Placing Value on your Data


What is the purpose of market research? To gain a deeper understanding of the audience in order to make products and communications that are more desirable and relevant to them. However, the limitation with market research is the fact that it’s only selecting a small sample group; it works in a controlled environment and doesn’t account for our human imperfections. This requirement of people’s time and mental exertion would be financially compensated.

Data capture on the other hand, which for brands has the same objectives as traditional market research, often asks very little of people, as little as clicking ‘Accept’ at the bottom of reams of terms and conditions. Indeed it is often information of seemingly little personal value. But how much is little? What is little worth?


The first thing to make clear is the fact that privacy and data are not synonymous. You can share your data with brands without compromising your privacy. I strongly believe that it is the brand’s responsibility to ensure that the data [you have so kindly shared with them] remains safe. Fear that the limited information you can provide will somehow open the portal to evil brand mind control is fruit loops.

Even hacking and spying fears are, in my opinion, mostly unfounded. Aside from wanting your bank details (high-value data), hackers tend not to be stalkers. The fact is; if it’s of no financial gain (i.e. you’re not Jennifer Lawrence), the bad guys have no interest in you as an individual. I believe that, what I see as an irrational fear comes down to people’s over-inflated sense of self-importance.


It may be a sweeping statement but it seems that a lot of the concerns surrounding sharing personal information lie with older generations. The sense that there’s no such thing as a free lunch implies that whatever you’re exchanging must be worth something, even though in your pocket, it’s worthless. Or maybe they’re just more private people generally but that feels more like fluff than fact.

The importance of ethics and transparency is far from lost on Millennials; the feeling that something is mutually beneficial is of great importance, even if they are less guarded when it comes to sharing.


Transparency is key for all business-to-people relationships in this day and age. It’s through transparency that trust is built and this is the foundation of any healthy relationship. Without trust, you cannot relax and be truly happy. In a brand sense, this means that you don’t have to be worrying about what may or may not be going on and the brand can continue to occupy the tiny fraction of brain space that it does, possibly wrapped in slightly warmer sentiment.

Balance of Exchange

Transparency extends to clarity around what you will be getting in exchange for your information. Exchanging information before buying something online is the norm. Often, having a good reason for needing the information is the strongest pre-requisite to sharing, especially when it comes to low-value data like contact information.

The question that brands seem to have presumed the answer to is: Is targeted content (Google Now) enough of an incentive? Does it give people the social currency they require to part with their browsing history and other data gleaned from the digital detritus of modern life? Or would a financial incentive drive more accurate customer data?

In the age old adage of making things people want, not making people want things, I would argue that the most effective exchanges take place when brands can guarantee the best information at the right time and place in return, à la Citymapper. This, or simply giving people the power to affect change. Financial drivers, especially for low-value data, are likely to result in a high volume of inaccurate or irrelevant data.


The fact is that we attach different levels of value to different sets of data. The commercial value of our data only exists when the people sailing the sea that we’re creating are able to understand the data. We’re only able to see this understanding when they find insights and use these insights to communicate more effectively.

If something purportedly has no value to you in your hands but could lead to the greater good, why would you not?

You don’t need a crisis to have a plan

We talk enough about brands in crisis, we advocate honesty and showing a human-side. I put a presentation together on that very topic:

However, this is not the main focus for this blog post.

I’ve dealt with depression from my early teens but have been lucky enough to only experience three crippling lows in that time. If it’s a part of us it will find its way into our working lives at some point or other and unfortunately my most recent dip occurred only earlier this year.

According to our Human Resources department, depression is abundant within our industry, which begs the question; why aren’t we talking about it? Supporting each other? Sharing our coping strategies? I’m assured that it’s no longer the taboo topic of yore but all signs point to the fact that it is.

Inspired by the articles that former BBH colleague Shadi writes for the Huffington Post but lacking the same journalistic talents, I’m using this space to explain some of things that have helped me.

Warning Signs

Prevention being better than cure, the most important thing to know is when you’re slipping. Unfortunately, it’s minor things that add up or the extremes of quite normal emotions, they also differ from person to person, making them all the more difficult to spot. I’ve listed mine:

  • Wanting to get away/go somewhere new – We all fancy a holiday more often than not but this is a strong desire to pack it all in and be somewhere anti-Cheers; where nobody knows your name
  • Over-eating at sporadic intervals – Like preparing for hibernation this may be my body anticipating the fact I’m about to enter into a state where I won’t be taking care of myself. Or it could be a comfort thing. Or I could be reading too far into it
  • Putting myself down, feeling that everyone is better than me
  • Over-reaction to trivial things – Having certain thoughts that I obsess about
  • Wanting total silence both around me and in my mind – Probably as a response to the previous point
  • Paranoia – reading too far into the nuances of conversation – It’s very difficult to step back and see yourself as being irrational

Most of these points are examples of ‘unhelpful thinking’. CBT is a great way to try and break these habits and, though hideous (clipart alert), this was a handy link that I was given.

Feeling Wafty

A ridiculous word that a family friend uses to describe that sinking feeling.

It tends to start with exhaustion and a complete lack of motivation. This often leads to guilt for me; wanting to give my life to someone who could use it better.

The best thing is often to ride it through. Keep busy but pace yourself. Step back but don’t retreat. Stick to a light routine, easing up on the workload where possible and alerting your line manager that things may not have the same rate of productivity that they usually do.


Too late, I can’t get out of bed. Short term next steps (N.B. You won’t want to do any of these):

  • Speak to someone – I’m lucky enough to have 3 people who I know I can call on no matter what state I’m in and I hope they feel they can do the same with me. You don’t have to engage in a high level of conversation but just alerting someone to how you’re feeling really can help. They may also be able to help you with some of the other steps
  • Open the curtains and switch the light on
  • Have a shower – My friend describes it as being like a re-boot

Changing thinking patterns is the most difficult part of recovery but there are two other areas that can help you get there:

  • Go for a walk – Endorphins, you know this
  • Cook something – Maybe a personal one but making something (however slowly) puts my mind into a manageable task

Rather than striving for happiness, it’s more realistic and beneficial to strive for health

Finally, know that it will get better but be prepared for it to get worse before it does. It sounds trite but you’ll look back on an episode and find it hard to understand why it seemed so insurmountable.

My hope is that this will be useful, not only to people who are fighting depression but to their friends and colleagues who care about them.

Who is the creative brief for?

It may seem like a simple question to answer and before working in an agency (and for a time whilst working in an agency) I would have answered; “the creatives!”. However, being “the most important piece of paper in the agency”, the creative brief does more than it says on the tin i.e. brief the creatives.

1. Planning Tool

Depending on the level of complexity contained within an agency’s creative brief template, a planner often finds themselves filling out a five page document full of everything from the business objective through to prescribing the distribution channels. These are all factors that need to be considered but could these not be worked through in a Response to Brief or another separate document that doesn’t have to be there at the brief clinic or briefing itself? Would it not improve our storytelling ability and raise the interest of the creatives if we had to condense each brief into a PechaKucha or had a written word limit of 20?

2. The Client Contract

This is a particular bug bear of mine. I do not believe clients should sign off on the creative brief. A response to brief to their brief yes but for a client to muscle in and change the proposition to a end line or call to action defeats the point of having a planner in the mix to begin with. The clients should be happy of course; they’re the client but they should also have enough faith in their agency to not need to micro-manage to the nth.

3. An Inspiring Trigger for Making Great Work

My ideal agency would see creative teams of three; comprised of an art director, a copywriter and a planner.
The best briefs I’ve seen are not only built on an ‘Ah ha’ human insight but have usually had input from the creative department at the earliest possible stage. This is not to say that I in any way advocate brief writing by committee but if you are all (literally) on the same page from the get go, surely it will result in better integration within the agency and better work as an outcome.

I’ve always found creative brief writing (and briefing) to be the most enjoyable part of my job and coming from a creative background I suppose it’s only natural that I would want to be more involved with the creative department. This may not be the case for the whole of planning but imagining a collaborative utopia can’t hurt.

N.B. Not to say that the planner shouldn’t have contact with the client and everyone should have input into identifying a business need

What structural changes (if any) would you make if you had your own agency?


This is a summary of Martin Lindstrom’s Buy-ology. I’ve picked out the key lessons for marketers but if you need more information around the experiments that led him to his findings I recommend reading the book.

Digital doesn’t have to have a #

One of the main roles of a strategist within the advertising mix is to maintain a strong sense of who we are talking to. Yes, we need to meet the business objectives and yes, having the opportunity to produce revolutionary ideas is exciting but both of these factors will fall perilously short if the people that we are trying to communicate with cannot relate to the piece of navel gazing that the creative agency have produced at the client’s expense.

Never has this pitfall been more apparent than since the advent of digital. Being a new medium, it was primarily used to target a younger audience. This quickly expanded to a wider demographic when it was astutely noted that the population of the internet expanded beyond the 18-24s. However, whether through habit or laziness, the strategy used to launch a new range of glitter lip balm often finds its way into the brainstorms and discussions of the products and messaging of an altogether disparate audience.

A digital brief is not a pre-requisite to a pop up shop in Shoreditch with its own hashtag that can be reverse graffitied on a treasure hunt along Brick Lane. This solution is not going to make Kirsty in Sleaford any more likely to switch the kids’ packed lunch choice.

We are of course jumping ahead to media, which should never be the approach to producing a strong idea and digital is at its strongest when integrated into part of a wider campaign. It just strikes me that the responsibility of ensuring that the right message gets to the right audience lies in the hands, not of the media agency, but of the strategists. This should be viewed as an exciting opportunity that allows us to implement some real human insight and understanding.

Predictably Irrational

This is a summary presentation of Dan Ariely’s fantastic Predictably Irrational. Some marketing books can be a bit of a bore to get through; a lot of people get the gist in the introduction and leave it there. This isn’t the case with Ariely’s book. His writing style is really accessible and if the points made in this presentation interest you, I wholeheartedly recommend reading the entire book.

The decline of Apple as a brand

something in the air

I believe that the decline of Apple as a brand is due to their inability to keep up with customer expectations when they used to surpass them.


Technology used to be designed for the workplace, when the use of technology at work far outweighed that at home. This balance shift was first forecast by Apple and they led the way be making their products look good. This attracted a new audience, back before Geek Chic, and indisputably had an impact on the direction that their competitors took their software, computers, tablets and of course, smartphones.

Apple realised that customer needs were leaning away from a functional working tool towards something more intuitive, usable and engaging.


Nobody knows what the user wants to be able to do better than the user. Nobody except Apple that is. Not only did Apple products look good but they felt intuitive – we didn’t know what it was until we used it and that’s when we realised we wanted it.

By taking inspiration from outside of their category, from products that people understood, Apple were able to create a frictionless experience that engaged the imaginations of a much broader range of people than had previously shown an interest in technology. This early establishment of a new audience helped to cement the loyalty that many advocates still profess to today.

“Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything” Steve Jobs, iPhone launch, 2007


People were willing to pay a high price for this level of innovation but sadly this is where our story catches up with the present day.

It’s easy enough in the design and advertising world to forget about the mass smartphone market but retention is not a sustainable business model and acquisition is becoming increasingly difficult.

This exclusivity which used to be an asset has now put Apple in a position where they are increasingly unable to justify their price premium. The rainbow iPhone 5Cs look cheap and cheerful but their price tag is not a reflection of this aesthetic.


First to market with their skeuomorphs, they appear to have run out of objects to take inspiration from. After so many firsts, Apple have now been overtaken by open-source technologies. They set their own bar high and have been unable to sustain the momentum with strong fast-moving competition.

Apple have lost the extraordinary as well as the ability to delight their customers. The once widely anticipated launches of new products now feel repetitive and gimicky.


With the rise of Generation Y and the trends for coding, hacking and personalisation, there is a growing feeling of resentment from those who feel locked in by Apple. What used to be a novelty has become a problem as compatibility issues crop up.

There are also theories around the lifespan of Apple products being purposefully rigged to expire just after the warranty wears out. True or not, there’s no denying that efforts are made to narrow compatibility with standard tools and solder parts in where possible so that the entire product becomes defunct when a single part needs replacing. This only serves to irritate those who expect their products to be their own, to be able to mould them to their will. It goes so far against the initial intuitive usability that was Apple’s initial draw.


When it comes to doing the right thing, this wasteful production, and their failure to follow their supply chain to its, in many ways, rotten core, further demonstrates an inability to meet customer expectations. This shows another missed opportunity to be the company that other companies aspire to be like.

Despite being worth an estimated $700 billion, looking at Superbrands UK’s results for the Top 20 Superbrands of 2014, Apple have shifted from their position of 2nd in 2013 down to 14th. My guess is that this trend is only set to continue when the results for 2015 are published later this year.

Footer background
London, UK
+44 (0) 7879 351018

Drop me a line

Yay! Message sent. Error! Please validate your fields including your full name.
© 2017 Em Mathews. All rights reserved.