Emerging Technologies Demand New Marketing Fundamentals

Marketers Who Try to Respond with Today's Practices and Skills Will Fail

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Emerging technologies--from smart objects and wearables to behind-the-scenes taxonomy tools--are radically changing how customers think, act and relate to others. And in turn, forcing a rebuild of how brands must go to market on every dimension. It's clear that marketers who try to respond to this seismic shift with today's practices and skills will fail. So how can marketers adapt? There are four fundamentals to consider:

Design is the new marketing

The efficacy of turnkey marketing solutions used to engage with customers is waning. Your brand is more than what you say it is; it's also what you produce and the experiences you create. This means in order to differentiate and go deeper with customers, brands must now design their own unique interactions and experiences. Marketers can take a page from areas such as game design--for years this practice has woven stories, personas and smart objects into virtual environments, allowing people to play and achieve things together and alone. These play arenas can help create positive sentiment that persuades customers to follow the path to purchase. To master this fundamental, marketers must look to add new skills such as those of game designers or content producers to the standard mix of copywriters, art directors and agencies.

Value is the currency

Value has always had its place in marketing-- brands are built upon its promise. But what's different now is the efficiency and speed of the value exchange, which when understood, gives marketers more powerful tools to acquire customers and build-long term loyalty. But it's important to remember that consumers are now acutely aware of the barter value of their data and the power they wield in exchange. As a result, marketers must demonstrate real value to gain customers. Tactics such as content marketing and 'freemium' models demonstrate an understanding of giving first to receive in return. As Evernote CEO Phil Libin has said, "The easiest way to get one million people paying is to get one billion people using."

Agents broker brand relationships

Even when people and devices use a brand's app or website, there are multiple levels of mediation at play--hardware, operating systems and browsers are powerful ecosystems each with their own gravitational pull and controls. This is a new type of intermediary--agents that are intellectually curating consumers' experiences and, in doing so, mediating the brand relationship. Google Now is one such disruptive personal agent for consumers, repositioning the search paradigm from on demand to always on. The agent proactively searches for relevant content for users based on web history, location and other contextual cues before presenting the information speculatively. Expect to see more and more of these consumer controlled software agents brokering brand relationships and permissions.

People are the regulators

Thanks to new tools and channels, our connected society has taken the reigns of control when it comes to regulating brand interactions. But this isn't all bad news for marketers. With more intelligence based upon more sophisticated permissions, brands have the ability to move from rudimentary advertising to more nuanced advice. For instance, CRM systems in 2012 began to live alongside richer consumer data gained from social graphs. Publishing systems morphed into dialogue systems through social and web 2.0; and B2B and B2C technologies converged to provide more flexible people and group-based systems. Yes, brands should continue to see consumers as the star of the show, but now it's time to support them intelligently or else risk being locked out completely.

Nature thrives on complexity and so too does innovation. As of yet, few marketers are meeting the demands that accompany this seismic shift in consumer behavior, and the effects are showing. More than half of US online adults are already annoyed by the amount of advertising they see and 37% would rather not be contacted by brands at all, according to new Forrester data. The brands that will survive this disruption will be those that embrace the growing complexity of the consumer/brand relationship. The result will be a marketing mind shift that leads to competitive edge innovations.

Anthony Mullen is a senior analyst at Forrester Research.

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