AiThority Interview with Tom Craig, Chief Technology Officer at Resonate
Know My Company
Hi, Tom. Tell us about your journey in technology and how you started at Resonate.
My entire career has been built on leveraging data and technology to scale global platforms for Marketing and Advertising, and that journey began well before today’s digital capabilities. Back in the ‘90s, in the early days of my career, I focused on implementing more-advanced customer targeting for telecoms via channels like direct mail and telemarketing. Later, I moved over to AOL, where I led the transformation of AOL’s Interactive Marketing technologies and information development capabilities during a time of aggressive business model shift. Following AOL, I spent more than eight years as CIO at MediaMath, which pioneered the now-$80 billion programmatic buying industry as we know it today.
For nearly three decades now, my career has followed the trajectory of audience engagement, from old-school tactics like direct mail and telemarketing into email, which served as marketers’ bridge into online, all the way to today’s real-time programmatic bidding solutions. My move to Resonate in 2016 was the next logical step in this progression because Resonate is focused on the next big challenge: How do we take all of the new technology that’s been developed for understanding audiences and move it up into the CMO’s office? How do we democratize audience understanding across the organization and extend our insights beyond the realm of performance-based targeting tactics? That’s where Resonate plays, and that’s the future-focused vision that drew me to the company.
Tell us about Resonate’s contributions to the Marketing Technologies ecosystem, specifically helping brands and agencies derive greater value from Customer Intelligence.
Market research is an age-old discipline, but at a lot of companies, its tactics have failed to evolve for the digital age. That’s where Resonate comes in. We take the absolute best in research and bring it to internet scale. Our unique approach lets marketers unite all of their data and make it smarter with Resonate’s unique insights that reveal the “why” behind consumer decision-making. Resonate has deep consumer insights and contextually relevant data across more than 13,000 attributes, including values, motivations and other psychographics, describing more than 200 million U.S. consumers. That means we’re able to deliver a trifecta that was previously missing from market research: depth, scale and fidelity.
Perhaps most importantly, Resonate creates a common language within the Marketing organization that extends all the way from the CMO through to channel execution. We help organizations gain a unified, actionable understanding of their customers and prospects that translates not just across the Marketing organization, but also to disciplines like product development and brand strategy.
Almost every industry has been heavily disrupted by Big Data, AI, Blockchain, and Predictive Intelligence technologies. What kind of future are you building at Resonate with your AI and ML capabilities?
Through our platform today, clients can already tap into AI-driven consumer intelligence and analytics that deliver a 360-degree understanding of target audiences. That understanding extends beyond traditional demographics, psychographics and behavioral data to uncover why consumers choose, buy or support certain brands, products or causes. We do this by combining the U.S.’s largest consumer survey data with online contextually relevant data, and then applying AI and Machine Learning to scale that proprietary understanding of consumers across the entire adult population of the United States.
In the near future, we’re looking to go beyond AI-powered insights delivery to bring “AI into the UI.” By that, we mean we’re going to further extend our AI and Machine Learning capabilities to the discovery process itself. Rather than putting the onus on marketers to uncover the audiences of greatest interest to their efforts, the Resonate platform will employ a next-generation level of Machine Learning to automatically generate personas for a brand based on data derived from a simple website tag. This automated discovery process is going to free up untold resources within marketing organizations—resources that can be dedicated to more resonant product design, richer creative development and strategic planning.
A lot has changed with Marketing and Sales Operations in the last 5 years. How does AI and Machine Learning help traditional businesses stay relevant, and where does Resonate fit in this equation?
Marketing and Sales organizations have no shortage of data available to support them today. What they have is a shortage of actionable insights from that data, and they also lack the ability to monitor real-time shifts in sentiment over time. That’s where Resonate is putting its AI and Machine Learning capabilities to work.
We take the vast amount of data available to organizations today and create knowledge out of the noise. We don’t deliver a data point. We deliver a complete thought—one that Sales and Marketing organizations can put into action. And we’ve developed our platform in a way that lets Sales and Marketing organizations monitor shifts over time and adapt their strategies accordingly.
Tell us more about your application of Gradient Boosting to solve Marketing challenges.
Over the past year, Resonate has launched a new predictive AI capability fueled by gradient boosting, which is the most powerful Machine Learning application around today. Gradient boosting enables us to develop more than 13,000 consumer attributes, continuously modeled to the entire adult U.S. population, in ways previously thought impossible.
As a result, Resonate clients are now able to personalize their products, solutions, experiences and messaging like never before with a dynamic, continuously updated platform that goes beyond the household to reach the individual level. Resonate is the only consumer intelligence firm deploying gradient-boosted models—which are most typically employed in cutting-edge cancer research—at this scale, which allows us to offer something nobody else can: both precision and scale.
What are your predictions on the future of AI-based Marketing Technologies in 2020-2024?
At present, people are talking a lot about the role of AI and technology in creating more confusion and conflict in the world. Take deepfake videos, for example. They are a good example of Artificial Intelligence being put to use for malicious purposes. But in the coming years, I think we’re going to see AI and other technologies, like Blockchain, provide the solution to these very same problems.
We’re going to see AI start to be applied to identify the truth in data, not just the data in data. Technology will be put to work to keep a record of the origin of assets in a way that helps people separate fact from fiction. This will have a cascading effect into marketing, especially in the political realm. By helping to identify truthful, reputable sources of information and insights, AI will help to combat a lot of the ills that are plaguing media today.
The Crystal Gaze
What is your advice to young product developers on how to prepare for the AI-driven market? What kind of talent do you hire for Resonate’s technology team?
The days of pure data scientists are numbered. The tools that are being developed by goliaths like Google and Amazon are turning tasks that once required a data scientist into simple functions that anyone can do at the push of a button. What companies are going to need in the future aren’t just data scientists, but rather data-science-minded engineers that understand Machine Learning and Cloud services.
The No. 1 thing I look for in a new hire is that the person be a voracious learner. Technology is a continuum, and you need to be learning new systems all the time. I’d much rather hire someone who has taught themselves three new technologies in the past year than someone who is an industry-leading expert in a single technology. Every technology has an expiration date. It’s the ability to learn new ones—and quickly—that makes you valuable.
Thank you, Tom! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.
Tom Craig is Chief Technology Officer at Resonate. He brings over 20 years of experience in the digital media industry, building consumer marketing and analytic platforms for companies such as MediaMath and AOL.
Resonate is a pioneer in A.I.-driven consumer intelligence & analytics, delivering deep understanding, dynamic insights, cross-channel engagement and analysis in a single, simple-to-use SaaS platform. Resonate has deep consumer insights and contextually relevant data across more than 13,000 attributes, including values, motivations and other psychographics, describing more than 200 million U.S. consumers.
Hundreds of companies have used Resonate to reveal and engage “The Human Element,” a 360-degree understanding of the individuals in their target audience that extends beyond traditional demographics, psychographics and behavioral data to uncover why consumers choose, buy or support certain brands, products or causes. Empowered with unparalleled insights, leading brands, agencies and organizations use Resonate to identify, engage and analyze these audiences, driving growth and increasing customer lifetime value.
Headquartered in Reston, Virginia, Resonate is privately held and backed by Argentum Capital Partners, Revolution Growth, Greycroft Partners and iNovia Capital.