We’ve been thinking too small.
Specifically, we’ve been thinking about data as if it ought to be something big, when it’s just bits.
Your life in the networked world is no more about data than your body is about cells.
What matters most to us online is agency, not data. Agency is the capacity, condition, or state of acting or of exerting power (Merriam-Webster).
Nearly all the world’s martech and adtech assumes we have no more agency in the marketplace than marketing provides us, which is kind of the way ranchers look at cattle. That’s why bad marketers assume, without irony, that it’s their sole responsibility to provide us with an “experience” on our “journey” down what they call a “funnel.”
What can we do as humans online that isn’t a grace of Apple, Amazon, Facebook or Google?
Marshall McLuhan says every new technology is “an extension of ourselves.” Another of his tenets is “we shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.” Thus Customertech—tools for customers—will inevitably enlarge our agency and change us in the process.
For example, with customertech, we can—
- Make companies agree to our terms, rather than the other way around.
- Control our own self-sovereign identities, and manage all the ways we are known to the administrative systems of the world. This means we will be able to—
- Change our email or our home address in the records of every company we deal with, in one move.
- Pay what we want, where we want, for whatever we want, in our own ways.
- Call for service or support in one simple and straightforward way of our own, rather than in as many ways as there are 800 numbers to call and punch numbers into a phone before we wait on hold while bad music plays.
- Express loyalty in our own ways, which are genuine rather than coerced.
- Have an Internet of MY Things, which each of us controls for ourselves, and in which every thing we own has its own cloud, and we control as well.
- Own and control all our health and fitness records, and how others use them.
- Help companies by generously sharing helpful facts about how we use their products and services—but in our own ways, though our own standard tools that work the same for every company we deal with.
- Plus lots more you’ll see in the works here.
Compared to what we have in the offline world, these are superpowers. When customertech gives us these superpowers, the marketplace will become a Marvel-like universe filled with enhanced individuals. Trust me: this will be just as good for business as it will be for each of us.
We can’t get there if all we’re thinking about is data.
By the way, I made this same case to Mozilla in December 2015, on the last day I consulted the company that year. I did it through a talk called Giving Users Superpowers at an all-hands event called Mozlando. I don’t normally use slides, but this time I did, leveraging the very slides Mozilla keynoters showed earlier, which I shot with my phone from the audience. Download the slide deck here, and be sure to view it with the speaker’s notes showing. The advice I give in it is still good.
BTW, a big HT to @SeanBohan for the Superpowers angle, starting with the title (which he gave me) for the Mozlando talk.