The future of marketing: 4 industry leaders (including me) share their predictions

January is the season for predictions accompanied by the hackneyed caveat that they are very difficult especially when they involve the future.

So, it's high time for me to weigh in with predictions that I will remind you of next January if accurate and hope you forget about if I'm wrong. I peg the odds at 50%-50%.

Actually, the framework I'm using for my obligatory prediction piece is the "Think with Google" contribution to the predictatariat. 

Google asserts that "There’s never been a more exciting time to be in marketing. New technologies, trends, and customer behaviors are transforming the industry at breakneck speed, creating copious opportunities for those who are able to keep up — or better still, get ahead of the curve.”

Who can argue with that? Not I. Of course, having been in marketing for way too long, I could add that one could have said that at many points in the past couple of centuries. However, we truly do live in a time when a deluge of tech makes the impossible possible on virtually a daily basis. From the time I got in the marketing biz until about 1993, there wasn’t really that much new under the sun. Then the digital realm began to explode. Ever since, it has been a wild ride with one advancement after another challenging marketers to keep up with the pace of tech change.

On the other hand, the basic marketing proposition remains the same: use psychology to win hearts, minds, and share of wallet. The copywriter is still the key player. Most of the tech stack simply gets the logistics of the three “rights of Marketers”: right time, right person, right message,

Now for the fun part: let’s critique the three predictors’ predictions. 

1. Voice marketing

Abbey Klaassen, president of 360i’s NYC HQ thinks voice marketing is the future. “Voice is somewhere between an evolution and a revolution for marketing,” Klaassen predicts. 

I think it’s a fad.

True, lots of people are buying these little assistants or getting them for holiday presents. My “research” indicates lots of them are gathering dust.

In a mobile centric world, it’s hard to imagine the in-home voice devices will be the go-to interface. Speaking of (or potentially to) mobile, my experience with Siri has been botish at best. I know a few people who possess prowess, but most re using the good old virtual keyboard.

Then there’s the “Big Brother” privacy paranoia that the infernal thing is always on snooping on your every word. I predict voice will at least in the short term be one of those “great disappointments” along the lines of virtual reality.   

2. Intent

Matt Naeger, Merkle’s chief strategy officer argues “The next big thing is around predictive intent.” This new new thing would usurp old new things such as demographic-based personas and marketing funnels. 

I am personally unhappy about this scene I just mastered the buzzwords about this.

M y view is that the marketing industry tends to repackage commonsensical, ancient practices in new themes and memes in order to keep the consulting and tech pipelines moving (assuming pipelines are still in vogue). 

My personal 5-minute MBA has remained the same over two centuries: Find out what they want and give it to them.  Marketers since the beginning of time have been seeking buying signals in the form of new movers lists, RFM (recency, frequency, monetary value), and myriad other hoary techniques.

Intent is nonetheless interesting. There are many more data points available if you can capture and actualize them in as close to real time as possible. That is easier said than done but no doubt you will be hearing from multiple “partners” with shiny new tech objects which purport to do it. 

The older I get, the more I realize how great a role emotion plays even in the B2B space. How does one sense emotions that generate intent? One way is to monitor events that cause emotions and detect behavior that may catalyze them. For example, if I sell to the government and shutdown threats arise, perhaps that incites fear that causes buyers to pull the trigger on sales before the office closes.

3. New influencers

Jerri Devard, Office Depot’s chief customer officer, cleverly quips “It used to be that celebrities became influencers; now influencers are becoming celebrities.”  

What I think this means is that before you had to be a celebrity to be an influencer (e.g., a Kardashian). Now you can be an influencer even if you’re nobody and become somebody as a result.

I hope his is true, as I am a nobody and would love to become an influencer paid thousands of dollars every time I tweet (up from nothing at the moment).

What I do know is that this influencer thing is a BFD as Joe Biden would say. By that I mean marketers are throwing tons of budget at it. Sadly, this is because nobody trusts marketers or brands, so they need to hire outsiders who may command trust and respect. However, the paradox is that once their followers see through the aura of influence and realize the influencers are just paid shills, the magic dies.

Again, this is an ancient idea. We used to call it two-step marketing, word of mouth, and endorsements. He digital age has cloaked it in the mantle of social media, which is in and of itself under attack.

However, these things are tried and true because they worked. To paraphrase Lincoln (a 19th century influencer of some renown), you can influence some of the people some of the time, and all of the people some of the time. You may even be able to influence all of the people all of the time if you can match each person with an influential influencer for them.      

Well, that’s my prediction about the predictions from Google. File these away and give me fame or shame next January, unless it still “requires further study”.

 Check out what started it all - here is the newsletter that prompted my post.