Today, at the gym, I was listening to Pandora on my smartphone. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Pandora, it is an Internet radio company that takes your preferences (in the form of what songs/artists you skip, search for, give a thumbs up or a thumbs down to) and caters a radio station that should be composed of all songs you like. This concept has far-reaching implications in the evolving trends ofBig Data and Hyperpersonalization

And Pandora has all this data. At. Their. Fingertips.

Pandora has a mobile app, so they know with each ad, they are reaching me while I’m on the move, as a captive audience. You cannot skip the advertisements, as they are the “price” for using this wonderful app. One would think that with this wealth of data, from my general affinity for New Wave rock, electronic, 60’s psychedelia and modern rap music, that they could draw some pretty sophisticated parallels in my listening and purchase behavior. One would think…

Now, don’t judge, but I was listening to Kelly Clarkson radio, and an ad for Dove beauty care products came on the screen. Granted, I do have silky soft skin, but this advertisement appeared to be off target. Just because I have an unnatural draw to the crushing single, “Since U Been Gone,” doesn’t mean I’m in the market for that special face cream that will turn heads. It seemed to me, with the mounds of data that they have collected about me as a Pandora user (years of thumbs ups/downs, playlists and shares), that the ads would be something that made sense to me.

Thus is the conundrum in data collection and usage- what does all this data mean, and how can you make actionable results from it? 

The first consideration I want to highlight is, “What information can one glean from my musical taste?” I don’t have a sophisticated answer to this question, but I would think a great deal. This is not at all dissimilar to a utility company being able to adjust their strategy based on if someone chooses paperless billing, or a bank offering mobile services to its customers based on website traffic analytics. Big Data, such as consumer preferences in the music they listen to, the companies they “like” or “retweet” on social networks, and the products they browse on Amazon are all part of a bigger view of your customer. Marketing should follow consumer behaviors, and this data should lead to tailored and targeted communications.

The next consideration is “Can a single selection determine overall preference?” This is at the core of my example. Just because I listened to Kelly Clarkson once doesn’t at all mean that I like the same things Kelly Clarkson likes, or what the common Kelly Clarkson fan likes. Smart marketing is collecting data on your customer, building a perception of your customer or those demographically similar, tracking their preferences and actions over time, and arranging them in a meaningful schema. Online marketing paired with offline channels, as well as print paired with QR codes, PURLS and social media allow for conversations that can carry on past the first touchpoint, gathering more data over time. This is where Pandora missed the mark (or at least their advertising)- they had me right where they wanted me, had a wealth of data on me, but showed me an ad for face cream.

Pandora has a sophisticated database that can tailor a radio station to play the next song I would want to hear, so I would think that they would have equal ability to play the next advertisement that I would want to see and hear.

Be the marketer that sends your customer a mailpiece with the picture of the car they were researching on your website (or test drove); send the email with a complementary offer to the pair of blue jeans they left in their online checkout cart; send that SMS message that offers a free cup of coffee while they are within 1 mile of your restaurant. The data is there. Find a way to collect it, make meaning out of it, and create extremely targeted messaging.

Just don’t send me any more advertisements for face cream.