Blog: Blog

The “Marketing Singularity” is Near.

(NEW BLOGGER INTRODUCTION: Greetings! My name is Roger Toennis and this is my first blog entry for iMediaConnection.)

I want to thank Lori Luechtefeld and Lucia Davis for agreeing to have me be a blogger on this forum. By education and experience I’m an Electrical Engineer with extensive technical and management background in the Aerospace industry (Navy Research, NASA, Lockheed) and also the Telecommunications industry (Bell Labs, Lucent, Avaya). More detail about me here on my LinkedIn profile.

Three years ago I left the telecommunications world to start my own company. My goal was to leverage my experience in solving complex aerospace engineering problems and also in building realtime multimedia communication applications to the exciting discipline of building innovative, cloud-based communications technologies for the world of “Mobile/Social” marketing and advertising.

My posts here will focus on how Marketing and Advertising are being affected by all the radical technology disruptions that are happening as a result of the accelerating advances in mobile communications technologies (smartphones, tablets). I’ll also talk about how the emergence of what I call the “Socially Hyper-Connected Consumer” will change how you do your job every day as a marketing professional.

All this technology change, and the resulting changes in human social behaviors, is leading us to a complete disruption of the Marketing industry as it has been established over the last 100 years. Everything you have learned about how to do effective 20th and early 21st century broadcast marketing will collapse into a black hole of irrelevance. We are seeing new evidence of this now every day.

I call this fundamental disruption “The Marketing Singularity”.

What is a “Singularity”?

Well it has several definitions but a good summary of them can be found here. The one I think applies best is…..

“Singularity – A point in the future when the pace of technological change will be so rapid, its impact so deep, that human life will be irreversibly transformed. The singularity will transform all the common concepts that we rely on from our business models to the cycle of human life.”

As the marketing industry starts to intersect with the coming technological singularity it will create an impact so deep and disruptive that you will have to change your approach in a fundamental way. You will have to retrain and rethink your long held beliefs and practices if you want to remain relevant and gainfully employed and making a dent in the marketing universe.

The “Happy Days” of 20th Century Broadcast Advertising.

For the past 100 years marketing/advertising has been mainly about riding the wave of advances in broadcast media technologies; Newspaper, Radio, TV, PC Internet, Social Media websites and now “MobileNet” Devices. But each time the communication technology advanced, marketers used the new technology in the same old way…broadcasting one-way marketing messages.

Each time a new technology to distribute content emerged, marketers simply co-opted that new medium and overlaid the same broadcast, one-way advertising models and messages. The new technologies always seemed to allow us to incrementally reach more customers faster with a brand message or a very specific advertising “call to action”. Each one of the new 20th century technologies listed above from Newspapers to the early days of Web 1.0 improved the reach and number of advertising impressions of the marketing messages.

So the incremental approach of using the new tech to do the same broadcast marketing tricks made a lot of sense.

The smooth and predictable technology innovation curve of the 20th century resulted in a Golden Age of Marketing. Those days were very much the “Happy Days” of marketing as an industry. Newspaper advertising was an improvement in reach and impressions for businesses over just having outdoor signage and word of mouth impressions. Radio was an improvement in reach and impressions over Newspaper. TV was an improvement in reach and impressions over Radio.

In 1978 if your national brand wanted to reach 80 million people all at once with an advertisement you would simply buy 30 second spots on a top TV show like Happy Days or MASH or Lawrence Welk and be guaranteed of millions of demographically appropriate impressions, increases in brand mindshare and certain increases in sales. If you were a local business you could buy radio ads on the most popular local stations at drive time and appropriately placed print ads in your local paper and you would get the same effects at the local level.

All you had to do was generate a catchy, memorable content for your TV/Radio spots and print pieces and you were golden. Content was king. The world was simple. The world was happy. In the early days of the Internet it seemed like the world would remain simple and happy with the Internet becoming yet another incremental improvement in reach and impressions.

From “Happy Days” to “Creepy” Behavioral Targeting

But then something strange happened.

The amount of information available on the Internet became so vast so quickly that with 10 years of the launch of the World Wide Web the reach and impressions for a given Internet advertisement suddenly were significantly less than was possible with the ubiquitous and effective TV/Radio/Print advertising mediums of the period from 1950-2000.

Information overload began making it increasingly difficult to get reach and impressions within a specific demographic and suddenly the world of marketing quickly got strange and “creepy”.

By the year 2000 the more information that became available through the Internet medium the less effective it was for traditional broadcast marketing. Banner ads in webpages started to lose effectiveness as savvy Internet users stopped clicking through to see mostly boring and poorly targeted ad content. This change in behavior brought about the use of http cookies for dynamically tracking web browser behaviors by users and serving advertisements that were related to pages that the user had loaded in their browser in the past.

Privacy concerns were immediately raised and it’s been a 10+ year fight since then between privacy advocates and those who say that without behavioral tracking the free Internet will collapse for lack of a business model. Privacy seems to be winning out with the FTC pushing the industry to adopt an “easy to opt out of tracking” model for consumers

If marketing as an industry and a profession is going to survive in the face of information overload and privacy regulations then what we have to do now is look at the core problem we are facing and evolve the nature of marketing. The core problem is information technology and information aggregation has now far outrun the ability of humans to process the amount of information available. On top of that people are now using the Internet in a radically new way. It’s being used as a two-way, social conversation medium instead of being only a one-way information consumption channel.

“Back To The Future!” The Medium Is The Message…Again!

This is transforming the Internet into a completely different kind of marketing medium. Web 1.0 was a one-way, static content delivery mechanism for consumption via browsers. Web 2.0 followed Web 1.0 and allowed for realtime user generated content with blogging and online comments and reviews.

The next step after Web 2.0 has resulted from a combination of the emergence of Social Meda with mobile broadband and smartphone adoption. But it’s not appropriate to call this next step “Web 3.0″ because from a marketing perspective this change is not incremental. It’s a non-linear, “step change”. People are now spending the majority of their time on the web in two-way social interactions with “friends”. More and more web content is now only being consumed after it has passed through the filter of a digital, social relationship mechanism.

Suddenly we find ourselves back in a “pre-broadcast marketing” context where the only thing that will matter is “word of mouth” marketing.

Wow! Talk about “Back to The Future”!

The difference though in the new “word of mouth” model is it is all virtual, digital, mobile and socially networked. This fundamental change takes us all at once from Web 2.0, not to Web 3.0, but to Web 10.0.

In 1964 Marshall Mcluhan said “the medium is the message”. His point was that the way we communicate fundamentally changes how we view the world. The Web 10.0 model of a mobile/social Internet is causing a quantum leap change in people’s perception and communication styles and the result is a similar nonlinear rip in “Marketing Spacetime”.

This is the “Marketing Singularity”.

Are You Ready For The Future?

It’s ironic that this huge “Web 2.0 to Web 10.0″ leap actually changes the “basis of competition” and the “basis of communication” from the 20th century broadcast marketing back to what is in fact the older “Word of Mouth” marketing model at it’s core. It’s a lot different in implementation though because it’s digital, social, realtime and highly mobile. But it’s still “word of mouth”. Call it “Word of Mouth on Mobile/Social Steroids”

With this new medium emerging, with it’s new messaging style, we all have go back to first principles of good marketing.

Once again the core principles of timely, relevant and compelling content delivered in a way that engages rather than annoys the consumer come to the forefront. If you meet that standard for the consumer they will use their powerful social graphs to do “word of mouth” marketing for you.

Armed with a social graph of 100s of thousands of people just a click away in social network space the consumer of today can be way more effective than either the face to face word of mouth marketing of decades and centuries past or the 20th century broadcast marketing of the past 100 years. But the challenge now is to figure out how to get them excited and engaged in spreading the word. That is the nut that needs to be cracked.

This is all good news though isn’t it?

After the collapse of 20th century broadcast marketing there is going to be a supernova of completely new and exciting marketing frameworks, ideas and best practices that need to be developed for this new/old approach. We are going to see a burst of innovation in building and refining the new principles of two-way, “Conversational Marketing” and putting those principles to work.

What has been done to date in trying to create two-way Twitter, Facebook and mobile device marketing conversations has only scratched the surface of the ocean of new opportunity that is about to open to all of us. We are about to embark on an exciting and compelling future of opportunity for marketing and for marketers in this “Post-Singularity” world.

Are you ready jump headfirst into this “Marketing Singularity” and be part of the exciting explosion of innovation that is about to happen?

I know I am. I love a wild ride.

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