Hindsight will be 2020

By Best-Selling Marketing Author and Keynote Speaker, Larry Bailin

What the Future of Digital Marketing Will Not Look Like.

2016 marks an important temporal tipping point for marketing and marketers alike. We have stepped over the proverbial line in the sand from whence there is no return. We now stand closer to a brand new decade than the beginnings of our current one.

In four short years, 2020 will be upon us; a year, a decade, sure to be riddled with hindsight memes and vision related metaphors from those that would consider themselves the insightful ones.

Early indications would lead us to believe that 2020 just may be a data marketers dream, bringing true innovation into the light of day, weaving itself into the fabric of mainstream marketing.

Technologies such as virtual and augmented reality will seemingly become an engagement playground for marketers and gamers alike. The internet of things promises the proliferation of smart devices and rich data collection points across virtually every aspect of our lives. A washing machine that knows when to order detergent. A refrigerator that alerts you when milk expiration is imminent, or whether the quantity of eggs on hand is insufficient to prepare the omelet in the recipe you just bookmarked on your phone. Imagine now your appliance asking permission to order these products, (which may or may not be delivered by drone), making them available at the exact time you need them.

Mobile devices and wearables will take giant leaps forward and continue to become invaluable dictators of location infused discounts and deals. If Uber has a say, we may just be hopping into self-driving taxis on the streets of NY, LA and other major metro areas. Self-driving taxis would give marketers the opportunity to present targeted marketing messages to riders based on their pick up and drop off locations, as well as personal preferences gleaned from data on their mobile devices and digital behavior profiles.

With such exciting marketing opportunities on a fast approaching horizon, it’s easy to get left behind in the dust of the bandwagon.  What if you already feel you’ve been left behind? Well my friend, today is your lucky day (if sarcasm had a font, this would be it); Comcast Spotlight has written an article specifically for you!

Comcast Spotlight recently published an article in Smart CEO titled, “Why Targeted Digital Marketing is the Wave of the Future.” (read full article here). I’m not surprised by the notion that an enterprise level marketing machine such as this mainstream media provider sees “targeted digital marketing” as a wave to be caught somewhere off in the distance.

Traditional media outlets seemingly continue to struggle with digital marketing, as they stumble in their quest to understand a digital consumer. Meanwhile on the other side of the coin, you have marketers indoctrinated early into a target rich digital ecosystem. Digital Marketers who have been espousing digital marketing’s enhanced targeting benefits for nearly two decades.

The article starts out by making the reader aware of how the steep adoption of mobile devices has led to television viewing being relegated to large sporting and high profile events. The article goes on to state, “the decline in traditional television viewing is making it hard for marketers to find audiences.” Let’s stop right there. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, if you’re marketing requires you to find and place vague messages in front of large quantities of unqualified, untargeted people, then possibly, you’ve been hurt by this decline.

Digital marketing outlets such as search engines, social media, online video, email and other such services, have made it very easy to identify a targeted audience for just about any product or service. Not only that, you can even target a prospect’s exact time of need. Imagine that! Only being in front of people that need what you offer – sounds like a lot of mumbo-jumbo, snake oil, smoke and mirrors, dare I say HOOEY!

The Comcast article may lead one to believe target marketing is something off in the distance when in fact, the real reason to look ahead is because it’s passed you by.

Targeted Digital Marketing is not the future—it’s the then, the was, the now, and the always will be.  Days of traditional media slapping the moniker “digital” across anything accessed over the Internet, and going on to espouse vanity metrics such as impressions, page views and viewership as the win, are long over. Success metrics that account specifically for conversions and sales—those are the metrics that now rule the day for present day marketers.

I can tell you one thing for certain, “Targeted Digital Marketing” is not some new marketing messiah. For those marketers who live their lives facing forward, adopting early, scanning the horizon for the next thing—we leave scrawled in the walls of “target digital marketing” a hearty “we were here,” to be found by the laggards that follow—when and if they ever catch up.

The future is a funny thing.  No one can tell you for certain what the future holds. Certain technologies that feed a larger marketing machine seem imminent, but none are a guaranteed bet. If you truly desire a glimpse into the future, all you need do is look inside a hotel minibar. You can see what a Diet Pepsi will cost in 2035.