By Jeff Resnick
It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Combine pictures with video, text and a litany of other emerging forms of communication with the ability to reveal patterns in behavior or uncover consumer emotions and you have the essence of GlimpzIt. GlimpzIt describes itself as your AI marketing assistant. Yet it does not consider itself a disrupter of the industry, rather a firm harnessing new technology that enables marketing and market research professionals to create a deeper understanding of the consumer. Parry Bedi, the firm’s CEO provides a view into the proliferating world of machine learning/artificial intelligence driven techniques that he believes will be a core component of our future industry. GlimpzIt is squarely in the center of this evolutionary path.
How GlimpzIt works. From a user’s perspective the interface is exceedingly simple. In fact, the company’s stated motto is: “A machine learning platform for marketers. Not data scientists.” Essentially, you ask a question (or as GlimpzIt calls it, start a conversation), select your target audience and the platform does the rest!
One popular use case for the platform is ad concept generation. In one project completed for a manufacturer of denim jeans, for example, the advertising team wanted to understand how people stored their jeans as input for their creative. The process began by asking the client’s target market the question – “How do you store your jeans?” People responded with pictures, videos and text. The analysis revealed two groups – neat freaks and slobs plus the underlying truth that it was all about ease of access. Information is provided back to the client through an automated portal. GlimpzIt even goes a step further to categorize the insights into concrete action groups such as Dormant (time is not right for this action), Sustain (keep on doing it) and Opportunity (this is where you should focus). Furthermore, using statistical analysis GlimpzIt shows you potential advertising content that will most likely resonate with the target audience.
GlimpzIt’s secret sauce. Significant advances in the converging worlds of automation and artificial intelligence/machine learning make GlimpzIt possible. Machine learning is often described as programming that mimics the learning process of the human mind. Advances in this technology allow computers to correctly identify objects in pictures, video and other media. Using our example of storing jeans, object identification has advanced to the point where software platforms can easily identify if a pair of jeans is on a bed, in a drawer or on the floor by analyzing the picture content. This capability combined with the advances in natural language processing (NLP) creates the ability to make sense of disparate sources of unstructured data in a cohesive and self-reinforcing manner resulting in deep and, some say, almost human level consumer insights. The more data is analyzed, the smarter the platform gets and the richer the information provided to the client.
Disruptive or additive? From Parry’s perspective, GlimpzIt is an evolutionary force, not a disruptive one. It doesn’t seek to replace existing research techniques; it is an additional tool. Traditional firms operating in the research arena as well as new start-ups share a common goal – to better understand the consumer by building a holistic view of that consumer. The AI-based platform built by GlimpzIt enables users to absorb massive quantities of qualitative information, essentially at the push of a button. Parry’s argument is that while a company may still conduct a traditional deep-dive qualitative effort, for example on a single advertising concept, GlimpzIt enables the company to explore and even test a much longer list of alternative concepts at nearly the same level of depth.
The future – terrifying or exhilarating? Parry paints a picture similar to many of today’s emerging technology CEOs – smarter machines, more automation and lightning fast speed. If your tendency is to lean toward the dark side, Skynet of the Terminator movie series might capture your reaction to what is to come. However, if you embrace technology as an enabler, the possible scenarios for the leveraging of machine learning are downright exhilarating. For example, reconsider the ad concept example outlined earlier. From Parry’s point of view, the not too distant future will include an AI-driven platform that will automate holistic persona development with the identification of potential actions (Phase 1 – generally available today), the automatic creation and testing of content (Phase 2 – early tomorrow) and finally complete autonomy where business goals are understood, concepts are developed, tested and automatically placed in online media channels such as YouTube or Facebook (Phase 3 – not that far away). Parry is committed that GlimpzIt will be an active participant in the emergence of this technology.
Parry’s top tips to entrepreneurs. In the second phase of the Transform series, we also focus on what it takes to be successful as an entrepreneur in our industry. Here is Parry’s take:
- Don’t let the MR industry’s often quoted gloom and doom impact your vision. Many in our industry continue to live in a world where the sun never shines. Some with good reason. However, Parry believes a lot has to do with how you define the industry. If you include firms that create a deeper understanding of the consumer through all varieties of data analytics and that create knowledge by leveraging technology, the future is really bright and filled with unlimited growth potential.
- Never start a company alone. The work is exhausting. Failures guaranteed. The highs are super-high and the lows are super-low. Having others to figure out the failures, celebrate the successes and keep one foot moving in front of the other is a primary ingredient of success.
- Be capital efficient. Whether you are bootstrapping your start-up or have successfully secured a round of financing, you have to be really smart about how you spend your money. This isn’t about whether you buy employee lunches. It is about whether you hire others to drive some corporate activities – such as marketing – to allow the founding team to continue developing those parts of the business that generate core value. Sales are critical but they never arrive when you have an inferior product.
The bottom line? Can a couple of Wharton grads who started a business based on the belief there was an alternate way to do qualitative research succeed? All indicators are that clients believe their platform works well. GlimpzIt has an enviable list of clients for a start-up including NBC, Hallmark, and Johnson & Johnson. Clients are renewing subscription contracts and month-over-month usage growth has been over 20%. Perhaps we should encourage Parry and his team to conduct their own project to capture a glimpz of how others see their firm. I bet the answer will be intriguing.