Personal Data & Responsible Moodgeisting—How Do You Feel?

Posted on by Michael Radigan

woman-girl-faces-moodHis name was Janus, a two-faced god of the Old World with the uncanny ability to reflect back on the past while looking towards the future. Conventional wisdom credits the Romans with naming the month of January after him two millennia ago. That’s also when they began the custom of setting New Year’s resolutions. Few people know those early resolutions were built around a sense of morality; the Romans typically resolving to help others in the coming year.

Sounds like a great resolution for us all.

This year, I want to do the same. In particular, I want to help marketers handle the challenges of customer behavioral data collection in ways that are privacy-minded and ensure that data is handled securely in both reality and perception. This data collection has been going on for decades I know, but between the Internet of Things, the “Quantified Self” device onslaught (read: fitbits et al, Activité and the iWatch),and Moore’s law of doubling – companies must re-evaluate policies and decisions made even last year.

So what does this have to do with Moodgeisting you ask? Everything – because personal data is being collected at an unprecidented rate. Pulse rate, temperature, daily steps, what you ate, how much water and even more personal data than that is being collected and stored. We know this. But do we truly know this?

Moodgeisting (mood experience design) – a quasi real word – is adapting an experience (e.g. a museum trip) based on your mood. Psychologist Paul Ekman has devised a widely accepted Facial Action Coding System (FACS) that analyzes 43 muscle movements in real-time, the New York Times recently reported. From this analysis, seven core emotions can be identified: Happiness, Surprise, Contempt, Disgust, Sadness, Anger and Fear. Now we have this data in real time and it can be connected with almost anything. Some examples include a coffee maker making a stronger cup of coffee based on your rem sleep (or lack thereof) or your home audio system lowering the volume based on your fit-band’s stress algorithm. Sounds kind of cool.

How about Facebook adjusting your newsfeed to show more cat videos and positive stories when your iDevice registers your mood falls into the ‘sadness’ category? Hmmmm.

We have gone from having no data, to having some transactional data, more behavioral data, to now having real-time analysis of our moods and adjusting our experiences with devices, websites, and content.

Think about that. This is not a future view of the world, but rather things currently in market and coming in 2015.

Now tell me how many companies are poised to handle this the right way? How many customers are ready for this level of intimacy with their coffee maker?

What should marketers do now?

Moodgeisting ties back to several historical doctrines focused on eliciting consumer emotions. Ever heard of the “AIDA” advertising principle? Evoke Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. In this context, Moodgeisting is just a new permutation on our collective body of work. Only at quantum speed.

There will be those consumer advocates who scream against this perceived invasion of physical privacy, but others may find it perfectly reasonable (if not beneficial) in exchange for a better user experience. For example, a website asking permission to video record you while browsing may result in a tailored experience based on the camera capturing your moods while reading, shopping or working.

My opinion? As long as people know they’re being watched, and those observations are used solely to improve their experiences, I see no harm, regardless of how loud those advocates scream.

We must begin discussing and debating the pros and cons of our new realities and their impact on marketing right now while they’re still nascent. Technology carries with it seemingly unlimited power and potential, but it also weighs heavy with responsibility to act appropriately and conscientiously on behalf of our customers (not to be confused with our clients). We must be sure data usage and sharing, length of data storage and a host of other factors are defined, audited and adhered to. By everyone.

Pressure is on to get it right

It is incumbent on you, me and the rest of the marketing and technology profession to lead in the way we advocate on behalf of the greater good. For a better sales experience, a better economy and a better society at large, these customer data policies and practices must thrive.

Responsible Moodgeisting requires a personal data infrastructure, good governance and comprehensive plans to ensure we capture, analyze and deliver the appropriate insights. More importantly, it also demands we discard the data correctly.

This forms the basic parameters of what we know today. Tomorrow, on the other hand, may present a host of new promises and challenges. Regardless of what may come (like a new Facebook fitness device), we must be aware of the implications and agile enough to handle them.

There are a host of marketing associations that can provide the bandwidth to conduct intensive studies with attendant policy and law recommendations. With the proper will, it can happen this year. Or we can choose to work under a patchwork of internal “guidelines” and watch as other regulatory forces take the lead.

The Romans believed Janus was the god of beginnings and transitions. As Moodgeisting shifts from theory and technology to application and policy, we must start acting like it.

Our time is now because the future is here.

Michael Radigan is senior vice president of technology at Javelin.



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