The architectural, engineering and construction community almost never leads the way in marketing trends. In the case of data-driven micro-targeted marketing, this may be a good thing. We’ll likely dodge the controversial bullets flying around the globe as stories emerge linking marketing sophistication to political trickery and the infamous (and often misused) “fake news” concepts.
Of course, most AEC marketers aren’t seeking to win campaigns formerly best served by mass marketing techniques. We aren’t running for office (generally) and probably don’t need to pinpoint specific vulnerabilities in borderline congressional districts. If you are selling AEC services to build schools, hospitals, churches, or shopping center buildings, you can generally narrow the list of potential clients to a handful of organizations with a few (or one) decision-making individuals within each of the organizations. Yes, you’ll want to know their psychological interests and mind-sets, but you won’t probably find it necessary to pay an outfit like Cambridge Analytica (CA) for a deep data dive.
If you visit the CA website, you’ll see a recently high-flying business under siege. This British-based organization has a classic PR nightmare, much like, but even greater in scale, the Florida contractor and engineer responsible for the Miami university bridge collapse.
(The problem at Florida International University (FIU) is especially severe because the university is known for its leadership in construction and engineering technology programs — in fact I’ve sold more of my Construction Marketing Ideas books for courses there than at any other educational institution.)
But the problems exposed in the recent (and ongoing) controversies should be a wake-up call about effective marketing’s power and potential for abuse.
Great marketing captures and connects with the mind-set and psychology of our intended clients. We are seeking to sway decisions our way, of course. Data gathered about our potential clients can certainly influence our messaging, and of course there is no problem with this if the data is gathered honorably and the messaging is accurate, truthful, and fair.
It is quite possible that CA was blindsided by unethical reporting and whistle-blowing. Or you might piece conspiracy theories together and end up linking this British organization, former Trump campaign operatives, and a mysterious organization in St. Petersburg, Russia. Or the whole story is “fake” and part of a “deep state” conspiracy to bring down Donald Trump.
Wow. Data-driven marketing has gone to the level of international main-stream (and fringe) controversy. Let’s be thankful we are on the sidelines for now. We cannot, however, escape the glare when the bridges we build, fail.