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Marketing in an exponential reality

Content shock – or information overload – occurs when the exponentially increasing volumes of content intersect our limited human capacity to consume it. The amount of data, information and knowledge on digital platforms that surrounds us is overwhelming. As a fact, we have produced more data over the last couple of years than in the whole of human history. So what are we to do with all of this data and how do we extract value from all this information?

Is there a future for marketing?

The emergence of big data, IoT and, subsequently, the users’ expectations of instant personalization of almost all aspects of consumption has implications for the whole value chain – from product to end-user. Marketing is no exception.

Marketing is self-destructing

One could argue that the marketing function today has one single purpose: To completely annihilate itself from the surface of the earth! By having a success driver or even a stated goal, that automation of the marketing “machine” should be done as a means of being more effective. By using less human resources, you are just building machines to take over your job functions. If we succeed, we achieve short-term success, followed by long-term unemployment.

This new reality is not only lurking in marketing and communications. Robert Cohen, an expert in the job market of the future and Senior Fellow at the Economic Strategy Institute in Washington, predicts that digitalization and the IoT will make a lot of job functions disappear. But on the upside, the new tech development will create 25 million new jobs over the next 15 years in the US alone. As an example, new software and cloud-based production will increase productivity and the possibilities for new product development.

The key, he argues, is to adapt to the new job market and the competencies that this market will demand in the future. So what is the marketing competencies of the future?

The marketing competencies of the future

Today, data activation and personalization is key to survive and succeed in marketing. These are competencies that can easily be taken over by computers and AI. The marketing competencies of the future may very well lie in the fields of creativity (thinking outside the box; or disruption), conceptualization and new product development, interpretation and application of data, agility and adapting to human-made change, innovation. In short – all competencies where AI cannot (yet) outperform the human mind’s capability to activate curiosity, fantasy, imagination, abstract thoughts and philosophy.

So, what are the specific areas that the marketing professionals of the future need to focus on and train towards?

Here are my suggestions, but the list is far from absolute:

  • Product development: Supporting the business strategy. Not with marketing intelligence, as this is automatized and computer-produced, but with a clear understanding of what the predictive data means and translating this into the products and services of tomorrow. And again, creating concepts that has real depth and a human touch.
  • Creativity: The ability to not only react on the past (data) and predict the future from a linear perspective, but try to take advantage of the strength of doing something different than expected. Using creativity, imagination and emotional intelligence as a USP in midst of a predictive reality that only gives what users want based on previous actions. Marketing started as a creative industry, but is now largely a data discipline. Marketing will be a creative industry again with a primary focus on creating concepts, stories and identity.
  • Innovation: Moreover, the ability to work agile and adjust to change. This is not a quality that is exclusive for human beings, but when you add curiosity and imagination to the mix you can create deliveries that are unique, different and fulfilling.

So, is there a future for marketing? The answer is yes, but the industry will have to adapt to the new reality, just like all other industries and the presumptions of consumers will also change. Very soon, the job postings you see today with the adverb “digital” in front of every job title will be eradicated. It will be implicit in all we do within marketing and communication, or the tools will be automatized.

The future is all we have – make the most of it!

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