In the past there’s been a lot of talk about the future. The future of advertising, branding, marketing, biscuits and so on. Back in the day at WO we employed a Russian Futurologist. The fact that he was Russian only made it more interesting. On his first day I met him in the lunch queue “I am futurologist” he said. “What was the fish like?” I asked. I’d like to think it was his former Soviet Federative emotionless disposition that prevented him cracking a smile. He often ended brilliant lectures about the future of banking with “and that is the future of banking. Or maybe not, we don’t know – as it is the future”. Everyone nodded with the nonchalance of casual ineptitude and went back to work. Whether its futurologists or Shingy with his cwazy hair and big data predictions, businesses and agencies alike are thirsty for game changing things. Words become concepts, become territories, become USPs:big ideas:killer apps – you get the point. Remember when McDonald’s wouldn’t sell you a coke – it was a McCola? Now it’s not enough to have a plan. Strategies are fragmented into digital and social; online; secular; modular; blah. I miss the days when clients just used to ask “but will it fax?”. Is all this bullshit just more ways of justifying our own marketing existence or do we think that it makes what we do somehow more exciting, relevant, future-proof? Video killed the radio star and content made stuff and shit monetizable. Which brings me back to the future. It would appear the future of ( advertising/brand/marketing/media/something about space )* is definitely digital and content related. So, let me just get that straight? How we communicate, converse and experience things will be affected by technology – and it will have more stuff in it, most probably stuff that we have decided upon ourselves. Cool.
There’s just one thing about the now we live in. In the exponential tech space curve we have ridden courtesy mainly of Mr Berners-Lee; we are more connected than ever and arguably increasingly losing our humanity. Inquiring about everything has changed our desire for knowledge. Automated speed has made us lazy. Accessibility has bred contempt. Social media is often anti social. Caught up in a Kubrick-esque fantasy of the future we are forging artificial intelligence with the arrogance of a species that believes it understands its own, finitely. We jump from Plato to Maslow to AIBO.
Back in 500 years B.C. (Before Content) when M&S was one bloke selling things on a stall for a penny there was no retail brand customer journey experience. When Mr. Coke set up his marvelous new drink his social strategy was word of mouth. People bought stuff from people. Reputation was the brand. I’m not suggesting we revert back to some buttons-for-pigs swapping utopia but maybe we have lost what it means to be ‘human’. Naturally when businesses become successful and scaleable – they lose the touch of the founder. There is a unique tipping point in any business where the tribal nature can not be sustained. To truly succeed it needs to be transcended. In the naughty 90s it was really innovative not to put a car or phone in an advert selling a car or phone. “Is this you?” we asked with portraits rather than products. Off stage became the new narrative. In our narcissistic way we artificially recreate the human touch by creating frameworks around business that emulates our own subconscious human nature. Traditional brand strategies use values, vision, idea – all essentially human traits or mechanisms. We give things tone of voice, personality and so on. In this infinite loop event horizon we often meet ourselves again and like to pretend we are buying into something rather than just taking a product off the shelf. So, what happens when the business or ‘brand owner’ tries to science this humanity? Often marketing professionals seem to think they can crack the code of the cosmos. We categorize and plot demographics assigning buyers or consumers into neat acronyms. People are looked at like ants viewed by the gods for their sport. We know you, we know what you buy, where, in which postcode, or what time, in how many clicks. However, do we really understand ‘why?’. Is there always a why or sometimes just a ‘because’. One answer is – ask yourself why do you buy what’s in your basket / drive / home? As a ‘marketing professional’ are you above all that? Do you have a customer journey every time or do you go to that supermarket because it’s the closest? You drive that car because you just like it. Or because your priorities lie elsewhere. Are you human? It’s OK. Most of the other people are too.
Real progression can be influenced by technology, data, trends and algorithms. Innovation if often human created. The power of the idea. Consciousness will beat intelligence, emotion can overpower logic. We don’t have to end up like Dudley Moore in Crazy People but simple truths and relevance can create beautiful connections.
The future of the agency will be changed by those who innovate and create new rules. Responding to homogenous change is bovine. The smaller the planet becomes the more the need to respect and celebrate diversity. Universal truths can be good. What’s exciting is the way companies are now shaped by the usage or demand of the customer. Democracy can work if its genuine and not a convenient buzzword. Better is better than difference for difference sake. It would be nice for things to just work, it would be great if we could all have some more fun.