BlackRock’s ‘Precision Empathy’ Platform Is Addressing Consumers’ Wants and Needs

Global CMO Frank Cooper III breaks it down

BlackRock global CMO Frank Cooper III spoke during Brandweek in Palm Springs, Calif.
Sean T. Smith for Adweek

At Brandweek, one view shared by brand marketers, consultancies and investors alike is the notion of understanding and appreciating how consumers think and behave. But the application of machine learning and data versus the human touch is far from binary—it takes a combination of the two to fully understand a consumers’ intent.

That’s where BlackRock comes in with its “precision empathy” platform. Here, BlackRock global CMO Frank Cooper III expounds on what it takes to engage consumers effectively.

"In the same way people hire someone to manage their money, they may hire someone to manage their data. I see more and more control passing to the consumer."

Adweek: As consumers become savvier about how marketers capture data, what are some challenges we’ll see in the future?

Frank Cooper III: People are generally unaware of the magnitude of data that is collected as they go through daily life. There’s a high velocity of data transferred from people to technologies, and not all collection methods abide by a common ethical standard. It will be the responsibility of marketers to interrogate where and how they collect data and if it matches their value system as a brand.

Fast-forward five years into the future, I believe that consumers will begin acknowledging that their data is their property. In the same way people hire someone to manage their money, they may hire someone to manage their data. I see more and more control passing to the consumer.

BlackRock is employing a “precision empathy” platform. Can you briefly describe what it is and how it seeks to connect with its target?

In marketing, we often start with blunt-force empathy, using traditional demographics of age, gender, income, geography and ethnicity. However, these demographic proxies increasingly are poor proxies for how people really think and behave. We believe we can have greater precision in empathy by employing machine learning alongside human intuition and expertise to segment groups based on shared values and behaviors. Our goal is to understand investors and savers in the most precise, empathetic way possible.

Can AI remove human bias? What are some of its pitfalls?

Human bias is not always necessarily a bad thing. Human bias has cultural context and adaptability that AI does not. Ultimately, AI is programmed by humans and can sometimes magnify and scale a negative human bias that’s hard-coded into the program. As stated in my speech, it’s not about human versus machine bias. It’s about human to the power of machine. That is, we should use AI to bolster and make up for where we lack.

If you could purge one thing that’s getting in the way of real progress, what would it be?

Short-termism. Creativity and innovation do not flourish from quarterly earnings thinking. Progress requires vision and grit—and, most important, time.

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