Back to school or back to the future?

By Nancy Garberson / Guest Column

As marketers, we’re always looking at the future. It’s a little like going back to school: We look at the old and the new, and keep the good while adding new concepts to improve everyone’s work.

Just as technology and consumer behaviors evolve, new developments are changing marketing in ways we can’t fully imagine now. If I could offer a plausible forecast for the trends that will change the way brands connect with their customers, and the way creative companies will work in the next few years, it would be based off the people who are most influencing the advertising and marketing world right now.

The complexity of marketing is only going to keep increasing. Considering that there are now more mobile devices than people on the planet, it makes sense that personal interactions between brands and people will become more and more important. People interact via smartphone these days, so content has to shift to the small screen.

Great brands will offer a more personalized experience with their customers, since it’s a two-way conversation. Social media will push that interaction with on-demand experiences.

It may seem counter-intuitive in our digital and distant age, but customers want to know more about the people they work with. It’s funny, because advertising from the 1940s – such as those found in my collection of old Look Magazines – used to focus on educating the buyer. As attention spans shortened, advertising copy dropped to only a few words over the decades. Now, as people expect transparency, customers are demanding more information from the brands they use. It’s like the days of old returning to teach us something important from the past.

Brands have to be more transparent in an authentic way to display their values. By engaging in conversations with every customer at every interaction, (omni-channel marketing), brand positions are earned with lots of time and energy.

Video sharing is also expanding into our daily lives. I recently received two clips from a friend that I spent some time with over the weekend – they were great reminders of the fun we had. Video is so easy to produce and consume, and we all love the short length. These days a 30-second commercial is considered long. I foresee many more real-time (FaceTime-style) video experiences being leveraged by marketers, which generate in-the-moment buzz but can also be viewed later or shared with friends.

But, watch out – more content and more action can also mean more chances for criticism. Consumers are more vocal than ever before, which means they talk about any bad experience, whether that’s bad food, bad service or bad content. What’s more, with mobile phones, we’ve all become news and weather watchers, meaning little flies below the radar these days.

New technology has given us much better data, with greater speed and accuracy, and will continue to improve. The potential value of well-collected, well-interpreted data is inexhaustible. Better measurement of your marketing campaigns means you can waste less money and spend more time talking to the demographic best suited to your product.

Technology will continue to be a part of the core fabric of marketing, as it evolves and advances to keep us continually connected. That also means that the complexity of marketing is destined to keep increasing. The explosion in channels, markets and emerging areas has made modern marketing a complex discipline. Sounds like a good time to head back to school!

Nancy Garberson is the owner of Marketing & Communication Strategies Inc., in Cedar Rapids and an adjunct professor at Mount Mercy University, teaching managerial marketing in its Master of Business Administration and Master of Strategic Leadership programs.