At Econsultancy’s Festival of Marketing in 2015, attendees packed out the main hall to listen to a keynote from Colonel Chris Hadfield.
A heavily decorated astronaut, engineer and pilot, Colonel Hadfield talked about overcoming challenges and excelling under pressure, topics that modern marketers, or at least the successful ones, are familiar with.
During this incredibly inspirational talk, he shared some of the wisdom that enabled him to undertake three space flights in his 21-year career.
One such piece of advice was his relentless pursuit of self-improvement. This, he said, is key for success.
To be an astronaut means being a scientist, a pilot, an engineer and being able to fix the toilet!
And how does one prepare for the mantle of some of these things? Well, he suggests focusing on one’s personal competence.
The trouble with competence though is that it’s always going out of date.
And so to be successful Colonel Hadfield had to not just be open to new learning but take responsibility for the management of his own education.
Exponential technology is changing what it means to be a marketer in the 21st century
So what’s the point? The reality of modern marketing is that the landscape is changing rapidly due to exponential technology.
And so while marketers aren’t planning on going to space, perhaps they can start to think like astronauts and become lifelong learners.
In 1965, Gordon Moore (a founder of Intel) published a paper observing that in effect, technological power doubles while the cost of technology is cut in half every two years.
He projected this would continue for some time. This concept has held true and is known as “Moore’s Law”.
Image by Wgsimon – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0.
This explains why among other things, the device in your pocket can make calls, send emails and be used to listen to music, navigate and take pictures.
Critically, Moore’s Law means that technology innovation will continue to speed up.
As this happens, we will witness the ever faster introduction and adoption of new technologies which can in turn impact our jobs as marketers and indeed disrupt the economic models that characterise the sectors where we are employed.
We have already witnessed the disruption of the publishing, hospitality and transport sectors with new players such as Spotify, Airbnb and Uber.
According to Futurist and Google’s Director of Engineering Ray Kurzweil, “we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century — it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).”
Emerging digital trends
From a marketing point of view, the introduction of new technologies has led to changes in consumer behaviour which in turn has impacted how marketers do their jobs, and is driving strategic initiatives like marketing transformation both in client-side marketing departments and within the agency landscape.
Some more recent developments that are exercising marketer’s brains include:
1. The Internet of Things
The ubiquitous availability of bandwidth, computational capacity offered by the cloud and near infinite amounts of storage at our fingertips has meant that the Internet of Things (IoT) has become a real thing.
Marketers may not yet be taking the sheer scalability challenges of IoT seriously. Consider that Cisco forecasts 50bn connected devices by 2020.
2. Wearable technology
A subset of the Internet of Things, wearable technology is widely forecast to be one of the most disruptive technology developments since the smartphone.
But that disruption is likely to happen much quicker than was the case with mobile.
Far from being merely a conduit for some gimmicky PR campaigns, wearable technology opens a trove of opportunity for brands across a range of sectors.
3. Virtual reality
Virtual reality allows people to experience a brand’s offering in a real and visceral way that other media cannot equal.
It can transport people to a stadium, a holiday destination or a shop. It can do this with animation or real video.
It can even do this in real time with live streaming. The possibilities for selling experiences, educating and entertainment are endless.
4. Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence, specifically machine learning, is an increasingly integral part of many industries, including marketing. Use cases include conversational interfaces with a flurry of branded bots and virtual assistants appearing.
As Techcrunch points out, Facebook’s platform, previewed at F8, could conservatively soon lead to chatbots replacing ‘1-800 numbers, offering more comfortable customer support experiences without the hassle of synchronous phone conversations, hold times and annoying phone trees.’
Marketers need to be able to adapt quickly in response to the rapid pace of change all around us. Marketers need to be aware of the use cases that these technologies can provide and how they may support customer experience.
According to Econsultancy’s Modern Marketing Manifesto:
“Customers do not recognise lines and nor should we. Online, offline, above the line, below the line… we need to think and deliver experiences and marketing without delineation.
“Modern marketing must be connected, joined up and integrated. This includes internal integration and goes beyond integration within the marketing function, across digital and classic skills.
“Integration must also exist between customer facing functions. It is about working across the entire business and collaborating with other functions, such as sales, technology, editorial, HR and customer service.”
The innovations in IoT, wearable technology, virtual reality and artificial intelligence may yet impact consumers’ day to day lives in ways that we can’t imagine.
Regardless, the applications of these technologies are only limited by creativity. And agencies need creativity just as much as they need technology.
Perhaps that means that it’s time for agencies to put their creative hats on, not just to think about emotive campaigns but also to think about how these technologies can be configured to improve customer experience and create better, longer lasting relationships with consumers.
From the individual marketing professional’s point of view it’s worth returning to the advice from the good Colonel Hadfield.
The key to success is the relentless pursuit of self-improvement. This may be daunting but at least it’s not rocket science.
This article was originally published in Econsultancy’s Top 100 Digital Agencies 2016 Report.