[Update: In February 2019, the Wall Street Journal reported that many popular health and fitness apps were sharing sensitive data with platforms like Facebook. The future is now.]
Communicating effectively as a brand ultimately distills down to three things: right place, right time, right message. In the very near future, it’s likely biometric marketing will be used to improve decisions about these three things.
Consider three fairly commonplace technologies already in existence:
- Google can measure frustration. When you tap your phone’s screen several times in quick succession trying to close an app that has crashed, they are using this information to make decisions about how to better serve you.
- Eye scanning technology has been in use for years now to measure how users interact with webpages to improve user interfaces.
- The Apple watch is more than an accelerometer or pulse monitor – it’s a plethysmograph that can interpret several signals from your body to calculate the level of oxygen saturation in your blood with a reasonable degree of accuracy.
As progress marches on – what will come next?
We may be able to glimpse that future by combining three things we know to be true:
- people will continue to lower their guard with respect to privacy (trading it for the convenience and benefits afforded by highly-customized digital experiences), and …
- the Internet of Things (IoT) will continue to enmesh itself in daily life from smart concierge tech to vehicles to appliances to wearables and …
- brands and digital platforms are continually searching for new signals to add to the tools they use to understand and reach audiences, then…
…in the near future, it is likely that autonomic nervous system behaviors will be monitored and factored into the algorithms that power audience allocation as well as provide a rich channel of analytics to measure the success of communications campaigns.
From the three examples above, it’s not too hard to imagine measurements of electrodermal activity (EDA), pulse rate, breathing, and other nonverbal behavioral cues being used to determine a user’s “mood,” allowing brands to consider this new signal when determining the right message or context to advertise to someone with.
Similarly, it would only be natural for brands to seek to measure the success of their advertising campaigns through similar metrics like pupil dilation, body temperature, or facial expression (as measured by the ubiquitous front-facing cameras on every device). Someone, somewhere is no doubt testing this hypothesis right now.
Facebook may someday be able to tell you not only which variants of a post had the best clickthrough rate (CTR), but which versions users unconsciously found the most exciting by “PDR” (pupil dilation rate).
How can we be ready to press these new insights into service? It seems a daunting task, but it need not be. It is important to remember this as we square off against the dizzying array of measures and tools that can be used to engage with our audiences.
If these technologies come to pass, brands can apply the same approach they’ve applied to all the shiny digital platforms we now use:
- Start with the most important questions your brand has about its audiences – let those guide you to the tools best equipped to fill in those knowledge gaps.
- Improvements arrive incrementally – adopt a “perpetual beta” mindset of constantly testing your approach to see what these new metrics can tell you.
- Pace yourself – your brand doesn’t need to make use of all of these tools at once. Incorporate as many into your campaign as are manageable. Analytics reports and dashboards are only valuable if you have the time and knowledge to act on their findings.
Every day brings new ideas and technologies for marketers, advertisers and public relations pros – but all of them are still in service to those three simple axioms: right place, right time, right message.
Derek DeVries is a director of digital and social strategy at Lambert.