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The Big Data Oy!

mount hood

I worked at a web start-up a few years ago that offered users a free way to build web pages without code. It was called Zude. We had two rounds of funding, about $10M, and were often covered by Tech Crunch, Scobleizer and GigaOm and ReadWrite Web. The business monetization model was tied to advertising. An afterthought really. Let’s face it, in the web world advertising is everyone’s go-to monetization.

There is an important competing force for monetization today in the start-up world and that is marketing data. Marketing data is not served, viewed, or clicked. It is sold. As behavior, demographics and proclivities. For future use.

When What’s App sold to Facebook it probably assumed advertising would be in its future. It marginally may have thought selling data would be in its future. But, now, the time has come.

Advertising is an opt-in thing. Personally data is not. Not really. Data will become more and more of a privacy issue. Millennials say “Go ahead sell my data,” now. But when they season a bit more, they’ll realize privacy is way more important than seeing advertising.

Data vs. advertising is the new battlefield.

If you put all the paper Americans receive in direct mail and catalogs in a pile, for one year, you’d create Mount Hood (I just made that up, please don’t fact check it.) Imagine what spam folders, robo calls, door knockers and TV ads will look like when data really catches on. Oy!

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slack logo

Mike Troiano, CMO of Actifio, pointed to an article today about a company called Slack that just got another round of funding, this time for $160M.  Slack is an office instant messenger, Drop Box sharing, productivity app. I’m sure there is more to it, but it does sound familiar. Anyway, Slack will take this money, bank it, then go out and buy a number of Aeron chairs, a distressed oak conference table, and 6 interactive flat screen video panels. Also lots of servers and next year’s head ware. (Last year was the fedora, this year the knit cap.) What they won’t put on their shopping list is a brand strategy.

They already have nice videos and graphics. A good logo and copy, but the most fundamental strategic document they can own, won’t even be on their radar: a brand strategy. Business plan – check. Mission statement –check. Founder’s vision – check. Cultural manifesto – check. But unless one of the founders has a brand planner as a friend, there will be no check next to brand strategy. Their VCs should know better but they don’t.

This is not meant to pick on Slack. I worked at a start-up (Zude.com) that Robert Scoble and TechCrunch loved. We failed and had a brand plan. This is not me as a furniture salesman saying every company needs new furniture. This is me as a house builder saying every house needs a design and a plan.

Good luck Slack. Get yourself a brand strategy, approve it, and stick to it. (BTW, it’s not a marketing plan.) Peace.

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