I am extremely fortunate to be attending what is certain to be one of best conferences of the year, TEDMED 2009, being held at the Hotel del Coronado next week from Oct 27 – 30. For starters, if you are familiar with TED, you know attendees are always in for a treat. To be honest, I have attended only one TED event in the past, TEDxBoston this past July, and I was simply blown away by the degree of innovative thinking, caliber of presentations, and passion of those involved. (Note: TED and TEDMED are independent organizations, which share the same founder, Richard Saul Wurman.)
So after a five-year hiatus, Marc Hodosh and Richard Saul Wurman are re-launching TEDMED focused squarely on remarkable people, their ideas, and their inventions in the fields of medicine and health care. I expect the TEDMED sessions to be nothing short of inspirational and uplifting, because the common underlying mission is to improve quality and length of life in ways and to degrees that many technology products and services simply cannot. And there couldn’t be a more relevant time as President Obama and Congress work to bring a historic health care reform package to the finish line. A total of 54 speakers will open the minds of TEDMED attendees to the world of opportunities and possibilities in this fascinating field. Below is a small peek at what’s in store, a very short list of speakers and their speech topics:
- Ezekiel Emanuel, Special Advisor for Health Policy, OMB, Executive Office of President Obama –Can We Reform Health Care In America?
- Dean Kamen, President, DEKA Research & Development – Can A Prosthesis Be Better Than The Real Thing?
- Deepak Chopra, Chairman & Co-Founder, Chopra Center for Wellbeing – Can You Yourself Change Your Genes?
- Sanjay Gupta, Chief Medical Correspondent for CNN – Can Media Deliver Accurate & Trusted Medical Information?
- Paul Jacobs – Chairman & CEO, Qualcomm – What Does A Wireless Band-Aid Do?
- David Pogue – Technology Columnist, New York Times – Can My iPhone Save My Life?
- Keith Black – Chairman of Neurosurgery, Cedar-Sinai Medical Center – Can Neurosurgery Be Non-Invasive?
I’ll end on a slightly more personal note. Aside from the reasons already mentioned, I expect to find TEDMED especially refreshing. As someone who spends a great deal of time staying abreast of the latest digital strategies and communication tools (social media alone warrants a significant personal investment), I don’t have much time to attend product-oriented conferences. Don’t get me wrong. I became a B2C marketer for the opportunity to directly interact and engage, build relationships, earn trust, etc. But sometimes by being so customer-centric, I don’t fully appreciate many of the extraordinary breakthroughs in modern science and technology, or the brilliance behind them.
This isn’t the first time I’ve gone on a rant about Starbucks (nor will it be the last I’m sure). Each time I feel slightly guilty, because it’s not uncommon for me to blog from Starbucks. Then again, they get more than a fair share of my wallet, so I’ll get over it by the time I’m midway through this post.
The subject of this rant is the Starbucks Card. First, some background. The card itself offers customers the convenience of electronic currency, though I’m pretty sure baristas get screwed on tips now that fewer customers are dipping into their pockets and receiving loose change. Registering a Starbucks Card means creating an online account where contact details, credit card info, etc. are stored. This gives you access to free Wi-Fi, lets you avoid $0.40 surcharges for soy milk, and enables you to auto-reload your card. This last feature could backfire for certain folks who are super-vigilant of their credit cards transactions (as I am). In fact, ever since I saw how often Starbucks was charging my card 20 bucks, I’ve cut back, perhaps not on my total caffeine consumption, but certainly in downgrades from espresso drinks to house blends and dark roasts.
No, I’m not complaining that Starbucks has made me more financially responsible. As a marketer, I am in disbelief that the company has not better seized the opportunity that registered card holders present. It’s a database marketer’s dream to have access to such a wealth of customer data, including purchase history, buying habits, personal preferences, etc. We’re talking about brand evangelists here, engaged and loyal clientele who are presumably the most receptive to special promotions and offers. Why not a rewards program? A referral incentive? Or dare I say something even more tailored and creative – “Because you like X, we think you’ll like Y, so here’s a one-time coupon.” I have my “regular” drink, but I’m always open to something new.
This is just another example how Starbucks has vastly underutilized the power of CRM. As far as I can tell, aside from an occasional offer to complete a survey and receive a free drink (which may be completely random anyway), I’m not aware of any targeting that Starbucks does to uniquely position its product to the various customer segments it reaches.