Mikael Ahlstrom – Opportunities in a Non-Linear World

While storytelling is still the goal, the plot is now being determined by data. Sounds cold I know, but it’s actually pretty sexy. Your first concern is the data.

“We are no longer two dots.” It’s easy to still think of our digital experiences as linear, Dot A connecting neatly to Dot B, but when Mikael shared a visualization of internet activity, it’s anything but cleanly connected dots: It’s actually kind of beautiful, and not in that bag blowing in the wind, American Beauty kind of way. Mikael Ahlstrom, CEO and Founder of Sprout Park and Britny and board member/partner at DFM and Hyper Island, spoke at Beeline’s 2013 Conference. In his various professional capacities, it’s a necessity to be forward looking. Before we continue discussing what he did say, I’d like to point out what he didn’t say. There was no hyper focus on new platforms or the incessant use of the word “mobile.” Although initially surprised by this, it makes perfect sense. Those things are already here, will continue to change, have already pervaded our culture and in these types of discussions, are understood in terms of sculpting out your digital strategy. 

Back to the dots

Mikael was illustrating how we bring our entire network into our day-to-day experiences—creating lines, curves, circles, abstract art, etc. Part Jackson Pollock painting, part NASA photo – all non-linear.  And we do this so casually now, it’s practically second nature. This means many things, but two that were highlighted in Mikael’s presentation being that our digital experiences are only growing more personal and how businesses are going to use the multitude of data now being collected—two things that are tightly knit together. So what does this mean for businesses? Mikael explained that the best catalyst for change, or at least renewed visions, is frustration, friction and/or failure. Take solace in the fact that even in the ever-changing, wild west world of the digital stratosphere, it’s still about story telling. Whether you are trying to convey a message, sell something, teach something or simply interest someone, it goes back to telling a good story. The personalization is as simple as sculpting your story to one reader, or at least making them feel that it was conceived for them alone. The other aspect is giving the user a platform to tell their story themselves. Do you have a strategy in place for harnessing the data? Last month, The Huffington Post published an article, based around a powerful Slideshare presentation titled, “50 Powerful Mega Trend Statistics For CIOs and CMOs” by Vala Afshar. One of the eye-popping slides said:

“68% of companies do not have a stated Business Intelligence/Analytics strategy.”

Roughly 7 out of 10 of you don’t have an intelligence strategy in place. It’s no longer a question of access or tools, but rather a question of what you do with it. According to Mikael, data is the new building block in our creative solutions. Any message needs to have some kind of emotional resonance to be impactful. Britny, in conjunction with Adecco Group, created www.resu-me.me. This tool takes the data from your LinkedIn profile and makes it into a movie, complete with cool movie guy voiceover and score. Mikael asked the audience to imagine a company’s sales report being turned into a movie. That’s a pretty powerful way to communicate information that is typically considered dry. You can probably guess what the biggest conversion point from Resu-ME is; LinkedIn. Users went there to update their profiles. Mikael explained, if you reward your users, they will clean up their data. Maybe movies aren’t yet realistic or right for you, but it’s essential to figure out how to meaningfully tell your story to your target audience. Mikael shared some examples of how prominent companies are already doing this. Nike has created NikeFuel, a way of tracking physical activity and putting it into a meaningful, highly visual format for users. There are also gaming elements, all of which add value and are a way of building stories. Unilever employs a Twitter hose, to monitor countless streams so that they know what haircuts are really trending and cater their messaging to that, staying ahead of the curve, staying ahead of their competition and being responsive rather than reactive.

“2.5 billion gigabytes of data are created every day. That number doubles every month.”

The data is there, what are you going to do with it? And once you figure out how to best tell your story, what then? Mikael advises to observe the behavior of children, after all, they are true digital natives. It’s their behaviors and not technologies that will change industries. Find out more about Mikael and read the rest of the 50 mega trend statistics. We would love to hear your thoughts on both below!