The combination of a share-it-all culture and the advent of ubiquitous computing has created data overload. People are looking to brands, products and services to manage this flood of data and present them with useful information. To survive, brands and services will have to become helpers and educators, according to cyborg anthropologist Amber Case, founder of location-based service Geoloqi.
Brands can do this by presenting consumers with relevant contextual information, says Case.
‘The idea of relevant contextual information is to curate that data for you on the computer side,’ she explains. ‘Curate it just enough – say 80% – so that the last 20% is relevant enough to you that you can choose the best information from it. It takes out a whole bunch of pre-processing and post-processing that humans naturally do in their everyday lives and enables that to be done by computer.’
The best services, says Case, ‘take all that ambient data that is being thrown around and compress it into very useful pieces of information that are relevant to people’. For example, iPhone app Heat Tracker uses Foursquare check-in data to identify how many men and women have checked in at nearby bars and clubs, enabling the user to determine the best nightspots.
Geoloqi-based service Don’t Eat That! curates information based on the user’s location and municipal health inspections. ‘It allows users to subscribe to notifications of health inspection scores under a certain threshold for restaurants within 100 metres of their current location,’ says Case. ‘If they are near a restaurant with a low inspection rating, they get a text message about avoiding eating there.’
Outside of the technology world, other brands and services can reach out to consumers by curating information for them. ‘I worked on the Old Spice campaign when I was at Wieden+Kennedy,’ says Case. ‘The whole idea of the Old Spice guy was to be an experienced older brother who would teach you how to be great. You have all these people in modern society who need to learn certain things. These brands become helpers, and they give them that information in an efficient way so that they can go on and live their lives better.’
People dislike irrelevant and useless advertising, she says. ‘It is always interrupting an experience they are having. The brands which help people the most, in the most relevant way, will survive – while the ones which don’t will die out. So over time you will be left with advertising that is extremely useful to people.’
Top five take-outs
1: Curate information. Just present people with the most relevant data.
2: But try not to over-curate. Leave the final choice to the consumer.
3: As well as curating information, share it. Geoloqi is open-source, so that other services can make use of its data.
4: Tailor services to a person’s velocity and movement, as well as his or her location. Someone travelling in a car moves differently from someone browsing in shops.
5: Use social recommendations. ‘The best advertising is word-of-mouth advertising,’ says Case. ‘It’s relevant to me because I’m friends with people with whom I have things in common.’