Dear Marketers: Winter is Coming
If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you’re likely familiar with the phrase “winter is coming.”
The TV show’s foreboding tagline alludes to a time in the near future in a mythical land when great upheaval will occur, the old gods will be replaced by the new and a season will dawn that may last for decades.
It feels like “winter is coming” could be an appropriate tagline for the crossroads we are at with digital marketing communication, too.
In the past five years, the marketing and communication playing field has changed dramatically. And yet businesses everywhere are still limping along trying to cram existing models and tactics into a playing field that neither excepts nor complements them anymore.
Welcome to today… and tomorrow.
Digital communication or digital engagement (’cause yes, let’s move beyond social media for the sake of this discussion) is rapidly growing and evolving. Finding ways to stay on top of these changes and integrate technologies, platforms, messages, teams, and mediums internally and externally is a critical skill most marketers are still struggling to comprehend, let alone master.
Combine this with the phenomenon discussed in a recent cover article in Wired about the Programmable World (an expansion of the concept of The Internet of Things) — a world in which there is a seamless, mobile, connectivity and integration between the objects in our lives and ourselves. It’s something that’s already being built and will create an even more complex web of highly personalized communication platforms, channels and messages.
The confluence of both of these phenomenon may likely create two marketing and communication scenarios in the future…
- People will make decisions based on data. (e.g. Your home pantry reminds you to buy a product when it senses you walking by the shelf it’s on at the store; or your fitness monitor tells you you’ve logged 100 miles in your current running shoes and it’s time to purchase a new pair.)
- People will make decisions based on empathy, engagement and influence with their communities (e.g. You crowdsource your Facebook network to find a plumber; or you give your business to the company who responds to your publicly posted query the fastest and most effectively.)
In both of these scenarios, decisions are made contextually, based on relevance, timeliness and authenticity and the goals, needs and desires of the audience as defined by the audience.
This is a shift which is already underway with younger consumers…
[iGen or Generation Z] basically ignore messages from brands, unless those brands have earned admittance to their infinite touch points. – Stefan Pollack
The future is contextual… their context.
What a brand wants to talk about…when brands want to talk — neither of these are of much interest to consumers today and they certainly won’t be of interest to consumers in the future.
Consumers live in a world where increasingly they can get whatever they want, whenever they want it, however they want it, customized exactly the way they want it.
They could give a rat’s ass what you want.
In that world, you will have no choice but to talk with your audiences rather than at them.
You can’t wish the future away.
And yet today we still see…
- …companies who believe a few pre-scheduled tweets with hashtags will convert into huge ROI.
- …companies sending aimless email marketing of irrelevant content with no real objective in mind.
- …companies littering sites with display ads as if the web were really just a big magazine.
These tactics are not working well now and they’ll work even less effectively in the future (in fact, they may actually start to become damaging to your brand.)
Winter is coming, marketers.
- Many years worth of blog posts have been written about it.
- Books are exploring it.
- Thought leaders are pleading directly to you about it.
You must begin to change. Because marketing and communication has already started to change without you.
And it will not wait for you to catch up.
If you sit around too long thinking about change, and talking about change but never actually making a change, the coming winter will be harsh and unforgiving for your business.
You may find yourself frozen out; a fossilized dinosaur from a time when huge corporations commanded the conversation, until mobile, connected, empowered individuals rose up to say, “Now it’s our turn to talk.”