We have come a long way since the days of the 'Mad Men' era when the ad agencies pretty much dictated and controlled brand communication. Back then, a marketing plan would circle around print, radio and television only. It's a different world altogether today. Nowadays, we have social media, mobile devices, virtual reality, augmented reality, drones, wearables and so on.
A few years ago there was a lot of conversation around big data - what it is, how we were going to gather it etc. Now, as we inch closer to 2020, we slowly realise the mammoth amount of big data that machine learning, Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will bring. The more customers use technology, the higher the amount of information and insights available to be tapped and harnessed.
By 2020, targeted ads based on demography will be replaced with personalized ads for each consumer on each device. This is greatly helped by consumers themselves, especially millennials who are open to voluntarily sharing and providing data through channels like Facebook, Gmail and Twitter. Customers would prefer to interact with brands at a human level rather than simply being targeted by irrelevant ads. They would expect companies to show relevant ads when they want. For this to happen, the ads will have to be fully integrated into the digital customer journey of every individual that becomes inherently valuable to them. The existing banners and sidebar ads will eventually be phased out. The year 2020 and beyond will be all about discovering customers at an individual level more than anything.
For over 50 years and until recently, advertising was ruled by the mass media (TV, print) and ad agencies. By 2020, more of this control will be transferred to brands who will have to take more responsibility for their content, marketing and brand awareness. On the other hand, ad agencies will have to transform into full-service powerhouses that deal in technology and deep insight into consumers and their culture, at a granular level. The ad agencies will move away from broadcast mode to focus on providing experiences and encouraging participation of consumers.
As a result of these transformations, more brands could move advertising in-house, introduce automation across social and digital networks, use influencers more often, and put more emphasis on user-generated and authentic content. An individual's interests, tastes and preferences will be targeted. Companies with a strong brand presence will have a deeper understanding and an established process for dealing with different channels and their influence on each other. Most of their research efforts and solutions will be proprietary to gain a competitive advantage specific to their products and audience.
By 2020, the definition of consumer insights will also shift from merely knowing the consumer journey and buying behaviour, to mapping an individual's behaviour and thoughts. Research done by brands and consulting companies will be at a more personal level than demographics. AI will become commonplace for brands, allowing them to personalize content and constantly adjust and scale their activities in real-time. Currently, tactics used by marketers and ad agencies are largely about selling products more than providing relevant content or offering value.
By 2020, silos existing in marketing and advertising will fade away
Currently, marketers, advertisers and CMOs do not work in tandem and are fully integrated. Silos exist even within marketing functions of a brand although they do not intend to be so. This is primarily because today's major platforms and mediums, where consumers are highly active such as Facebook, Twitter and other digital sites and apps, evolved separately. In other words, technologies were created and evolved separately at separate times. Therefore, expertise on these platforms also grew disparately and were fragmented giving rise to siloed practices. In 2020, CMOs will be equipped to break down the existing silos and demonstrate their leadership. On the advertising agency side, they will no longer be looked upon to provide disjointed solutions but a single powerhouse with tailored advertising specific to the brand and granular insights into its intended target audience.
By 2020, brands will no longer invest in large consumer studies based on general segmentation, but channel their investments into nimble and cost-effect studies that continuously track and evolve consumer understanding. This will ultimately put brands in an advantageous position to respond and quickly adapt to changing consumer taste, mindset and behaviour.
Focusing on offering value rather than sales
Consumers are targeted today using digital tools that track their shopping and purchase habits. Their social media, payment activities and data collected from their search history, clicks etc. are used to push offers assuming that they will appreciate a brand. But advertising and marketing in 2020 will be less about the offers and more about unique branded experiences and values. The advertisers will have to integrate consumers into the brand's marketing activities that encourage a two-way symbiotic relationship.
The consumer-initiated advocacy of a brand will become an integral part for advertisers and brands via promotional partnerships and brand activity-related communities. A brand's decision on the pricing model, shopping experience etc. will see higher participation by consumers. Advertising agencies will be responsible for the planning and execution of platforms that allow participants (consumers) to express and involve themselves more with the brand.
Advertising in 2020 will be a combination of algorithm-driven technology and the art of persuasion, putting consumers on the centre-stage. The next few years will put greater emphasis on quality content and the speed at which it is created. Information will flow in both directions with respect to data on consumers and transparency of a brand. There could also be a shift in the cost of content distribution as the focus of marketing and advertising activities will be directed towards consumers' inclination to share it.
Content distribution may concentrate away from traditional media to digital and agencies will be expected to adapt and co-own brand promises in order to ensure it is trickled down to consumers. By 2020, brands and advertisers will no longer be measured by the amount they spend, but by the quality of their ideas.
(The author is vice-president - marketing for Havells India. Previously he was the director - brand, communication and digital for Philips, Indian subcontinent.)