via Forbes : I had a chance to interview John Kenny, the Chief Strategy Officer of FCB Chicago, which describes itself as “the industry’s largest startup – the oldest and newest advertising agency in Chicago.” This bold vision rings true when you hear how Kenny thinks about reinventing advertising using data-driven messaging.
Vivian Rosenthal: Unlike social media, which is one to many, messaging is one to one marketing at scale. What about this shift is most profound?
John Kenny: We think about any content we put out as an experiment in behavior change. With one to one marketing at scale, it ultimately allows for more robust experiments. By identifying and controlling for individual variables, and baking that into our content, we can be more confident in identifying what’s working and what’s not. The less uncertainty, the more we can make bigger and bolder moves. And the insights from the one to one space can then be applied to better one to many messaging.
Rosenthal: When you think of messaging, what are you most excited about and why?
Kenny: We’re definitely most excited about conversational UI. The more natural and frictionless we can make our customer interactions, the more they will engage with our clients’ brands. And conversation is the most natural, most human interaction there is. We believe existing digital design groups will increasingly need to supplement their UX planners with VX planners, voice experience planners who combine customer experience skills with insights from the world of linguistics.
Rosenthal: If you had the perfect data set, how would you use it to personalize the experience with your consumer?
Kenny: While I love data, I don’t believe the perfect data set exists. Ultimately every data set has built in biases. Facebook data tells me how you wish to appear, Google’s data tells me how you fear you appear, Pinterest tells me what you’re dreaming about, Amazon tells me what you’re settling for. I don’t want to rely on any one. To truly leverage data, we ironically have to be more skeptical about each individual data set. The power of big data is not the size of any one individual data set, but the opportunities to combine multiple datasets, multiple points of view, at scale. Big data is at its core about bring multiple perspectives to improving customer experience.
Rosenthal: What type of data are you most interested in collecting?
Kenny: Within the marketing ecosystem, advertising agencies are in the business of creating content that grabs someone’s attention. For us to produce a better product, we need data on what’s grabbing people’s attention. Advertising agencies are ultimately the stockbrokers of the attention economy, taking positions on short-term and long-term attention strategies.
Rosenthal: Are chatbots on your roadmap?
Kenny: Yes. But I see it augmenting traditional customer service, rather than replacing it. Ultimately you still need great customer service reps who can be empathetic and creative. I don’t see that being replaced any time soon by chatbots. But what chatbots can do is eliminate all those low level, high volumes requests, freeing customer service reps to do what they do best.
Rosenthal: How do you imagine using a chatbot? Ie, for commerce, content delivery, utility, CRM, customer service?
Kenny: As chatbots have emerged, we initially started experimenting with them in the customer service space. It’s a very personal medium, so starting with customers who we have an existing relationship with made sense. But we’re always looking at ways to expand. In the end, the boundaries of chatbot utility will be drawn by the customer. We have an emerging generation of consumers who are spending more time on their messaging apps than on traditional email platforms. But too many brands still see email as the default medium for engaging with customers. We believe you have to go to where your customer is. You can’t expect customers to come to you.
Rosenthal: Do you think that social media teams expand to include messaging or does messaging become its own team?
Kenny: Our hypothesis is that social media teams will absorb messaging, rather than it being a standalone function, but that’s primarily because of how we’re seeing social media platforms evolving. Platforms like Google and Facebook are trying to position themselves as end-to-end providers for marketers, enabling them to provide broad reach capabilities, social sharing, one-to-one messaging, through to eCommerce capabilities, all on the same platform. As that world evolves, we’re organizing around platform first, tactic second. Platform agnostic strategies leads you to content that is not optimized for the platform it is being derived on.
Rosenthal: Does AI play into your marketing, user acquisition and engagement strategies?
Kenny: AI is really important in being able to action the engagement possibilities that big data is revealing. Right now, I know so much about my customers, their needs, their point in the customer journey, but I’m limited by how much I can engage them. The price of content customization is too high, so you end up in a situation where consumers are over-targeted but under-engaged, being stalked by the same generic messaging again and again, creating customer frustration, the exact opposite of what we want. We need to match our targeting ability with our content creation abilities.
One of the big opportunities offered by AI is customization of content, of micro-copy, at scale. AI allows us to mass produce messaging that’s most appropriate for each individual customer. Prior to AI that would have been prohibitively expensive and unbelievably tedious to do.
Rosenthal: Messaging delivers on the promise of personalization. How does personalization change the way marketers think about the life cycle of the consumer?
Kenny: Ultimately, personalization is about creating the best customer experience by reducing as much mental and physical friction from the consumer lifecycle as possible, so I’m not making people work to figure out relevance or next steps. And that’s critical because the biggest issue facing a lot of brands is consumer indifference. It’s the 21st century in America, so everything is pretty good. If our consumer buys one type of car insurance over the other, they’ll be fine either way. In a world of high indifference, the brand that wins is the brand that’s easiest to remember, easiest to engage with, easiest to buy. The better you are at building frictionless customer experiences, the more likely you are to win in the market place.
I’m the founder of Snaps, a messaging company building chatbots for brands and agencies.