In the age of feeling, by the numbers is not enough

Big Data has led us into a new age of reason, but real people aren't as predictable as research suggests, writes the global CEO and CCO of gyro.

The advent of "big data" has led businesses into what seems like a new age of reason. We have the technology now to quantify our world in endless rational ways. We see more, we know more and we have the algorithms to reach people with more precision than ever before. Choose the channels; decide on the message and press send. Relevance is guaranteed; success will surely follow.

There's just one flaw in this analysis: Human nature.

Real people don't behave as rationally or as predictably as the data might suggest. We are tribal and emotional and the reasons behind the choices we make aren't so easily measured. We go with our guts; we hear what we want to hear; we choose our own "facts."

In reality, the age of reason only exists for those who see the world as a database; the rest of us are alive and kicking, and figuring out how to succeed, in the age of feeling. 

And what's true of the world in general is equally true of the world my agency knows best, B2B marketing.

With the tools available to us now, we can say exactly where the decision makers are. We know how they buy. We can track their interactions. We can paint customer profiles one by one with hundreds of data points.

It's powerful stuff and we use it every day to help bring our clients' brands together with the right people at the right time.

But proximity is not the same thing as closeness. There has to be a spark of connection—some kind of meaning in the moment.

This is the last 1 percent of the journey—and it's more important than all the rest, because it's the part that translates the power of data into the magic of persuasion. 

It is the part for which there is no algorithm.

Feelings cannot be conjured out of numbers. They are born in stories. They live in shared experiences. They are ignited by invention and surprise, empathy and delight. And precision marketing is seriously underpowered without them, because feelings ignite business decisions just as powerfully as they fire any other aspect of human behavior.

To be properly full-service in today's B2B arena we need to be masters of two worlds: Context and content.

The world of context is all about making the most of our precision tools—the analytics, the media planning technology—to get messages to the right place at the right time. And let's be clear, for us, this isn't mere number crunching; this is creative work demanding the most inventive minds an agency can find.

Our world of content represents all the ideas, experiences and storytelling ability it takes to complete the last 1 percent of the journey and truly reach people. The source material for this work has to be as large as life itself. And consequently the pool of talent agencies need must extend way beyond the boundaries of a conventional creative department.

By bringing these two worlds together, by introducing feeling to precision, we can transform data relevance into human relevance. We can give businesses and brands the power they need to positively thrive in the age of feeling. 

—Christoph Becker is global CEO and CCO of gyro.

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