2017, here comes more chaos, be ready to transform
2017 marks thirty years since the
original publication of the book that made Chaos Theory
Chaos Theory is a branch of
mathematics that explains how huge change can come about
unexpectedly from the accumulation of tiny changes. The most famous
example is the butterfly effect. This shows how a tiny change,
caused by the flapping of a butterfly's wings weeks earlier, may
lead, when it is added to millions of other tiny changes in the
atmosphere, to the formation of a hurricane.
This effect can explain much of what
seemed so unpredictable in 2016. Did those pundits who were shocked
by the events of the year really listen to what was truly going on?
Did they just hear what they wanted to? As the results were so
close did tiny differences accumulate in how numbers were rounded
up for polls lead to outcomes that have taken many by surprise.
Chaos theory explains why we should be
wary of predictions for 2017, and this blog will not make any 2017
predictions. Here are two suggestions for 2017 instead.
First suggestion: We had better listen
with real empathy to the users of our brands and products in
Use of data is on everyone's list for
this year. But if that data is in any way contaminated, or fused,
then it must be used with great caution. The differences when one
panel is fused with another may be tiny, but those tiny differences
can cause a hurricane when you least expect it. Listening with
empathy to consumer voices as well as interrogating the data is
Correlation without causation is not
enough. You may know that there's a correlation between the number
of firemen sent to a fire and the amount of damage done. Does this
prove that firemen cause damage? Salon.com writes that some critics
of ObamaCare say that it's led to more Emergency Room Visits and
that this means the law has failed. Really? It doesn't take an
expert to come up with other interpretations in either instance.
Spurious correlations abound in marketing and if you can avoid them
you're winning. Questioning every plausible explanation is not just
healthy, it's crucial for good decisions.
Data is crucial to media delivering
the right message, at the right time, to the right consumer. But if
we don't understand what those consumers need and how they are
really feeling then brands will not truly reap the benefits of
investing in the data management in the first place.
Second suggestion: more change is
coming and it will be transformative. The butterfly wings have been
accumulating so no-one will be able to continue with unchallenged,
unexamined heritage practices and succeed in 2017.
For example no-one can continue to get
away with serving content made for one medium everywhere and expect
success. In one overheard conversation last year a media exponent
was talking about the fact that the creative agency had developed 7
AV executions for a brand relaunch. He explained: "For the creative
agency this was a revolution, but our media strategy will burn
through those 7 executions in one week on Facebook - I actually
As AI becomes better this creates the
need for a transformation in comms. Better AI drives higher
consumer expectations. People are quicker to condemn Google for
getting the time of a journey slightly wrong now than they are to
wonder at the fact that it can accurately predict that your journey
is about to take place at all.
Increasing consumer expectations means
that people will expect relevancy. And to buy or use a brand, when
and how they want to. Ecommerce is still a minority choice for most
products. The upside is therefore huge. Brands need to be
considering what is possible, not what has been normal.
2017, keep Chaos theory in mind.
Listen with empathy; be ready for transformative change.
By Sue Unerman, Chief Strategy Officer