Robots & Bots Are Part of Marketing Automation

Robots & Bots Are Part of Marketing Automation
Parrot drone controllable by an iPhone; modifiable for gathering data

This is the fifth in a series of excerpts from Allinio’s white paper Net-Centric Marketing & Information Superiority.

Company UAVs?

In the military, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) fly in theaters of operation, remotely controlled by an individual with a joystick, gathering data to be used elsewhere. Other modes of UVs are terrestrial, marine surface, and submarine-based.   Some are even armed and capable of lethal engagement with enemies.

Needless to say, Fortune 500 companies are not about to launch unmanned vehicles to spy over, on, or under competitors’ properties and no one is implying that they should; the easier access to and proliferation of ISR platforms do not justify unethical acts such as corporate espionage.

However, data gathering platforms which have been used commercially for years, such as remote sensing on satellites, are already providing greater capabilities and value for marketers, and other robotic platforms will eventually be developed for high quality commercial data gathering procedures.  Marketers for real estate-related goods and services, for example, can look at commercially available space-based photography, determine conditions such as deteriorating roofing, undernourished landscaping, use positioning to determine property owners, and conduct direct marketing campaigns, all from the same desktop or laptop.  Such remote controlled or unmanned, distance-based data gathering tools, or fundamentally robots, are part of this concept of Net-Centric Marketing, and may possess an element of interactivity.

Imagine a high-endurance robotic blimp replacing the current manned versions that fly over outdoor sporting events.  Equipped with large LCD displays, pre-programmed events with GPS coordinates to fly over, it could present  contextual ads based on the audience below and additionally display images or text impulsively uploaded from cell phone toting spectators below for contests that are voted on by the other spectators present, creating a data gathering spree for multiple advertisers.

Meanwhile, other data gathered ranging from the brands and models of vehicles in the adjacent parking lots to the regional traffic patterns surrounding the venue at the completion of the event can trigger contextual ads on the blimp, nearby billboards and popular radio stations that steer customers towards deals on new cars, or restaurants on better routes, or to download a custom digital video of the event just witnessed to one’s home entertainment center, ready for replay upon arrival.

While this may not happen anytime in the near future, it is a feasible extension of the present situation where a person walking in a mall is being sent Bluetooth messages on their cell phone announcing sales and coupons from merchants in the mall, all based on the demographics of the cell phone owner.  Net-Centric Marketing will be the driver behind the hypothetical but more comprehensive and not-so-far-fetched blimp scenario described above.

Before this is all dismissed as part of a great budget-busting marketing pipe dream, remember that Net-Centric Marketing research can start fairly easily.  For example, focus groups can be a more valuable tool in the arsenal of the Net-Centric Marketer.  Instead of one-way mirrors and videotape and crisp one hundred dollar bills, there are webcasts with webcams and Amazon.com or other gift certificates emailed instantly to participants upon completion of the focus group. Also, now there can be many more observers over a large geographic area, and the pool for qualified target demographics can be larger because of the greater search area.

Logical Surveillance

Web analytics tools, including ones that study user behavior and the context of user generated content are emerging and will be critical to the Net-Centric Marketer.  Much is already being written by others regarding these tools, and it is the purpose of this white paper to merely frame them in the context of the C4ISR Marketing model.

Virtual worlds offer an interesting opportunity to perform logical surveillance of consumers in a physical simulation.  The very act of designing and creating an avatar may yield information about a consumers tastes and preferences; what they wear, the colors they select, what they call themselves and other “physical” characteristics of the avatar, whether realistic or fantastical can be observed and gathered by a human participating in the virtual world or even a “bot” that can quantify certain elements of that avatar.  Where an avatar goes, and how it interacts with its environment and other avatars can be observed, recorded, categorized, and acted upon.

While virtual worlds such as Second Life have hit a plateau with regard to participation, they nevertheless can represent distinct segments that are of interest to niche marketers; and despite their detractors, the market for virtual products within those virtual worlds has been significant.

Bots themselves will continue to be problematic.  While most Marketers are familiar with spiders and other bots utilized by the major search engines, what is really known about the extent that bots permeate the Internet?  Which are friendly and which are foes?  We all need to be wary of global organized crime that is conducting its own illicit “marketing” on the web, invading computers, commandeering them, and then engaging in activities such as spamming.

How can businesses further protect their assets from criminal activity – How proactive can they be?  Must they resort to industry collaboration or can they depend on the government and what they buy off the shelves?  Beyond “honey pots,” can a firm employ “sentry” or “mercenary” bots before their firewall?  Can logical surveillance be legally used to be preemptive against illegal or even legal activity that can damage a brand?

While privacy issues will undoubtedly arise regarding surveillance by Marketers both on and off the web, enabling technologies that can provide context to visual quantitative and qualitative data may be too valuable to ignore.

Marketers can now track certain data on competitors just as easily as those competitors can track it themselves.  With the spread of blogging, SEO/SEM, and website analytics or other tools, Marketers can establish KPIs that enable them to quickly measure their competitor’s campaign effectiveness, customer perceptions, and other indicators of message penetration, popularity, and behavioral responses by customers.

This is the fifth in a series of excerpts from Allinio’s white paper Net-Centric Marketing & Information SuperiorityClick here to read the previous excerpt onlineStay tuned to this blog for the next excerpt.

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