Music, marketing and mathematics can combine beautifully to create a million possibilities

As I reflect back over the year, this is one conversation that has left some deep impressions on me. The challenges that are there in rewiring our skills, learning from different streams and applying them in our day-to-day working is becoming more and more critical.

Marketing today is on the threshold of change. In the past, marketing as we knew it was largely dominated by 30-second TV spots and other mass media such as print, outdoor, radio and so on. The number-crunching only came into play while deciding which medium to back in the advertising campaign and for what price to buy the media.

But, look around today and there are the likes of Google, Facebook, Twitter and others who apply complex algorithms such as Page Rank, Adsense, marketing mix modelling, content marketing and so on along with technology (analytics, digital marketing, search engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) to make marketing a lot more data-driven. Similarly, in music the magic of maths plays a huge role.

As a musician, Padma Vibhushan Umayalpuram K Sivaraman has an accomplished career of nearly 71 years – he debuted at the age of 10 and has been seen and played with the best musicians across the years. His son has been one of the earliest adopters of marketing analytics in India. cat.a.lyst brings you a conversation between the legendary mridangam vidwan and his son S Swaminathan, Co-Founder & CEO of Hansa Cequity, a major customer marketing & analytics firm, on the cross-learnings from music, maths and marketing.


Here's the full link to the conversation


Building a data coalition around personal data

Last week Facebook's Chief Privacy Officer - Stephen Deadman, wrote about the need to refocus the debate around personal data. It was a thought provoking article where Stephen talks about the need for a kind of a new coalition between tech companies on the use of personal data.

I had also written the week earlier on my blog on the trends that I saw - Transformation of software vendors as data vendors. As I read  his piece, some interesting thoughts, challenges & framework to use personal data came to my mind. It also needs a variety of stakeholders - policy makers, governments, tech companies and citizen groups across the world to come together.  Also, Doc Searls and Dan Mitchell who I follow, added a lot of perspectives around this topic and the initiatives that are being undertaken. 

The key issue that came to my mind was, who is more empowered today to use personal data and who is the owner of personal data. I strongly feel, the individual is highly dis-empowered today when it comes to use of his or her own personal data. Very often, I find tick boxes, check boxes, cookies that outlines all kinds of T&Cs  that we literally have no control of this data. Also, the way marketers treat this data, is purely in terms of economics and there is no strand of trust, whatsoever. It represents an unequal relationship, an accelerating decay of distrust for the individual when it comes to her personal data.

When it comes to personal data, the internet has disrupted national boundaries. The data individuals leave behind, for example in Uber or Amazon or Facebook or Google or Apple to put it mildly is subject to interpretation on ownership. When it comes to offline identity, governments have found a solution with Social Security numbers  or Citizenship or the like. But, when it comes to personal data, the rules are however archaic.

The coming of a Data Passport Era

There is a need to build a ecosystem by linking offline identities of individuals thro' what I believe will look like Data Passports. This will be fundamental to building a data coalition that Stephen talks about across companies. Data Passports are an equivalent of Data Vaults that will be owned by the individuals against their passports, mobile devices, broadband connections, banking relationships etc. etc. Data Passports will have streams of an individual's personal data. This massive repository will have links to personal data of individuals and will be classified with specific lifestyle and usage behaviour tags. Like ICANN, there is a need for a non-for-profit organization - called DCANN( Data Corporation of Assigned Names & Numbers) which will be linked to the massive Data Passport APIs across various countries & personal data passport vaults.

This data passport vault, which will be owned by the individual along with other identities, will have permissions from individuals to share specific strands of data for mutually beneficial economic and social value. This kind of a data passport platform will then be shared amongst companies & governments to derive value thro' mutual exchange of trust.

This is a long journey that needs to be taken to empower and give the control back of personal data to individuals themselves. It needs a new kind of data coalition that calls for collaboration, sharing, flexibility and mindset change across borders, governments & companies to enable this. 


Data is mine but we as consumers undermined it first!

There is a great article in Time Magazine which talks about "How companies know everything about you?".

There are many relevant points that are being made there but I really don't concur with all the blame &  privacy issues that are being made in the article. I agree with the need for privacy of my data and of course, am against littering of my personal information. But, before we jump of the hook and start  blaming the internet, industry leaders like google, facebook, twitter &  other data marketing companies, we as consumers need to think about the following points:

  1. Free email : There is nothing called a free lunch right? When you have a free email id which you have  opted to take and use extensively, the companies need to find a business model to make money. Hence, they decided to build a business model around targeted advertising using the content and information that you access. The money they earn is being used to store our email data, provide uninterrupted access to your email, maintain the infrastructure etc. So, are we as consumers ready to pay for such services and also therefore define or give information access, rights to these companies on our terms? 
  2. Customer aggregation platforms have done it for decades, so what's the stress?:  Television, radio station, newspapers did it for decades. The content that consumers watched on TV was subsidized by advertisers, broadcasters & electronic appliance companies to name a few - They paid to reach consumers and group of consumers like you. Every interruption of ' your valuable time' when you watch your favourite movies and soap operas is 'invasion of our privacy'. We chose to live with it, till new digital media like internet, mobile came-in. There were no laws to stop this invasion of privacy. The new media companies have now found a new method to hawk this information. Are we as consumers ready to pay subscription charges for such content and define access rights for this information on our terms?
  3. Intermediation leads to social litter, disintermediation protects it: Any intermediator, we know, controls the information, prices and margins. This has happened time and again to us as consumers. The farmer faced this many decades ago as he could not get the right prices for his produce as the intermediators held them to ransom till disintermediators intervened and build an efficient supply chain. The banks are the age-old intermediators who have made pots of profits( and they make it still) by making money on our money!  I see many social media platforms as intermediators - I never was able to connect with my friends who I had lost for ever till they came-in and made it easy. I see it as a huge a benefit. But, the information they hold is a goldmine and they have to find ways to monetize it to remain in business. Are we as consumers willing to pay for being members of these social platforms - even a couple of cents, if we really find them valuable and beneficial? Therefore, we can define access rights to these platforms on our information on our terms? 

To conclude, what I see around me emerging is businesses like information vaults, personal information utlities (PIUs) firms like allow, Personal which talk the right language of consumer control but as a consumer I would like to know what are their terms of agreement with my preferred platforms - social media, TV, email service provider, communities on the Net am a member of, financial services provider, govt.( they trade social security nos. for a price too!) etc.. There needs to be terms of transparency, terms of portability, terms of usage, terms of enagement   etc. before we as consumers jump-in and start embracing these platforms.

Else, this will be a case of one more of the many fads that  we will fall into and we will undermine our data once again!