The Future of Marketing

I’m watching my kids grow up and am totally amazed at how differently they consume, remember, and distribute information. They are just starting their teen years and their phone may just as well be surgically implanted in their brain. They use it for talking with friends, music, entertainment, research, creative expression… holy Asimov, almost everything. Everything is connected somehow. No matter if they are watching videos, taking pictures, researching something they want for Christmas, downloading music, or creating a school video, mapping where they’re going… everything comes socially integrated. They’re growing up in a totally different world than I did.

How does a marketer like me make sense of it all? I wish I could say I can make sense of it all but it’s all changing so fast. The next iPhone or social media platform could change it again in a year. Let’s go with what I can make sense of right now.

Three Realities

1. Noise Volume
My kids are bombarded with 1,000% more information than I was at their age. More TV channels, more music, more news sources, more letters (now emails and text), more ads… that level of noise changes how the brain functions. There are numerous scientific studies that talk about how our brain is evolving, especially how we manage short and long term memory. Here is a good article from Bloomberg:

2. Social Connectivity
Do you research people you’re thinking of hiring on Facebook, Linked-In, and Google?… as if the Facebook timeline, Linked-In profile, and their blog were the accurate pictures of who they are. The truth is that it is so easy to express ones self and connect with others via social media channels. That’s naturally where you go to understand someone. The ease and prevalence of this connectivity is changing our relationships. Having a connection is so easy that we’re constantly connecting with multiple people at the same time. It’s as if you are at a party talking to seven friends at the same time while watching TV and eating dinner with your family. We have more friends but fewer close relationships. We have more social experiences but fewer meaningful ones. With all this social noise, no wonder we prefer to text or email someone over seeing them in person. The Social Examiner has a good overview on this:

3. Mobile Integration
I shouldn’t have to quote stats on how quickly mobile devices are becoming the primary method of accessing information, be it email, Internet, or something else. We still use computers to create information efficiently but smart phones and tablets are quickly becoming the dominant device for accessing and sharing it. The device itself is not as interesting as the reason why it’s becoming so popular. It is popular because it is always connected and accessible, not because it has a small screen and awkward tiny keyboard. This is why my son has over 1000 apps on his device. This little device will quickly become the primary way of connection with the world. It’s also why the integration app development market is growing so quickly. Check out this great article from Z6 Magazine and infographic from Click Software:

So what does the future of marketing look like in a world that’s saturated with information noise, socially connected, and completely mobile? In my opinion we’re looking at a circle (not funnel) of three critical components, all reinforcing each other.

Three Components

1. Great Visual Storytelling

With so much noise, it is increasingly difficult to get your message to the consumer. And even if you get it there, it will decay and be silenced by the next message. Visual storytelling will remain the most effective method of emotionally connecting with your customer. With so many messages in the market, you will need to invest every dollar to produce an extraordinary piece. Production value your agency has been preaching will pay off over the avalanche of mediocre ads nobody will notice. Your story needs to be relevant to the consumer, not you. They will only pay attention to the messages that connect with them like your heart touching brand story, your environmental responsibility (even that’s all too common now), your community support, etc. Today’s consumer is looking for a brand to love, not a product to buy.

These stories are required to elevate your message above the noise level.

2. Social Mobile Engagement

You have 15 seconds to make an impression and connect with your consumer before their next text, email, phone, or whatever message distracts them and takes them away. We will need to rely on frequent, short, and meaningful two-way communication. The good news is that you don’t have to create a massive campaign or expensive Facebook app. We’re looking to leverage ways this is already happening with consumers in a very natural way. The bad news is that you do have to change from pushing your messages to the consumer to listening to the consumer. It’s a novel concept but just spending time listening to people does make them like you more. You need to invest in your consumer. You need to make is very simple so they can use the mobile device that’s in their hand. You need to make it relevant to them (who they are / personalization, where they are / localization, who they are connected with / amplification).

These connections create the frequency you need to prevent message decay and stay top of mind in the middle of the noise.

3. Integrated Shopping Experience

This one is more difficult to grasp because it is not common in the current retail marketplace. Stores barely have any space to place all of their product. And they barely have any time or money left for marketing. Some barely understand technology. Yet friend and online product recommendations are the #1 factor in choosing what we buy. So how does the integrated purchase experience look like? Well, imagine going into a store and seeing which products your friends are interested in or have purchased. Imagine having your friends with you there virtually as part of your shopping experience. Imagine the store clerk knowing your name, what your personal interest are (e.g. music you listen to), where you shopped last, and the types of products you like even before you walk into the store. Also, as soon as you purchase the product (or service), imagine that all your friends find out how excited you are about the purchase. I am talking about all these experiences occurring in a physical retail store, not an ecom website. These experiences will occur naturally and will become the very product and store recommendations for your friends. How does this happen and using what technology? We’re working on it!

These amplified, integrated experiences are remembered in very personal ways, not lost in short term memory. And they build long-term brand and product loyalty which will generally translate to repeat purchases.

Where from here?

For now let’s start with ensuring our marketing strategy somehow includes these three ingredients: great visual storytelling, many short meaningful social mobile experiences, and an integrated shopping experience.

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