It is said that soon we will be talking a different kind of data unit size. Goodbye terabytes, hello zettabytes. By 2020, the universe is expected to reach 44 zettabytes – that’s ‘40 more bytes than there are stars in the observable universe!’
There is no doubt that data literacy has become even more important and we should ensure we know our zettabytes from our yottabytes.
In our ever-evolving world, as technology advances so do many spheres of our lives. While this is intriguing and scary even, it is also damn well tiresome. Believe me, when I think of yottabytes my entire system freaks out. It is tiresome for me as a consumer, as a mom and as a citizen trying to sometimes fly under-the-radar.
But oooh, is it great for business!
In our industry, there would be very little argument that technology has fuelled an incredible amount of information, which finds many of us trying to find its relevance or use it in a way that makes sense of our world, the work we do and the impact that we have as human beings. Technology has such an every-second presence that even an avoidance of social media is not enough to keep one out of the crocodile’s grasp.
But it signals a fantastic consumer space, which is why our industry should be excited and thriving with where the world is at. Yes, the consultants know this, they are no longer knocking and have instead kicked down the door.
They know that technological developments will continue to generate new sources of consumer data. Think about how, in some stores, radio-frequency identification is already following you around. When you enter they attach codes to products in-store and as you put the product in your trolley, information is passed to a remote location (as remote as India) providing real-time tracking and real-time data on your purchases and giving stock level information to the store manager. Great for the store manager, fantastic for product/solutions developers and a little creepy for you, Mr Consumer.
There are commercial opportunities in knowing whether individual consumers didn’t have a good nights’ sleep, are unusually tired, or have consumed beyond their natural calorie intake. Your smart-watch and your smart home provide constant monitoring, which feeds information that our industry must use to optimise advertising efforts.
The use of data is potentially risk-free money making! In other industries, organisations are moving beyond advertising and understanding their consumer, so as to extract even deeper value from this data pipeline. They are finding new ways to make the data useful and assess risk and behaviour via the data at their disposal – think of loans of any sort and of human resources screening processes.
The advent of data, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (it really irks me when people go ‘4IR’…anyway!) has landed in a spectacular way. What it all means is that we can’t look at a statistic like I did in tertiary, which was to just leave it well alone. We need to think beyond gaining job knowledge via ‘doing the work’ and dig a little deeper by training our people to put statistics into context.
This goes for all of our people and not just the ones who work directly with the data. It affects all of us, after all our new world is made up of the ones and zeros. This is where I believe our industry has a better edge – we know how to tell stories. Creating context is about ‘emotionalising’ the data. Our industry has told stories which have shaped our perceptions, shifted our attitudes, created memory structures that are hard to break and made us fall in love.
As media and advertising people, we need to think about the intersection of where consumers find their content and how that content makes them feel. The best way to do this is to really mine the data and share this to a multi-screened, self-centred and distracted consumer.
Our approach has to be even more people-centric than it’s ever been before. Funny how the more things change, the more things stay the same isn’t it? The only new thing really is that we must master the skill of taking data and making it memorable.
Kagiso Musi is the group managing director of Meta Media South Africa, a new data-led media player in the country. She leads the Johannesburg and Cape Town offices with a list of blue-chip clients. The agency focuses on analysing and uncovering insights from the most granular forms of data and utilising that data to help clients win.