Whenever anybody says 2020, there’s just something about it that makes it feel like it’s still a ways away. Doesn’t it feel like 2020 when The Jetsons is supposed to take place; a utopian future where sci-fi is reality? Whether you feel the same way or not, at the breakneck speed that technology is evolving, it really just might happen. The truth is, it’s a lot closer than we give it credit for. With the fast-paced nature of the world, marketers have always had to think X amount of steps ahead. With all the new technology sprouting up, the ability to be able to look at a trend, anticipate where it’s going, manoeuver, and be in the right place at the right time is becoming easier. But at the rate that new variables keep popping up, can we truly foresee where it’s going next?
For most companies today, 2020 is the metaphorical end-game. Almost everyone is convinced that the face of marketing will have changed profoundly by the time 2020 rolls around. What most people don’t notice is that it’s already happening. Take Laila Blue, the Middle East’s first virtual influencer, as an example. Rewind to a few years ago – would you have believed that virtual influencers would become a thing? With all the new opportunities that come with these new technologies, most are starting to forget one of the most important things in marketing. As we further advance in technology and become more digitally connected, we become more physically disconnected as the cloud of data obscures the most important element in the equation – the physical human beings we are trying to reach. For instance, the increased influx of artificial intelligence in recent years has cut social interaction by a considerable amount. Can you truly market to an audience without the human element?
It all comes back to storytelling – not as a word, but as a fully integrated smart strategy backed with relevance and logic. Whether it’s through data or technology, a message will not be received without the right kind of storytelling. Your product won’t matter if nobody will give it the time of day. With the overwhelming swirl of information that a consumer sees, the emotional connection is the critical aspect that’ll make a brand stand out. Utilising the right data and the right technology to weave the perfect story will be the keystone in 2020. The formula may be simple, but the execution is where the true test will be. It will be important to establish digital ethics so that strategies and budgets don’t go to waste. In other words, make sure you know what you’re doing before taking a single step. However, where marketers may already know the game, there are clients that don’t, and educating them has become an inevitable need. As an example, our internal practice has advanced, and yet we will still hear concerns from clients that haven’t been relevant for the last four years. It’s about time we stopped simply calling ourselves marketers, and began calling ourselves innovators as we educate our clients on how to keep up in this maelstrom of new technology.
We are lucky to be residents of a city that keeps its eye on the horizon as a digital pioneer. Just a few days ago, Dubai Police announced ‘flying bikes’ to patrol Dubai by 2020. Remember what I said earlier about The Jetsons? Dubai recognises the value of digital transformation. It’s said that Dubai will generate $9.2bn by 2020 thanks to digital transformation. That being said, we need to establish ourselves as thought leaders instead of simply being followers of the west. Blockchain technology and cryptocurrrency know-how stands as a solid example; as soon as it’s brought up for discussion, it’s already opposed. But how can you fight something you don’t truly understand? Sure, everyone’s heard of Bitcoin, but have you taken a moment to consider all the other different cryptocurrencies and the power behind it? We have to get over this unfounded ignorance and start gearing ourselves up to be ready for this revolution. We need to start eyeing the right opportunities and leveraging on innovations that will inevitably penetrate our digital world, like cryptocurrency payment gateways taking over traditional online payment gateways.
That being said, not every digital innovation is an asset to be used. Knowing what to use, when to use it and how to apply it is the key. In an age where everyone is so focused on what comes next, we should instead focus on when to say ‘yes’ and when to say ‘no’. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all. If it works for Brand A, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for Brand B. If the client wants programmatic, say no if it doesn’t work, or you’ll end up hurting both the client and yourself. Steve Jobs said it best: “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are.”