What Does MyLifeBits Mean to Marketing and Search?

By Aaron Goldman, VP Marketing & Strategic Partnerships
Appeared in MediaPosts’s Search Insider

Today I’ll continue my trip down the MyLifeBits wormhole. If you're new to this journey, you can catch up by reading my last two columns. In a nutshell, MyLifeBits is a Microsoft project devoted to digitizing and indexing an individual's entire life -- online/phone chats, media consumed, pictures of people/objects encountered, etc. -- and, in turn, making everything searchable.

Assuming the challenges to creating and scaling such a tool can be met, let's ponder the implications for marketers of a widely adopted MyLifeBits platform.

Now That's What I Call Behavioral Targeting

The most obvious application of marketing via MyLifeBits is ads targeted to specific content and timing...

Scrolling back through your kid's pictures from last year? Up pops an ad for scrapbook supplies.

Talking to your friends about a Caribbean getaway? Here comes an ad for Apple Vacations.

Telling your friend that the Apple Vacations price was too high? Cue the $200 discount offer.

Matching marketing assets to active consumer behavior has been the realm of search marketing since its inception. As Emeril might say, MyLifeBits kicks it up a notch.

We're certainly on a collision path here. As MyLifeBits is attempting to digitize all aspects of a person's life, publishers and content creators -- with prodding from Google and the like -- are rapidly digitizing all the content that people consume. And marketers - with prodding from digital and search agencies -- are trying to digitize all their assets. Accordingly, as David Kenny of Digitas professes, "It is only a matter of time until nearly all advertisements around the world are digital."

Ads through MyLifeBits would deliver the ultimate mash-up of AdWords and AdSense -- highly targeted messaging at the point of query in a contextually relevant environment.

And You Thought Facebook was Cool?

Another application of MyLifeBits that comes to mind is a social network. Having your own comprehensive MyLifeBits index would be great as a memex (memory extender) but what if your memex could connect with friends and become a fremex (friend extender?)

Sure, it's neat to see your friends' "status" or latest picture and blog entries. But that pales in comparison to tapping into their index to view (permissioned, of course) minute-by-minute pictures of their past two hours or a complete archive of all the TV shows and movies they've seen.

And if you thought the apps being built for Facebook are innovative, imagine apps for MyLifeBits...

Flixter and iLike are Facebook apps that store your movie and music preferences and match them with your friends. Imagine a MyLifeBits app that crosses your preferences with the number of times you've watched a movie or listened to a band while referencing your (and your friends') schedule to buy tickets or a CD/DVD. And, following the event/viewing, the app could log your comments and ratings for ease of recall and sharing before suggesting upcoming alternatives that may be of interest.

While business models for Facebook apps are still being fleshed out (ad-supported appears to be the front-runner) clearly, there are opportunities for branded apps in MyLifeBits -- whether it be a Southwest Ding for travel plans/prefs that map to low fares or an iTunes spin on iLike matching your music tastes and allowing one-click purchase.

Redefining Natural Optimization

Fellow Search Insider Rob Garner wrote a fun piece recently on Google Street-View optimization. He defined it as "the act of modifying or adjusting one's appearance or façade specifically for the GoogleBalt camera, for the purposes of enhanced visibility in Google Maps."

Now imagine MyLifeBits optimization. Adjusting your appearance for the "SenseCam" everyone will be wearing to increase your visibility in your friends' (or strangers') index is just the beginning.

Will we see a surge in out-of-home advertising due to the added benefit of having the messages included in people's memexes? Or a premium put on TV commercials, given that MyLifeBits stores all programs a person watches? Lifetime value takes on new meaning when your ad campaign can be captured and recalled literally over an entire lifetime.

And what about the heightened role of word-of-mouth? When all your phone and online chats are recorded and searchable, it will be much easier to query friends and family for recommendations. "Hmm, what did Bob say about that new MP3 player he bought?"

The Holy Grail

Clearly, I've just scratched the tip of the iceberg in terms of potential applications of pervasive MyLifeBits usage on the marketing and search landscape.

What are some of the ways you think MyLifeBits could be leveraged to benefit marketers? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the Search Insider blog.

One thing I'm sure we can all agree on is that a platform such as MyLifeBits would get us a lot closer to the proverbial holy grail of marketing -- the ability to connect a marketer's brand to an actively engaged and targeted audience in a hyper-relevant manner.

There's a phrase that Penry Price of Google used recently that really resonated with me and seems to fit here. In the context of explaining to me how Google sees its role in the marketplace, he said that Google looks to connect with "moments of relevance."

As I've discussed in past columns, Google has built its business on creating win-win situations for marketers, consumers, and publishers. It will be interesting to see if a project like MyLifeBits can catapult Microsoft ahead in the noble grail quest.

Although I can just hear the classic Monty Python line coming from the Googleplex, "You don't frighten us with your silly knees-bent running around advancing behavior!"


Copyright © 2008 Resolution Media, Inc. All rights reserved.