XL … Dollars, Bits and Atoms: Roadmap to the Future of Marketing

Technology is driving unprecedented disruption in marketing and advertising. Where is it all going and what does it mean to today’s marketing decision-makers? This paper and forecast map present a high-level view of the changing landscape for marketers. It is produced by MediaPlant with the support of Microsoft, based on conversations with industry thought leaders, technology innovators, and outside experts. The goal is to provide a schematic for understanding the causes, manifestations, and implications of change and a roadmap for organizations looking past the next bend in the road.

Some of the defining characteristics of today’s new marketing include:

  • Brands as publishers: Native content (for brand-building and attention-getting) and optimized product copy (to drive online transactions) have become critical elements in the digital marketing efforts of many major brands, turning them into content publishers even if their core competencies lie elsewhere. In the short term we will see increasing diffusion of effective practices around content strategy and a growing number of players coming to market with solutions for content optimization, cross-platform content delivery, and automated content management.
  • Video fluidity: Consumers have a growing number of ways in which to consume both real-time and prepackaged video content: websites like YouTube, on-demand services, streaming video for web and mobile (such as Vine and Instagram), app stores, video over IP rebroadcasters (such as the startup Aereon), and more. The mainstreaming of IP-enabled smart TVs, which can receive video content from both new and traditional sources, further blurs the boundaries. Marketers are increasingly looking for ways to land their video assets on as many of these screens and platforms as possible, while embracing metrics that better re ect the full reach and audience composition of their efforts.
  • Transmedia Storytelling: Brands are creating increasingly rich and layered campaigns that cross media boundaries in an effort to reach demographic groups that fall through the cracks of traditional advertising. These campaigns integrate traditional media, guerilla and viral tactics, Twitter/Facebook engagement, product placement, games, live events, and more to create an immersive experience that generates buzz and engagement. Red Bull is one brand that is especially good at integrating social, video, and live events to reach its young, active target demographic. The creative and production skills required to build and manage these campaigns are likely to be in high demand, as the number of trained and experienced practitioners is small.
  • Quantified Experience: Ratings and recommendations are everywhere, soliciting and displaying customer feedback about every aspect of their experience on dedicated systems (Yelp, etc.) and open platforms (Twitter, Facebook, etc.). Consumers are recognizing that it is sometimes easier to get the attention of service departments by complaining on social media than by using traditional channels, creating reputational issues that marketing departments alone cannot fully address. Brands are already deploying dashboards and engaging specialized rms to monitor and manage their aggregate reputation. Expect better tools to facilitate rapid response, quarantine, and escalation of service, and greater connections between marketing and other customer-facing processes within organizations, as well as processes that make ratings easier, more convenient, and less explicit for consumers.
  • Real-time brands: “Real-time brands” is the proactive counterpart to the more reactive “quanti ed experience” trend. Brands have discovered the value in plugging into current events and social channels to create energetic and lively conversations with consumer communities. This can generate buzz on its own or amplify the impact of paid media. A couple of high-profile success stories have motivated more marketing organizations to develop rapid-response capabilities, which can involve the tighter integration of marketing and PR, sales, and operations. Some experts we surveyed expect this trend to eventually cool off into a more sustainable model where brands acknowledge socially generated brand challenges and opportunities instantly, but take somewhat longer to generate a response.
  • Geo-Social Networks: Apps like Foursquare have found successful ways to integrate GPS/ location capabilities of mobile devices with the community/collaboration features of a social network, and many others have followed suit. Brands are only beginning to tap into the vast potential of these networks to connect customers to physical locations, service delivery, offers, and one another. The maturation of geo-social networks, along with several related technologies (augmented reality, smart spaces), points the way toward a more seamless blend of physical and digital environments.
  • Social analytics: Social analytics are the data output of social networks, providing a rich and detailed understanding of individual and social behaviors. Because this information is so complex, it requires a lot of data science expertise to unpack into useful insights, and even the leading social platforms have so far demonstrated only a rudimentary capability to make effective use of it for marketing purposes. Improving the utility of social analytics is the focus of an enormous amount of investment from organizations ranging from large corporations to startups to government security agencies. For marketers, the challenge will be using that information without trespassing on consumer privacy concerns.
  • Expertise on demand: The rise of Big Data is creating enormous demand for data science experts. Marketing departments are pressed to compete for this talent with financial services, high tech/engineering, and well-funded startups, and often lack the expertise to properly evaluate prospective hires. We will likely see even large brands turning to outside specialists or companies like Kaggle, a startup that uses crowdsourcing and gamification to tap communal expertise to solve specifc data-related problems on a per-use basis.
  • Predictive Analytics: Today’s killer app for Big Data is figuring out exactly who your customers are and what they’ll do next. Organizations we talked to said the biggest challenge in implementing real-time analytics was not integrating the new data sources (social, location, third party), but exposing enterprise data from their own legacy systems, which were built to be archival repositories, not real-time transactional systems. Solving this problem requires collaboration along the frontier between IT and marketing, unexplored territory in many enterprises. As long as this remains a bottleneck, large organizations will have dif culty tapping into the full potential of the data revolution. It also requires knowing how to ask the right questions and understand the answers.
  • Open source brands: For the past several years, leading companies such as Ford Motors, Starbucks, and Frito-Lay have bene ted enormously from collaboration with customers to create brand awareness and get input on product development. The next step on this path is opening the brand to technological collaboration by publishing open APIs and encouraging developers to build apps using shared data. One example of this is a 2012 hack-a-thon sponsored by The Home Depot and Kraft Foods to spur independent mobile app development. This approach looks likely to gather steam as it aligns with the interests of brands, technology developers, and consumers.
  • Gamification: Brands are tapping into the competitive spirit and desire for peer recognition by implementing online contests, leader boards, and branded game apps for social and mobile platforms. We are also seeing the emergence of games that promote social objectives, raise money for causes, and promote awareness of sensitive issues, as well as the burgeoning global popularity of massive multiplayer online (MMO) games like World of Warcraft, which inculcate a variety of real-world team-building, negotiation, and economic skills. Shortly we will see evolution of both the technological experience (with the integration of kinetic interfaces and augmented reality) and gameplay itself as it becomes more embedded into a variety of social, consumer, and business scenarios.
  • Kinetics interfaces: Gesture and voice- based inputs are becoming common on video games and consumer electronics, changing expectations about how people interact with digital information. A few retailers like Build-A-Bear and Styku have successfully integrated these technologies into their in-store and online experiences, allowing customers to customize products and measure apparel to order using natural input. Other interesting innovations are coming from healthcare advances such as the patient-centered medical home. We are just scratching the surface of the possibilities for this mode of interaction.
  • Location-based analytics: The spread of GPS-enabled mobile devices has given rise to a slew of apps that aggregate data from tens of thousands of users to provide rich insights into everything from vehicle traf c to environmental impact. One startup, Placed, uses location data to track foot traf c to retailers, nely segmented by line of business and geography. This and similar efforts can provide data points that allow marketers to correlate advertising and promotions with store traffic and competition, and correct for factors like weather and traffic. Logistics companies such as UPS are, unsurprisingly, at the forefront of these efforts as well. Before long, this data will be an indispensable component of marketing analytics for all companies with physical operations.

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