It’s official, canines are no longer able to go un-recognized on the internet, according to The New Yorker magazine in their February 23rd & March 2nd issue. It’s been almost 22 years since the iconic and most re-produced New Yorker cartoon of all time, “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog,” cartoon was first published. In the recent issue of the magazine they feature, at last, an update to the 1993 cartoon, “Remember when, on the internet, nobody knew who you were?” with the dogs looking a bit older, but all things considered, (in a dog year calculation they’ve aged 154 years) no worse for the wear.
Is The New Yorker making a statement on the innovation of digital technology, and the strides marketers have made in recognizing individuals across digital channels…………and in this case lamenting it? Perhaps. Is being recognized across digital channels a bad thing? That is still being debated, and the arguments being made in favor and against often depend on who you’re talking to, and the individual’s knowledge of how this recognition occurs and for what end. If you’re a marketing professional you will most likely be in favor of the innovation to recognize a consumer, but as marketers we should always endeavor to answer, “For what end?” The answer should always be to both drive value for the consumer and the brand. If marketers are driving more contextual and relevant offers and services to consumers through enhanced recognition capabilities, it should increase consumer engagement, brand loyalty and affinity, and produce significant ROI. But going back to the recently published New Yorker cartoon, how do we re-write the caption with an inflection that expresses excitement, not lament?
I think it starts with establishing a trusted relationship with the consumer based on engagement that illustrates that you identify their preferences in terms of offers and services, and their preferred channel when they’re in market. This can often be a marathon, not a sprint. Those high value and lifetime customers all brands covet are not developed overnight, they are established over time. Often this is done through a series of interactions that make you smarter about the customer’s needs, desires, and channel preference by establishing permissions (both implicit and explicit) with each interaction. These series of interactions (a tactical term for sure) should all be done with an eye towards an engagement strategy that drives implicit permissioning. Engagement is only established through a series of interactions that are continually optimized. So how do you establish these permissions? By engaging the customer with offers and services that say you know me, and have listened to me based on previous interactions. Customers will tell you who they are and what they want, but you must listen. In the world of brand marketing this means both understanding what offers will delight them and what will draw their ire. The latter can erode your brand, and happens when you cross the line to creepy, provide a better offer than the one they just responded to, or deliver offers that clearly illustrate you’re not aware of a customer’s current engagement with your brand. Those that draw ire will of course reduce permissioning. So focus on how to recognize your customer in a way that delights them to drive implicit permissioning. This requires marketers to connect the data derived from a consumer’s offline and digital footprint in an integrated and ethical manner. I’d start with lessons learned in the offline world, and identify how to leverage the data to apply those use cases across the offline and online world.
I will draw from a recent experience I’ve had on permissioning in the offline world. I frequent a local restaurant in my Brooklyn neighborhood. We are valued regulars at the restaurant. Where we prefer to sit (the bar) and what we order (fish entrees, wine, and infrequently dessert) are well established. But with that there are opportunities to delight and upsell. We always order a bottle of red, and our preference for style of red and price point is consistent. In choosing wine, the opportunity is to know our preferences and over time offer up suggestions that will fit those preferences and ideally introduce a bottle we’ve never tried but quickly becomes a favorite. The restaurant’s sommelier (note, this isn’t a fancy pants place, many restaurants across price ranges employ a wine expert) will provide suggestions, and often times offer a recommendation that’s above our normal price point. Our trust in his track record and his recognition of our past delight with his selections provides him the implicit permission to offer that pricier bottle. So recognizing us as valued customers and knowing our preferences provides the permission necessary to make this leap. Over time we spend more on an individual outing there and dine there more often because of the superior experience vs. other restaurants. Every time we dine there it’s reinforced that they know us and in a way that makes us feel good, leaving delighted by the experience!
The challenge is replicating this in the digital world. The key is not just collecting the data but listening to what it tells you about your customer.
We want the dogs to howl with delight at finally being recognized on the internet. Let the marathon begin!