Don’t think like the customer, get them to think like you


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Predictive analytics is big business now. Hand in hand with Big Data they represent one of the only ways to get to know your consumer market and understand how they’ll behave under conditions, respond to marketing and react to incentives. But the problem with all of this is that it’s a constant cat and mouse chase, consumers are an unpredictable swarm despite what we believe to know about them.

So what if we’ve been going about this all wrong ?

A chink in the Big Data armor

Steve Jobs’ famously said in an interview “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.” and this perfectly explains the flaws with predictive analytics, customer experience management and how we are approaching Big Data. We are spending all our time trying to understand and mimic customer behavior and thoughts to attract them with a product or service when in fact we should be using that information to make them think like us.

Nobody needed the iPhone but Apple made us think we did and manipulated our desires to think like them, almost becoming employees of the company once we bought into the idea to defend the first iterations many flaws and missing features standard on other phones.

Nobody needed the MacBook Air but Apple made us want one over a standard NetBook to the point we were willing to shell out the additional cost.

Look into my eyes

Predictive analytics and the power of Big Data should be used like a hypnotist introducing a subconscious thought into the subject. It’s more than marketing. It’s more than incentivization. It’s subtle manipulation and conditioning. And it should work. In fact you should design your customer processes around the concept too. Instead of creating processes to bend backwards to make a customer smile turn it on it’s head; make them bend to fit your processes because you’ve created that same Applesque desire to be a part of your company and product, a part of something big. Consumers long for that.

Sure, this is a controversial way of looking at things and probably a downright immoral suggestion but customers are nothing more than a set of subjects and you are Sargant making them choose a path over your competitor. It’s just that instead of electric shocks you are using data.

And there isn’t that much difference at the end of the day.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Theo Priestley
Theo Priestley is Vice President and Chief Evangelist at Software AG, responsible for enabling the marketing and voice of the industry's leading Business Process, Big Data/ In-Memory/ Complex Event Processing, Integration and Transaction suite of platforms. Theo writes for several technology and business related sites including his own successful blog IT Redux. When he isn't evangelizing he's playing videogames, collecting comics and takes the odd photo now and then. Theo was previously an independent industry analyst and successful enterprise transformation consultant.


  1. Seriously?

    Nobody needed the iPhone? A laptop that actually worked with minimal OS and virus issues? A better way to make music portable?

    They transformed a basic market need into a fantastic product. It had absolutely nothing to do with a lack of need or market demand – it was thinking ahead, anticipating trends, and delivering a product that was extremely well done.

    It wasn’t about Apple shifting customer’s perception of what they want. At every product level, their brand is about taking a concept down to the simplest form possible, making it look beautiful and uber user-friendly, giving it features people wanted but had trouble articulating, then launching it.

    They didn’t shift how people think, they were just able to transform a basic customer need and desire into a very well-done product that met those same needs/desires.

    Do you really see Apple as some sort of brainwashing company? I’m sorry, but that just seems silly to me.


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