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We will see consumers take ownership of their personal data and become more sophisticated in how they integrate, benchmark and compare it, to gain insights into their behavior and improve their wellbeing. Brands that enable this will be welcomed into our daily lives.

Data, data everywhere

Aristotle declared that ‘Man is by nature a social animal’ and then proceeded to explore the notion of causality; suggesting that the choices we make have both cause and effect on the individual and on society, with each element intrinsically linked.

So, while the proliferation of tracking tools and technology has increased markedly over recent months, the evaluation of input and output is seemingly as old as civilization itself.

We may have lost some of the loftier and more worthy assignations of such data mining, but our hunger for sources shows no sign of being sated. From sleep cycles, food consumption, steps taken, miles cycled, coffees purchased, and much more, we have become addicted to monitoring and measuring our own life data, in search of the quantified self.

As the saying goes, “what gets measured, gets managed”, and people are measuring themselves and their lives in ever-increasing frequency and variety.

Under Armour has been a key player in the measuring and reporting of fitness stats to elite sports clubs for over a decade (including NBA, NFL and premier league football teams). Its $475m acquisition of calorie tracking platform, MyFitnessPal is a clear signal that the company wants to become the de facto brand for fitness tracking and implementation.

The data is only part of the story… What MyFitnessPal has been able to do for its 80m daily active users is deliver them data that they would not otherwise be able to obtain, in a manner that is easy to understand. It helps that the primary unit of measurement in this system is calories, but the platform makes the monitoring and measuring of them simple.

Einstein is famously quoted as saying that, “Not everything that can be counted counts. Not everything that counts can be counted.” What does this mean for the ever-increasing swathe of data that floods the ether?

Making sense of it

Until recently, it was almost impossible for the average consumer to have access to such vast amounts of data or the computational power required for its translation. It was only business that had the means and the motive to play with it – and not all of them knew what to do with it. The challenge becomes the relationship with, and interpretation of, such data.

One brand hoping to build a strong data relationship, through leveraging its historic reputation and large and impassioned user base, is Apple. With the introduction of HealthKit, Apple has built a bridge for nutrition values, vitals, sleep analysis, body measurements, and other health data, hoping to bring consistency to the data feeds and create a more enjoyable and readily understandable user experience to its users.

Cynics could argue that this move has been made to minimize the blow of a seemingly lackluster sales performance of the Apple Watch (a relatively modest 1.9m units globally). Others will suggest that this is simply a sensible extension to Apple’s UI, as the iOS platform has become ubiquitous with so many people, that it makes perfect sense to put complex health data within a known construct.

What both Apple and Under Armour are attempting to do is to become the central platform for these interactions. They are both clear examples of pioneers in the health tracking space; giving their users direct connection between data point and action.

Such relationships and interpretations are easy to understand in the fitness world, but they have also spread into other areas. Insurance (specifically health) and banking are areas in which consumers are gaining value from the data their service providers have.

Insurance underwriters have been using complex data to determine the probability of various events and calculate a person’s premium. Translating this into digestible chunks and offering it up to consumers as a means of lifestyle choices and change is something that adds massive value to both parties, and it is this that is the central thought of Prudential’s Vitality Health Insurance, for example.

While it is perfectly sensible and understandable for health insurance companies to share and track such data points, it is not so obvious in which spaces other brands and tech should play.

In the US, MINT, which has more than 10m users and was purchased by Intuit in 2009 for $170m, acts as a conduit for financial information; allowing users to monitor their finances and receive advice and products (such as credit cards and loans) in return. The value exchange here is simple – it enables more speedy access to, and management of, financial data, while also connecting users with highly qualified options.

This leads us to some important questions… To whom should this personal data collation and interpretation be entrusted? By whom and how should it be policed and safeguarded? What value can be exchanged in all of this activity?

Actionable insights

The most valuable derivative from all of this data is actionable insight… without insight, information is useless. And without the means or motivation to take action, that insight can be damaging.

Thus, successful brands will be those who appreciate the relationships they have with their consumers, the data associated with them and how to pull all of that together in a manner that is both understandable and actionable.