet.  Right?  You get a linear view of nothing.  You wake up in the morning, I wake up in the morning, many times, I have 50 emails in my box.  The first email I see is the last email I got, which is a commercial.  Not relevant.  The email that was sent in the middle of the night it’s down and I don’t have time to look at it.  It’s an email from a CEO of a company that changed the meeting for the morning.  I think technologies like blockchains will enable us to parse information in a better way, and put things in a better context and I think, we need to move from contact – content interactions to context interactions and these are some of the implementations I see for these type of technologies.

JVD: Can I bring in an analogy, I guess, from trading?  Maybe a decade, a little bit more ago, we started getting algorithmic trading patterns, ah platforms.  The first thing they did was take a little bit of human behaviour, in the morning, and then they used it to predict the trading patterns throughout the day, and to also execute trades based on those predictions.  I get a sense we’re in a similar phase when it comes to sort of algorithmic marketing, in that we’re taking a little bit of information from humankind, and, that’s us, and we – and these algorithms are using it to predict behaviour, and to make certain offers.  And to – and to – to – to make certain offers, I’ll leave it at that.

But when are we going to get the point – to the point, and are we going to get to the point, where we have marketing algorithms following each other?  The same way our trading systems no longer have very much human interaction with them.  They’re effectively different generations of trading platforms, looking at each other’s behaviour, and trying to outbid each other.  Are we going to get to the point where we lose the human element, to a certain degree?  And lose the need for empathy and an understanding of humans, from that whole marketing sphere?

AD:   It’s an extremely philosophical question.  So the answer is yes, and no, in a sense.  I think we, as humankind, reached the peak of our evolutionary race.  I think it’s time to think about what comes next.  I do believe that if we create an AI that is an external to who we are, we are not going to be able to fight it.  We – I love the idea of “let’s code it to follow our rules!”  Yes, because every time humanity tried to enslave another species, it ended up really well.

We are talking about a species that is superior on us by any means.  I think we need to think about how we can combine ourselves with technologies to get to the next level.  Where technology can offer things that our organic construct is preventing us of – of achieving and we can show the empathy, the emotional value.  And emotions is one of the only things that never evolved with humanity.  If we feel love today it is the same love that people felt – people felt 5,000 years ago.  Anger is the same anger.  Our thought patterns have changed, but our emotion patterns are actually the same.  I think this is one of the biggest things we can bring to the table.

And in – we tend to think about like a central computer that is looking at humanity and trying to analyse everyone in humanity.  And I tend to look about it’s not an AI, it’s my AI.  It’s something I’m born with, and it’s getting to know me and it’s teaching me as much as it’s learning from me and we’re evolving together.  And then, of course, my AI will be able to talk to other AIs, and this is the algorithmic relationship between two machine learning environments.

And – and, I often say that, you know, my kid says, “We need an iPhone.” They don’t say, “I want an iPhone” anymore.  It’s need.  And I think we need to – one of the biggest challenges for marketers today is to rethink the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  I love that comparison.  And Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is supposed to be a subconscious, metabolic requirement.  But, it exists in our conscious mind all the time.  Imagine if we can shift that using algorithmic mechanisms, and put them back where they belong, and free our mind to focus on what we want, not about what we need.

And I think that, if we achieve that, then you have done the – pulled the biggest marketing campaign in the history of mankind.  And this is why it’s like, we can talk for ages on these – on these questions.  This is why it’s yes and no.  It’s about how we decide to engage with technology, and immerse technology into who we are.

JVD: Thank you for opening up a future that I think is more utopian than dystopian, Aric.  Thanks for joining the CMO show.

AD:   Happy to be here.

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