From the beginning of human existence, as soon as someone had an idea she wanted to share, she would tell the people in his immediate surroundings.
That was marketing. Never would the man who discovered fire dream of a time when brands armed with vast amounts of data about how to communicate a message tailored directly to customers’ needs and interests reached them on digital platforms.
He just wanted to tell the other men in his community he found a great source of heat.
Marketing began as a strict word-of-mouth activity. It evolved into external buyer education, splashy advertising and eventually today’s focus on inbound marketing. But what does the future look like?
If a caveman can’t dream of marketing automation and email campaigns, do we dare dream about what a marketing landscape looks like in the future? Will robots generate content? Will machines learn so much about us, we eliminate human-to-human marketing?
Imagining the future of marketing can be as frightening as mitigating a social media crisis, but it’s worth a deep-dive into considering how technology will continue to shape the industry and what it means for how we market products and services today.
5 Years From Now: Marketing 2021
Perhaps the easiest time frame to forecast, five years is how long it takes some marketers to develop a marketing plan for a single brand or product. It’s safe to say marketing won’t be drastically different than the current reality, but there are some factors greatly influencing how marketers approach online activities.
In particular, virtual reality (VR) and all the accompanying elements is becoming more widespread. Just as email was a technology that took years to become popular, virtual reality is slowly gaining traction in everyday use by the average person. The prediction is that it will continue to grow rapidly. Currently, there are 43 million active users of VR, but that number is expected to increase to 171 million by 2018.
As this technology expands, it will undoubtedly affect marketing, just as email went from a simple person-to-person communication format to a whole segment of marketing, which 82 percent of companies now use.
Because it will become how users experience the web, marketers will need to adapt to this platform. Marketing will become, more than it already is, about the customer experience, interaction and immersion. These are some of the ways we expect to see the essence of virtual reality in our marketing efforts:
From a simple brand story to a full-on customer interaction, developers will create a virtual reality sophisticated enough to transport customers to the whole universe of a brand and its message. Campaigns will no longer just be a series of elements across platforms. They will become deeply engaging experiences that translate a singular idea into a multi-level event.
The majority of marketers are already using data to grow revenue, understand the customer and target content based on insights. Virtual reality will bring a whole new set of data, especially as it matures. Users will have endless thoughts on how to improve the experience and in the process provide the feedback brands use for marketing purposes.
Virtual reality is just one step closer to a complete integration of all Internet and digital activities. The fact that Facebook already owns the largest VR company Oculus Rift is proof that connection between all our digital lives is coming.
Five years from now, marketing will most likely look a lot like it looks today with a few small differences in how we consume content and how customers experience a complete brand story.
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50 Years From Now: Marketing 2066
Without knowing how technology is going to evolve and infiltrate our lives, we can only make predictions about general marketing themes 50 years in the future. One trend that isn’t going anywhere is the customer demand for personalization and participation.
Marketing, if it isn’t already, is going to be solely driven by the customer. User-generated content will become the voice of brands. Customers will determine the direction of marketing efforts and the tone it takes with their own input, commentary and original content.
Content communities will feel similar to social media, but will only be relational to the products and services people are using. In a way, these communities are the futuristic version of traditional word-of-mouth marketing tactics.
Brands can then source this content to discover an even higher level of personalization. In 50 years, knowing the most intimate details about a customer’s habits and behaviors won’t seem as creepy because it will go from being viewed as an invasion of privacy to the total norm of how we connect and operate within a commercialized world.
Another difference between today’s personalization and the kind we will see in 2066 is how it is generated. Pulling from those crowd-sourced wells of information, brands will start targeting content and marketing material with the use of artificial intelligence. It might be a machine crafting a perfectly human message tailored to the exact needs of a prospect.
Regardless of how technology shifts, customers are not going to stop responding to content made specifically for them. They will only change their own preferences based on what brands are targeting them with the right message.
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100 Years From Now: Marketing 2116
In such a fast-paced industry, who can even say what marketing will look like in 100 years? Maybe we’ll just be communicating via digital profiles. Perhaps an ad will pop-up on the screens embedded in our eyes. Or maybe marketing will be wiped out altogether.
With a content overload and the onslaught of low-quality marketing simply because it’s easy to produce, marketers might abandon this business function with an extreme distaste for what it’s become.
Without a crystal ball, tarot cards, palm readers or fortune tellers, we can’t know for sure what the marketing landscape will look like even tomorrow, but we can examine current trends, recognize the values important to customers and realize our own successes to quietly and generally feel out what the future holds, and it certainly looks bright.