Just when marketers think they’ve got social, mobile, and video all figured out, along come emerging trends that will demand their attention, understanding, and investment. Changes are happening fast and even the savviest marketers are hard-pressed to keep up and stay informed about the latest developments.
As chief content officer and co-founder of eMarketer, Geoff Ramsey makes a point of staying abreast of current trends such as the proliferation of AI (artificial intelligence), including the voice-recognition technologies behind Alexa, Google Home, and Siri. He also explores where linear television, digital video, connected TV, and over-the-top (OTT) will collide, and what the implications may be for marketers.
Ramsey will address those topics and more in a presentation at the upcoming 2018 ANA Digital & Social Media Conference, July 25 - 27 at the Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. In the following interview, he provides a preview of his presentation, “The Emerging Trends That Will Rock Your World.”
Q: The marketing world is moving at the speed of light these days. What do you see as the most influential and impactful current trends?
A. Modern marketers need to think beyond their technology stack to keep pace in today’s rapidly evolving landscape. The hurdles for digital transformation are not as technology-centric as you might assume. Organizational issues like company structure, budget, culture, fear (of failure), partnering with outside players, and the ability to make sensible decisions are the top challenges. It comes down to the three P’s: People, Processes, and Partners. These are the three central areas that marketing teams need to focus on in order to drive and support a digital transformation.
Q. How will the proliferation of AI and machine learning speed up and personalize every aspect of marketing?
A. AI systems can parse through, analyze, and find connections in gargantuan data sets at a rate far faster than humans can manage. Using customized algorithms and predictive analytics, these systems will be able to find data about specific consumers and, based on patterns in that data, send personalized messages to specific users. Ultimately, AI may be the key that finally unlocks marketing attribution—by extracting data from disparate data silos and providing a true, 360-degree view of the customer journey.
Q. Voice-recognition technologies like Alexa, Google Home, and Siri are becoming increasingly popular. What does that mean for brands now and in the future?
A. AI-driven voice-controlled technologies are getting higher acceptance from consumers as the technology becomes more accurate, more affordable, and easier to use. Make no mistake, voice is poised to be the next phase in the evolution of human-computer interaction and has the potential to be radically transformative. Voice control gives brands a new channel through which to interact with consumers. It’s all about reducing friction, since consumers don’t have to type—they merely have to voice their commands and questions. While nobody has cracked the code yet on what this actually means, most experts believe that success will come to those who see voice as a utility, rather than just a vehicle to push ads and promotions. Brands should strive to create voice interactions relevant to their offerings that make things easier, more convenient, or more enjoyable for people, and add value to their lives in some way.
Q. How can the colliding worlds of linear television, digital video, connected TV, and OTT work together, or is such a concept impossible?
A. These worlds are already working together, or at least overlapping, to the point that it’s getting hard to delineate them from one another. Major pay-TV providers like Comcast, AT&T, Dish, and Verizon have diversified into areas such as broadband, content, and digitally delivered live TV. By the same token, video-streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu have become full-fledged programmers, competing head-to-head with TV networks and movie studios. And the networks themselves are increasingly licensing their content — live and on-demand — to streaming services and social networks while also going direct to consumers with their own services — HBO, Showtime, Disney, Turner, etc. The convergence is already in full swing, and soon enough it will render moot many of the labels under which we’ve grouped these companies.
Q. Should marketers be fearful and skeptical of the fast-moving technology that is changing their world, or should they embrace it?
A. Marketers should have a healthy skepticism about new technology; while it may offer new ways to message and serve their audience, it will never solve all their problems. It must be implemented and integrated as part of a larger organizational strategy to be successful. Just adopting technology because it exists—or because vendors are pushing it—is unlikely to be the right answer. But healthy skepticism is different from fear, and fearing new tools and change in general will prevent marketers from competing in the future. Marketing has been, and always will be, about both art and science, and marketers who embrace the tech to help them with the “science side” will still have plenty of work to do in order to be creative and truly connect with consumers. Data is important, but so is the message.
Q. Do you see the role social media plays in marketing increasing or decreasing in the future?
A. Nine out of 10 U.S. companies with 100 employees or more will use social media marketing this year, according to eMarketer. Social media is integral to marketing and will remain so, but what companies do with social media is always changing. A few years ago, organic social media was a major focus, but now many companies put more attention into paid social media advertising. In the future, we will see things like augmented reality and video becoming a bigger part of social media marketing. As long as social platforms remain gathering places for consumers, the role of social media marketing will continue to increase. The train has left the station, and it’s not going back.