In the wake of talk about the increased personalisation of Google search, we take a look at how consumers are increasingly curating their worlds to suit their interests, and with everyone’s internet experience becoming more personalised, we consider how brands can become a welcome guest at the party, not a gatecrasher.
With the flip of another year in the digital age, 2013 looks set to become a year of technological intimacy: the ultra-personalisation of our digital experience, from the computer to the TV to the billboard. As frightening as it may initially sound, it’s something we’ve been slowly getting used to over the last few years. From Google to Facebook to Twitter to SKY+ and even our email inboxes, we’ve become accustomed to editing our digital lives.
Before the invention of the internet and the personal computer, the idea of editorial control as an individual was practically unheard of. Newspapers, magazines, TV channels, and radio stations provided us with a curated version of events and information. However, as the internet has continued to sprawl, we’ve entered into an era where editorial control is optional and certainly not a necessity. Anyone and everyone has become a publisher and with such a vast expanse of content at our disposal, we’ve had to learn to become editors of our digital experience – selecting what we hear about and what we don’t. With tools for capturing and editing our world becoming ever simpler, there is an increasing tendency to value the content less. Take digital photos as an example; when was the last time you downloaded, printed, and framed a photo? It’s all too easy to snap away, occasionally posting to Facebook or Twitter, but it’s gone in an instant and on to the next.
Arguably, social media has been at the forefront of this change. We’ve acquired the ability to curate our own personal image, tweaking and editing what people know about us to present a perfected version of ourselves. We consider what we like, what we don’t like, who we follow, what we say, and what it ultimately says about us to others. We have become mini-publications in our own right, building a kind of edited bubble around ourselves.
The editing doesn’t stop at social media. According to Wired’s January 2013 issue, the future of Google and the future of search is personalisation. Their big aim is to create a world where Google understands our personal needs better and will tailor results based on what it knows of us. According to our location, interests, and previous searches, Google is looking to understand each individual on a more ‘human’ basis. ‘Search has become strangely intimate, a trusted friend pointing you in the right direction’ the article writes, succinctly deducing that one man’s search is not the same as another’s. What was once a straightforward search engine is now on the brink of becoming a bespoke service, making the online experience unique down to the most minute of details. The beautiful irony is that as the digital world becomes more open and accessible to us, search is making it smaller again.
And now TV is looking to do the same. American software and metadata company, Gracenote, are looking to trial their new ad replacement software in 2013 that will combine viewing habits with personal information about gender, age and income to give viewers more tailored TV ads related to their tastes. This could spell the end of the hit-and-hope days of advertising and mark the beginning of an age where we’re only able to talk to people who have decided they want to listen. Whilst the software is still in its incubation stage, the future could mean that brands will need to pay greater attention to who their customers are and what they really want, or run the risk of being edited out altogether: something brands on Facebook are already experiencing.
So what does this mean for brands attempting to find their way into the curated worlds of consumers? On the one hand, it’s terrifying. Fail to resonate and your brand could potentially fall into the digital abyss. However, succeed in creating intuitive, informative and entertaining campaigns that speak to humans not consumers, and you’ll be granted access into the edited bubble – no gatecrashing required.
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