Google Releases Patent to Control Consumer Behavior | Dynamic Marketing 2017



Patent information can be found here.

Google published a patent earlier this year that goes into detail about its ability to use data and context to guide and correct future consumer actions.

Google had already been intuitively using past data and context to make predictions, but the latest patent describes using data from the present to predict and influence future actions. As if Google will be able to control user behavior based on what actions the user is taking in real time…aka making our decisions for us, in a sense. 

As 1984 as this sounds - it’s extremely powerful for paid seach marketers, who would benefit from the ability to even further control ads and when/how they are triggered and ultimatley served. 

To the consumer, this is seemingly how the outcome of this patent will work:

Let’s say you’re driving to the store to pick up wine for a dinner party tomorrow. The wine store you want to go to is closed. 

Google Assistant: The wine store you are headed to is closed today. Was this for your dinner party tomorrow?

Consumer: Yes. 

Google Assistant: Grapes & More Wine Store is .6 miles away and open now. Would you like me to select this as your destination?

Consumer: Yes, thank you.


Google will use all kinds of data to analyze our actions in order to influence the future. The patent openly describes the use of contextual data in section 31: 

“Examples of contextual information include past, current, and future physical locations, degrees of movement, magnitudes of change associated with movement, weather conditions, traffic conditions, patterns of travel, patterns of movement, application usage, calendar information, purchase histories, Internet browsing histories, and the like … In some examples, contextual information may include communication information such as information derived from e-mail messages, text messages, voice mail messages or voice conversations, calendar entries, task lists, social media network related information, and any other information about a user or computing device that can support a determination of a user context.”

Let me summarize that for you. Google will use past, current, and future locations - even degrees of movement, along with the weather in your current area, purchase histories, data gathered from email messages, text messages, voice messages (they are not just talking about phone calls here….) social media information, your digital calendars, etc. 

What’s even creepier, as if that wasn’t enough, Google mentions in this patent that prediction modules will be able to predict “mistakes” the consumer could potentially make, and though its predictive data can redirect the consumer towards the more appropriate action…or the action it thinks is most appropriate to take. The user doesn’t even need to know a “mistake was made.”

Check this out:

Patent section 53: “Unlike other computing devices and systems that simply provide reminders and access to information but may still allow a user to go in a direction or to take an action that could lead to a mistake being made in their everyday lives, the example system takes additional steps to ensure that mistakes are avoided and the future actions associated with the reminders and information are actually accomplished. Even if the user is unaware that he or she is making a mistake, the example system will still automatically provide information to guide the user back to avoid making the mistake.”

I would assume that this scenario would look something like this: You have a morning flight and need to be at the airport by 8am. Right now, your phone would alert you via your calendar system. This patent describes the ability to notify you ahead of time of the time it will take to get to the airport via current driving conditions. To take it even a step further, based on previous data, actions, and all current actions being taken in real time (via information collected from voice messages, voicemails, texts, social media activity, etc) your computing device may have predicted that you would run late. As a result, it will auto-adjust to correct that before it happens, setting your alarm 15 minutes earlier. The patent clearly states that the predictive modules will be able to course correct "even if the user is unaware that he or she is making a mistake."

My initial thoughts are regarding privacy and truly how public our daily lives are through our mobile devices. At what point is the data being used to create efficiencies versus controlling our behavior? This we will just have to see!

Not to mention, it’s just a LOT of data to have on each & every individual user. But on the other end, being so connected to these computing systems, which is exactly what phones are, will give advertisers incredible advantages as technology continues to advance. It’s a double edged sword.

Putting my marketing hat on: this is why I stress to my clients the importance of creating a tight knit, loyal audience and laser focusing on consumer personas. Because the way consumers will be marketed to will be more & more intuitive by the minute. Traditional advertising/marketing strategies and messages won’t stand in a chance in the digital arena. I’m writing like this is coming, but the truth is, it’s already here. 

There are lots of ways to advertise efficiently online and I’ve seen digital banner and video advertising do wonders for local clients who want more bang for their buck. There is a wealth of demographic, geographic, and psychographic data that is already being used to target consumers more efficiently. And honestly, this benefits the advertiser AND the consumer better. But traditional advertising is clunky, not as targeted, and difficult to measure - and we're still stuck in this limbo where brands are trying to hang on to the good ol' days and others are diving into the digital space head first.

 The technologies that Google will continue to bring to us will surely help brands stand out to the right people at the right time. The brands that jump on the digital bandwagon now will position themselves well for the future of marketing - those that try to cling to old-school tactics might just be left in the dust.

Do you have any questions about digital marketing and advertising? This is my JAM. Please don't hestitate to leave a question or comment below - I love discussing this topic!