Katryna Dow is curious by nature. Since her youth, she’s had a knack for gathering data and trying to understand what it reveals about the nature of its subject.
After being inspired by “Minority Report,” this entrepreneur and consultant founded Meeco, an Australian-based company that focuses on helping consumers put the power of their personal data into their own hands. Meeco is a platform that allows users to capture, access and manage their personal data for their own benefit, enabling them to exchange it for rewards – or keep it hidden.
We were curious to learn about her and her insights into data usage and analytics, so, Dow spent an Australian morning speaking with us.
PA.O: What triggered your interest in marketing and analytics?
Katryna Dow: As a kid, I always had an interest in collecting information and making sense of it. I’d line up my dolls and question them for insights. I started my own consulting company when I was in my early 20s, and the motivating aspect was in trying to understand people and their point of view.
I never really called myself a marketer, but when I began to work in strategy for larger organizations, the question became: How are you going to communicate this in a way that is effective and meaningful to the audience?
Here is how I got my idea for Meeco. A scene from “Minority Report“ showed data, information and marketing completely out of control. I realized we could live in a world where we were constantly bombarded with ads, like the characters in the movie, or we could do something about it.
I started Meeco because I wanted a different future. Our current structure does not really involve the individual as a collaborator in their marketing or data usage. So much is collected in silos – my bank, airlines, shoes, the things that I’m ordering – all of it. All of those things are organized in categories and some may make partnerships with each other, but it is really only the individual who sees their lives in context.
A really good example of where that is important is in how airlines tend to see us as frequent-flyer numbers rather than travelers. If you see us as a traveler, there is a much greater context into how you want to influence someone’s life.
If we can just find this collaboration place where there is a lot of transparency, you can transform not only the offering that your organization is capable of, but make it relevant to your audience. Transparency does not have to be at every moment — it can be at different places and times. When you have those full parameters, your perspective is not only much more contextual, but you get to learn and understand the individual.
Here is how I see it: You could develop algorithms to understand who I am and what I like, or you could just ask me. Misinformation can be really bothersome.
Here is an example. If a woman is pregnant, it’s a dream for businesses because she might consider a whole host of things that were not previously important. She may move from an apartment to a house, go back to school, change her health habits, trade in her sports car for a minivan and might even change out her 401(k). If she is willing to share that insight in return for getting the things she needs, then there’s an opportunity for shared value and greater efficiencies for the businesses she deals with. However, like all of us, her data is sold to so many organizations it’s very hard to turn off, even when her context changes. Imagine if you weren’t pregnant but looking for things for a friend, or worse, just had a miscarriage. Now, every time you see one of those ads, you’re irritated.
As customers get smarter about their data, marketers will start to see the importance of context and how to avoid damaging the customer relationship.
PA.O: As you describe it, misidentifying an individual through poor data analysis is like bad gossip – people spreading false information about you across a variety of organizations and outlets, and you’re reminded every time you’re served an ad.
Katryna Dow: That’s data misapplied. In “Minority Report,” society had become so targeted, they thought they could anticipate a crime before it happened. If we don’t have context and we aren’t allowing things to play out in society, we could we get to a point where we are constraining individuals just because we think something might happen.
This topic is a very interesting area in Australia. We’re not seeing enough of a debate from Australians whilst our government is arguing about data retention we are passively letting it pass without understanding the implications.
This is the usage of metadata for government to draw conclusions and take action. For instance, we think you might be doing something illegal and prejudge you. Metadata out of context can very, very easily build a story on that which can implicate somebody for a crime. If your car has been tracked and you park in a particular place, there could be something very positive and affirmative on one side of the street and a crime on the other. Without deep context, by only looking at an instant, we can make a grave mistake. At that point, I think as a society we cease to be humane if we rely only on data and don’t take into account context.
PA.O: How do you envision the proliferation of big data and this growing lack of privacy affecting our culture?
Katryna Dow: It will have a profound affect on the next generation of humans. We need contextual privacy – in our friendships, with our children, with our partners, in the bathroom, and when we just want to get our heads straight. It’s a really important part of what makes us human. If we don’t have that balance right, we will start to create a generation that is constantly in the pressure cooker.
If I thought someone was following me 24 hours a day, I know that would create resentment and I think I would be much faster to react under the circumstances. We haven’t thought about the implications to a society, where everyone is constantly monitored. We don’t know the long-term impact; whether it will lead to a reduction or increase in crime and unrest.
PA.O: What excites you about big data?
Katryna Dow: If you look at what is happening with Ebola right now, you can very quickly see how you need to triage the outbreak, and where an epidemic is moving. I think what we can do from that perspective is so transformational; it’s really wonderful as a means to understand the problem and trends. Big data is vital to revealing patterns.
However, another example of what’s exciting is “small data.” I was recently discussing an interesting report in San Francisco. It stated that the incidence of breast cancer is concentrated in a particular neighborhood in the Bay Area. The pattern is revealed through big data – but the insights come from drilling down to the individuals.
Who are the people in this neighborhood? Are they eating the same food? Are they drinking the same water? Is there a communication tower near by? What is it on an individual level that these people are doing that might be the same? Small data can give you the granular insight to help understand and solve these issues.
PA.O: How would you recommend businesses best empower themselves with big and small data?
Katryna Dow: This is where small businesses could have an advantage over big businesses. Small businesses may not have the money to invest in big data, but if we can go back to small data, which really understands the customer in context, we can see something relevant to the person emerge. Small companies are often more agile and able to extend personal capabilities to include asking more contextual information and having that shared. You might even have organizations get together to create a great collaboration platform with their customers and community.
We can’t collect everything, but what if we just opened up the opportunity for people to share more of their life with us in context, with some privacy agreements that would allow us to tailor experiences?
Companies could differentiate on the privacy experience, and that potentially would give small communities with smart collaboration great marketing insights.
PA.O: I see, sort of like creating a partnership between smaller and larger companies. I’ll trade information with you if you trade with me.
Katryna Dow: The idea that buying something is not the same as actually owning it. You purchase something at one moment in time, but ownership of something is for a period of time.
After the purchase happens, the marketing moves to reinforcing the ownership of the product or experience and that is where a real conversation takes place. If my automobile marketer wanted to send me content while I own my car that helps me understand the car I drive or the service that I’m accessing, it would be highly beneficial.
We recently talked with a to a medium-sized consumer food product company. The interesting thing was it communicated with owners of products throughout usage – not just at the point of purchase, but instead throughout the 10-20 years of ownership. Out of this, a real community has emerged with owners of these products sharing ideas with each other and encouraging each other towards repurchase.
We need to rethink ownership.
In our emerging generation, there won’t be such a need to own things in the way that we did in the past. We are moving more towards a collaboration economy. Think about what that may mean for a customer relationships and how we approach – mortgages, loans, insurance. We’ve got to think about what it would look like if we are more inclined to share, loan and collaborate.
PA.O: What might be the biggest issues facing digital marketers?
Katryna Dow: First of all, we face the issue of determining user identity, who is it we are really talking to? Google thinks I’m a man. Why?
I was interested in seeing what Google thinks about me, to learn how it was selling my profile. So, according to Google, I’m a 35-44 year old male with a possible interest in marketing and science. That insight alone is so important, and that’s why anything I see on my laptop is completely irrelevant to the stage of life I’m in or my gender. The reason why it only sees that side of me is because if I open something on my laptop, it’s probably a marketing- or technology-related article. Everything else I do is through my Meeco dashboard.
When I think of what ad is sent to me every time I open an article or website, or how I am targeted, I think of the cost of that one data marketer being wrong in determining something as basic as my gender. If we don’t get this base context, permission and transparency right, we are going to see organizations spending all of this money on marketing intelligence, only to look at user #4334 and ask why they aren’t getting engagement from him.
She’s not a he. One single data point can make a huge difference.
Understanding the Female Economy is a great place to start. Asking women directly is the best way to get the answers. The combined global female economy is larger than China and India combined.
In Australia, women control up to 90 percent of every household dollar. Looking at shoes, shopping, paying bills and researching, directly or indirectly they are controlling a lot of how money is spent. But from a marketing point of view we are not seen as a financial powerhouse. Assumptions are made about what they can afford or what they want, but every day we are making decisions on their behalf without even including their input. Bringing individuals into the conversation will be transformational for marketers.
PA.O: Wearable tech just started to blossom in 2014. What do you think of the space and its opportunity for marketers?
Katryna Dow: I really love wearables but I don’t like that it’s not clear who is getting my information and what they are doing with it. We are going to be at least a decade behind with legislation. There is a civil lawsuit in Calgary, Alberta, involving wearables that is pending right now. A woman is using her Fit Bit data in court to prove that she has limited mobility and help her insurance claim. She wants to use her own data to argue her case. Does that mean that the insurance company can then conversely, seize the domain for that information?
When your health insurance dashboard says you have a preexisting condition that you didn’t know about, or as companies collect your data, drawing conclusions, and adjusting your rate, it’s a bit scary. It’s when we start to realize that we are at a disadvantage by not having the personal insight that there will be consumer pressure for greater transparency.
In the health care space especially, we absolutely need to take action to make sure that wearable devices first and foremost help inform and educate and not disadvantage an individual.
The easiest approach is to make sure data first and foremost belongs to the individual. That’s the approach we take at Meeco. The data is yours because we want to give you the insight to make your life easier. It’s an amazing, exciting time, but if we don’t get data access and ownership right, we could find ourselves in a “Minority Report.”