A few years back, I had the good fortune to meet one of my heroes, Captain Jean-Luc Picard of Huddersfield, and what a nice fellow he is. It even turns out his favourite episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation* is mine too. Turns out that while Patrick Stewart hails from Huddersfield, his Dad, a Sergeant Major in the Parachute Regiment, came from my home town of Hebburn. I like a bit of sci-fi and looking back, I really think I should have asked him about something that’s been bugging me for years; namely, with all that advanced technology, how on earth (or in space) can you miss?!
From Stars Trek to Wars and with Blake’s 7 and a bunch of others in-between, we have seen technology hold us in awe and then disgust as the phaser blast so often misses its target. That’d never happen I often mused but I was mistaken. It doesn’t seem to matter who holds all the tech (in Trek it’s often the good guys, whereas in Wars it’s the baddies). A great example as seen in The Force Awakens where an ancient ship good only for the junk yard, yet again evades the technological might of the First Order. Cobblers, or so I thought.
I don’t want to mix serious with frivolous too much for fear of offending, but earlier this month it occurred to me that the last 50 years has seen many examples of small, determined and usually technologically disadvantaged forces cause a lot of problems for bigger, far more technologically advanced forces. So perhaps, it’s not such a stretch of the imagination to believe in some of the missed outcomes in sci-fi, or indeed in marketing.
So from lunar to LUMA, any experienced marketer knows for sure, that no matter how much software, hardware and amazing tech our arsenals boast, and no matter how many universes of big data our sensor suites have processed, when it comes to targeting, we still need to do more than rely on technology when it comes to hitting the spot – online, offline, or any mixture of both. Namely, we need to deliver our precious customers with messaging and content they find relevant. This is our prime directive.
So what to do? I think there are three main aspects that we can apply from sci-fi fiction to every day marketing that will improve our chances of smiling as the credits roll. The first is ‘right from wrong’; in most good stories, good conquers evil. The moral high ground in marketing is simply putting the customer first, marketing with and for them, not to and at them. Get that mindset in you and your team. The second is ‘get the fundamentals right’. It’s all well and good having a big metal moon, but if you’ve only used it for what it was designed to do twice in decades your ROMI is not going to look very good. Alternatively, focusing on how and where you can focus the data and tech you do have will bring you better results while you work up the really clever stuff. Finally, ‘embrace the human factor’. Some may find it hard to believe, but we marketers are human too. Just as Darth Vader must have popped down to the canteen for a plate of pasta from time to time, we need to remember everything we have at our disposal is to allow us to be more human in what we do, with data being the proxy for people, and technology the enabler. Let’s not forget, it was often a left-brained, inspirational idea that won the day in science fiction, whether targeting an exhaust port** or beating the Kobayashi Maru*** simulation. Think human.
In summary, embrace the masses of data and tech, but do the right thing by your customer; focus on the fundamentals; and try to be more Kirk than Spock occasionally. With this in mind, I hereby commit to shifting away from sci-fi and to writing about New Wave music and Mushrooms next month. That’s my Kirk commitment for today!
*The answer is "The Inner Light" in which JLP is zapped unconscious by a probe and experiences a full lifetime in another world while to the crew he's only out for minutes.
** in Star Wars, the way to bring down the enemy ship (Death Star) was to get a torpedo into a small exhaust port
*** a no-win training exercise in Star Trek fiction