November 14, 2011

The Cloud: All Magic Comes With A Price

There it is, white, puffy, floating above us.

It's called "the cloud".

Catalogers have more experience with the cloud than almost any other marketer.  Catalogers simply didn't call it "the cloud", they called it "Abacus".

Yup, you threw your most valuable asset, your customer list, up into the cloud.  

You did this back in 1994.

Like all internet-related things, this blew a hole through the entire industry.  The list industry was absolutely hailed-upon by the cloud ... remember those meetings you'd have at the old Catalog Conference, when Eddie Bauer would meet with J. Crew and there would be twelve people in the room ... only two from Eddie Bauer and J. Crew, ten people from the vendor community supporting the exchange of 0-3 month, $100+ names with a gender select of "F"?  Yup, those meetings were obliterated by the cloud ... you could cut ten people out of the equation by having the cloud return 100,000 productive names to you at $0.06 each.

Remember what it was like when you used to have to improve your marketing database in-house?  The book of work?  The nine month timeline to get one field added?  Then you moved your database to the cloud ... you let one of a dozen popular database brands host the database for you.  Guess you don't need the IT help on that marketing database anymore, huh?

Need a new online buyer?  That's up in the cloud, too ... though we call it "search", it's essentially a cloud-based service where somebody created an auction-based marketplace of mined and monetized customer sentiments.

Facebook and Twitter?  Cloud-based conversation services.

In other words, the cataloger is nearly twenty years into a migration from in-house to cloud-based services.  

This isn't a new phenomenon.

What is new is the awakening that comes with a cloud-based migration of services.  Ever hear something like this?

  • "I sure miss knowledge.  I mean, nobody knows anything anymore.  Fifteen years ago, I could ask my list expert a question, and I got a couple decades of experience embedded in the answer.  Today, nobody can answer my questions.  People know that the new 'affinity' model performs six percent better, but nobody can tell me who I am contacting, or why the model performs six percent better.  Google is no better, organic search traffic drops by 25%, and there's nobody to turn to, nobody to explain to me why this happened. I have cheap names, and I have cheap explanations for why I got the names I got."
In other words, "all magic comes with a price."  We gladly accepted the magic of the cloud.  We lament the price ... the lack of business intelligence provided by the cloud, the lack of control we have over the cloud.

We can't expect the cloud to provide us with intelligence ... it can't do that, it's simply a cloud.  We have to learn, for ourselves, that a puffy cumulus cloud is different from a towering cumulonimbus.  

It's a good time to start educating ourselves.

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