Friday, July 03, 2009

Real Customer Insight?

I recently read the book “Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy” by Martin Lindstrom. Apart from the fact that it is written in a bit populist way, the basic ideas are quite interesting. The book reports on research where researchers looked into the brains of people using techniques such as fMRI when being exposed to advertisements, brands, etc, and crossed observed brain activity with known brain activity patterns for fear, interest, excitement, etc. While the main goal of the book is the study the effectiveness of advertising, it also has many general lessons to learn. The research underpins notions such as what people say does not always correspond to what they really think (e.g. few people say they like reality shows, but they are enormously popular). Of course, for companies this provides a powerful tool to be more efficient in deciding what products to deliver to the market.

All companies strive towards getting a better customer insight such that they can serve customers with products they really need, like, want, etc. Different approaches are applied, including trend spotting, surveys, user experience labs, living labs and data mining. This book seems to add a new, yet still somewhat expensive, approach to get closer to real customer insight. I am curious to see whether and when it will find its way to marketing on a global scale.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Dinner Speech at ICAIL 2009

On June 10, I gave an invited dinner speech at the ICAIL 2009, the Twelfth International Conference on ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE and LAW in Barcelona. I never gave an invited talk during dinner at a conference, and the speeches I have seen at other dinners where more funny (and much work to prepare) than serious. However, Dr. Pompeu Casanovas, the Conference Chairman, assured me that at ICAIL people were used to serious dinner speeches.

A few months ago I changed responsibilities from technological strategy to user modelling and profiling, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to talk to an audience of experts in both informatics and law, or, in other words in “privacy”. From a technological point of view, semantic technology is a hot topic at ICAIL and Pompeu asked me to talk about that. I also was aware that the conference attendants were mostly academic researchers from universities and research institutions, and less from industry, and therefore I decided to focus more on the business side than on the technology side.

The title of the talk was “Do semantics matter for business (in large Corporations)”, and the main message I wanted to convey is that –no matter how good or cool it is- it is a complex process to get a new technology adopted in large organizations. There are tens or sometimes even hundreds of other relevant technologies fighting for a place in large corporations. New technologies always involve risk, and large organizations are not always prepared to deal with a lot of technological risk. Moreover, I tried to make clear that innovation is not only about technology, but mostly about customers and business. Customers need to like the product or service, and it needs to be profitable from a business or society point of view, otherwise the technology does not make sense.

Given the fact that I started to talk at 22h00, I didn’t expect a lot of questions. But to my surprise the question session was actually longer than the talk itself. There were basically two types of questions: about privacy and questions rooted in “mindset” differences between academia and business (e.g. how and when do we value the results of research; through publications, patents, or when it is taken up in the market or society?).

The talk can be downloaded here in pdf. Enjoy, and “eet smakelijk”…

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Interview for German TV, Mobile World Congress

End of January 2009, I was interviewed by the German TV 3sat channel for a program called “Neues”, a weekly program (Sunday, 4.30 p.m.) produced by the public TV station 3sat and broadcasted in Germany, Austria and Switzerland ( It focuses on computers, telecommunications and consumer electronics. The program covers current products and topics as well as long-term trends. The interview forms part of a reportage (min 2:17 and 3:20) about Telefonica and its presence at the Mobile World Congress that took place from Feb. 16-19 in Barcelona.

It was an interesting experience and a lot of activity for a few seconds of movie…

The questions that I answered included:

1. Telefonica is the leader of Telcos worldwide. How you would like to tighten this position?
2. Isn´t it very difficult to keep this position, cause Telefonica has activities in very different countries?
3. At the MWC will be present some very important technologies. For example NFC. Is it important for some future projects of Telefonica and when do you think there will be a breakthrough in the mass market?
4. Do you think the fixed network will have a future?
5. Which market is much more important, the South American or the European?
6. Is Telefonica developing some wireless standards after wimax or hsdpa?
7. Do you think there will be some bounds in the future for wireless technologies like LTE?
8. Where do you see Telefonica in 10 years?

See for yourself which of them have been selected for the reportage.