At Forrester's Customer Intelligence Forum in LA, they opened the conference with an interesting exercise -- Asking the audience to vote whether a well-known brand was "cool" or "critical." The results:
IBM – critical
Facebook – cool
Pandora and Spotify – critical
Adobe – critical
Salesforce – critical
Pinterest – cool
Apple – cool AND critical
Only Apple managed to be both cool and critical. And that may explain its stunning success.
On the one hand, Apple makes stuff that's fun to use. My sister is a big Apple fan, and she takes some pleasure in showing off what she can do with her iPhone and iPad to her geekier brother (me) who is still a Blackberry user. [heavy sigh] But I have many business colleagues who are equally passionate about Apple, and they extol its usefulness for communications, travel, etc.
Cool and critical. A great place to be.
This got me to thinking about marketing technologies. Will you use them in cool or critical ways?
I worry that too much focus will be placed on internal efficiency, and not enough on value creation for customers. That's why I really like what Macy's is doing -- analyzing Big Data to figure out what drives customer loyalty and how to improve the consumer experience. See Macy's Marketing Transformation: From "Mad Men" to "Math Men" for more on this.
At the conference there were a amazing number of vendors exhibiting. Here is a tiny sampling of companies I managed to spend some time with, along with my quick assessment about whether they are cool or critical.
Neolane -- I attended a presentation by consultant Jill Speirs about a project at Sears Canada, where Neolane beat out IBM/Unica and SAS for a marketing/campaign management solution. Neolane has also been very progressive in social marketing solutions, and does a good job in both B2B and B2C, which is rare. CRITICAL
ThinkVine -- A startup specializing in agent-based marketing simulation software. Roots of this in systems theory. One key application: optimize marketing spend across all media. COOL
ClickFox -- AFAIK, ClickFox is still the only company that offers true cross-channel analytics, versus multi-channel. Hugely important in complex contact centers that want to optimize the customer experience. CRITICAL
Tealeaf -- A pioneer in recording web sessions, for later playback/analysis to figure out what went wrong. Just introduced a new mobile solution, which should be popular in banking, retail and other industries where consumers are moving to smartphones and tablets. CRITICAL
HP/Autonomy -- I've always thought of Autonomy as an enterprise search solution. But after spending some time at their booth, it's clear this is a formidable vendor in the hot text analytics space and an important solution for Big Data problems. CRITICAL
If you've got data and a marketing problem, you can probably find a solution. But will you use it to be "cool" or "critical" with your customers?
Don Draper, the marketing technology industry needs some help to be more cool!
Bob Thompson is CEO of CustomerThink Corp., an independent research and publishing firm focused on customer-centric business management, and Founder/Editor-in-Chief of CustomerThink.com, the world's largest community dedicated to customer-centric business. Thompson is a popular international keynote speaker, blogger and author of numerous reports, articles and papers. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Customer Experience Professionals Association.
[Recorded Sept 26] Traditional Voice of Customer surveys have a blind spot to real-time feedback on social media and call center interactions. Learn how progressive companies are mining Big Data to improve the customer experience, reduce churn and even boost agent selling.