Friday, December 21, 2012

The Probability Of Possibility

I ran into a friend on the train the other day. He’s a bright guy with advanced degrees in math and science. He was telling me he may soon take a job with a major advertising agency to create software analytics that will help capture and analyze consumer behavior data in the hopes it will reveal patterns that help advertisers determine the right message and advertising vehicle.

The concept is not new – people try to predict or influence behavior based on past patterns of activity. But what used to be done, based on polls or limited/outdated data – and just gut instinct – is now being turned over to digital detectives. Will humans become more robotic as a result of robotic formulas seek to analyze -- and then influence and dictate our behavior?

Pattern analysis can tell us, hypothetically, that 75% of commuters drive to work, and that 45% listen to the radio and 29% eat in their cars. But they don’t tell us “why.” Yet, advertisers, governments, and social policy experts will seek to capitalize on this information and use it to get consumers to take a certain type of action step. I just wonder if merely connecting seemingly unrelated things (let’s say people who drive also tend to eat tomatoes) will help predict and influence other behaviors.

On the other hand, too many marketing decisions are made without access to relevant, timely, and comprehensive data. Book publishers decide every day to publish a book because they were overly sold on a single number or an incomplete statistic.

Though many more people could buy a diet book, than say one on a disease that affects a smaller amount of people than say obesity, the latter may sell better due to lack of competition, need, and price. But usually a publisher dismisses the niche or specialized book, and favors the book that could have mass appeal – despite obstacles such as market saturation of existing titles on the subject.

There may not be a perfect formula to fully predict buying patterns, but surely people, like my friend, are racing in a lab somewhere to find the digital DNA for consumer buying patterns.

And once those patterns are found, and others try to capitalize on – and influence them – the patterns will again be altered as a result…until new ones are discovered.

Now if we only knew where to find all of the people who will buy your book, we’d all be rich!

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This blog is copyrighted material by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2012 ©

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