As we enter 2017, the challenges that we face have not only become more complex but quite daunting. The main cause of this upheaval has been building for a few years now. It starts from this point – as consumers we are no longer afraid of technology and in fact demand quite a bit of it. We are upset that in 2017 we don’t have flying cars yet, (give Elon Musk a few years however and we might just get there). With this lack of fear comes an informed and empowered customer, the likes we have never seen before.
It is this enablement that is at the very centre of this shift.
One of the results of shift is the democratization of commerce – you no longer need to work within the confines of traditional retail to sell or buy something. This evolution in technology has created a level playing field where the barriers to success are not reliant on legacy systems of logistics, inventory and technology.
The middleman has quite literally been cut out.
While we are still a few years away from this growth in technology plateauing, there are certain things that we can point to today to help us navigate this upheaval. By knowing these things, it will allow as us as marketers to keep up with the consumer because let’s face it powered by tools from the tech sector, they are in the driver’s seat.
This control is from a complacency by the Advertising business. If you think about it, the innovations that have changed the face of communication have come from the tech sector, not the once powerful advertising industry. The nimbleness this startup community thrives in must be embraced as it is doing much better job than us on creating things and consumers are embracing those things
For now, we can look for things that will help us get there. The tools or movements that are on the horizon that can be easily adopted and embraced today so that we can start closing the gap between us and consumers.
The last half of 2016 saw the Internet focusing on bots. A bot is software that is designed to automate the kinds of tasks you would usually do on your own, like making a dinner reservation. The increasingly common form of bots, chatbots, simulate conversation. The most compelling experiences with bots are powered by AI.
If you haven’t experienced a bot yet, don’t worry, it will happen soon. Or you may already have and just didn’t know it. Bots are a game changer due cost to market and its ability to empower your consumer with very little resources your marketing interactions will be powerful and more intimate than ever before. If you want an example of a great experience, check out the one that Starbucks recently created (they have an even cooler one they are coming out with soon).
Part of the reason that I’m so bullish on bots are the efficiencies they create. One area in particular is customer service – a decidedly not advertising area. 85% of all customer service interaction can be categorized into the same 6 or 7 categories. Imagine the cost savings at the call centre, if eventually 85% of your inbound traffic is automated through digital. A good chunk could be shifted to other areas to support business.
The keys will be how to categorize the incoming traffic relevant to your business, how to convert the other 15% into leads (via a concierge type service) and what would that innovation layer be that can provide a unique fun voice.
The two previous examples illustrate one great point that must be noted. While the hype in the media around bots focuses on consumer facing interactions that are fun and quirky, that will be only 20% of how bots are used. The real power with this tool will be the boring tasks it can do to save countless human hours and the dollars attached to them. London-based Startup TagDox for example uses bots to analyze legal documents so that you can understand much easier and faster using Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing. It will be these ‘boring’ but necessary tasks that will make up 80% of how bots are used in the market.
TARGET BY BEHAVIOUR
The last few years have shown us that the traditional methods of segmenting a target audience aren’t quite enough. It might have worked in the past with a more linear driven media model that only consisted of a few touchpoints. Today, there are literally thousands of ways to connect with people. Most importantly, things like time and geography are not the strong considerations they once used to be.
So you would think it was surprising that 90% of marketing these days is still channel focused making antiquated KPI’s the focus of the campaigns when it should be how the people act and react to things. Fitbit is a perfect example of a brand that elevated beyond this. Today it is the leader in the category of wearables – by a lot. It got that way because it didn’t segment folks by age or where they live. It focused on behavior. People who focus on fitness and well-being range from 18-80. So by providing a service that enabled and empowered the user, Fitbit was quickly able to not only define the category but become the entrenched leader.
By putting the user and their behaviour front and centre, they were able to nail the tool that powered the experience the user was looking to create. I have had a Fitbit since day one. I love it not because it looks good, but the data, while not fully scientific, is amazing really has made a difference in my life.
Droga5 had used this strategy to great success starting all the way back to when they ‘tagged’ Air Force One to most recently their award-winning Under Armour Campaigns. We saw Beats take over a World Cup with a perfectly timed and brilliantly placed video. Closer to home the recent ads by No Fixed Address for Questrade nailed the insight around a major pain point that is a barrier to access for people in Money Management. My favourite though is the recent Nature Valley ads that successfully and quite brilliantly made one of the biggest issues with raising a child in this age of too much technology a call to getting back to Nature. All of these campaigns showed how focusing on behaviour is a clear path to success.
And if you don’t think the technology is there to help, a recent demonstration from my friends at Varick Media illustrated how programmatic can target someone based on whether they watch a comedy at 830pm on a Thursday. No demographic or geographic targeting there.
BUSINESS AS A SERVICE//NETFLIXIFICATION
At the beginning of my career I was a theatre producer. The best advice that was given to me was something I read about who my competition really is. Basically, it said that I am not fighting other theatre companies for ticket sales, I am fighting all other forms of entertainment for time of day. This holds true now, even more as the ability to create a quality product and sell it is available to anyone now is dwarfed by the sheer volume of things that fight for time in the consumers day.
So how to achieve success in a world where the consumer is quite literally everywhere?
Netflix became a powerhouse because they understand this and made it part of its core DNA. Their strategy for the battle of time has led to the recent renaissance in TV where the content being outputted is far surpassing the stranglehold that Cinema had on above quality content. Movies kinda suck now compared to what is on Netflix. And that transferred as shows like Billions from more traditional TV channels continue to push the boundaries.
The thing is that it wasn’t the creation of this content that led to its success, starting out as a DVD delivery service, it has had the same access that others in the same field have had for years. The key factor was that, through the brilliant use of technology, it made that content available everywhere. It wasn’t the first to stream stuff, by putting the user at the centre of the experience, it was just the best. While the incumbents only made online access to content available in one place, Netflix made it available everywhere – without judgment and at a very low barrier and cost to entry.
It is not just upstarts that are changing the game. For its storied Cadillac brand, legacy corporation GM just announced Book By Cadillac, a subscription service where, for $1500/month, customers will be allowed to drive and swap out whatever vehicle they want — be it an Escalade or a CTS-V — whenever they want, for a flat monthly fee. The idea is to eliminate the hassle that comes with owning a vehicle. A direct response to the massively disruptive car-sharing services like Zipcar and Autoshare that millenials have embraced instead of owning actual vehicles. People have shown they are willing to pay a premium for service and ease so Book By Cadillac has inserted itself perfectly into the conversation. It will be interesting to the reaction it being so new.
So when you are putting together your marketing plan, ask yourself this question – am I approaching this correctly? Is it easily accessible regardless of the channel? Are there barriers to experience or product I am offering? This means you are going to have to question things like the media plan, the channel being used. You are going to have to right to the core to make sure the strategy is on point.