The Future of Marketing According to Industry Experts

By: Jordan DeMars, Pablo Romero
Marketing is everything when it comes to promoting businesses, yourself, events, practically anything can be marketed. Over the years, it has evolved from newspaper ads to TV commercials and then to social media, and it just keeps evolving with the advances in technology. But how far can it go? On April 12-13, 2017, we had the privilege to attend the Midwest Digital Marketing Conference (MDMC) where we met and interviewed various speakers from different companies including Microsoft, Pinterest, and Pandora. After listening to them speak, we were able to sit down and talk to each of them about what they think the future of marketing and technology has to hold. Since they are all unique to each other in aspect of what their companies focus on, they had different ideas which allowed us to draw a much larger picture of the broad question that we asked them. One thing they all agree on, however, is that the future lies on the Internet of Things (IoT).
The machines are taking over. This is the future predicted by James Whittaker, Distinguished Engineer and Technical Evangelist at Microsoft. At his keynote speech, James Whittaker spoke about the IoT and how everything is being reduced to data and uploaded to the cloud. According to him, this is the beginning of the next big disruption of technology, which will directly affect the way we consume products and services and will change our daily life. This disruption means that the era of us doing stuff ourselves is over. Driving cars, clicking on the phone, and even physically buying things will soon become obsolete. Machines will take care of everything in the near future, and smart phones, computers or anything with an interface will be used less and less. The world wide web will no longer be used either. Instead, raw data obtained from our gadgets (such as the Microsoft HoloLens), appliances, and machines will be uploaded to the cloud and then taken in by robots, which will make sense of it and do various things for us before we even realize that we need to do them ourselves.
So what is in store for the future of marketing? Well, long-term, there is no future. Don’t feel bad though, there is no future in many industries, because robots are taking over. After the keynote, we met with James Whittaker at the MDMC opening day party to have a little chat about what this whole technology disruption means for entrepreneurs, marketers, and business people. He shared with us that because of everything becoming automated, there isn’t really any future in branding and in the way we currently do things. Marketing will not be about convincing people to choose your brand anymore, because brands will not be part of the data. These machines, however, will look at the value. They will scour all of the data that is out there to find the best fit for an individual. The way how companies will get the market share, will be by making products that are of value to people. As Dr. Whittaker said, value will be the new branding. As an example he told us about his automated hot tub and how it collects data, such as water displacement, temperature, usage, etc., to know how many people get in the tub, at what time, and how big these people are, and he uses this data to determine how much of a certain chemical to buy, looks up the best deal out there and buys in bulk to save money and provide value. This is the future of marketing and technology – customized value over brand loyalty. 
Audio/ Video
Video is all the rage today when it comes to advertising, but will it always be the most dominant form of advertising? Gabe Tartaglia, Vice President of Sales at Pandora, shared some insightful input when we asked him how audio would work to compete with visual in the marketing world. According to him the golden rule of marketing is that ad dollars follow time spent, and we are starting to see a shift in the consumers’ use of “screenless” devices like Amazon Alexa. With an increase in use of these, you cannot run a video ad on it for obvious reasons, so what you do is run an audio ad instead. Now, we are still in the early stages of these devices, so some would say it will be difficult to determine if they stay popular in the future. Nevertheless, after listening to Gabe’s presentation and talking to him afterwards, we believe that there is so much room for growth in this market. In his presentation, Gabe talked a lot about Generation Z, the age group after millennials, and how much time they spend on devices, and specifically how much audio they listen to. According to his presentation, they have their earbuds in seven plus hours a day, which is crazy to think about. Pandora is also the most used app on mobile, even beating out Facebook. Now it is used mostly for background music while the user is browsing other apps or working on something else, but that just adds to the popularity of audio. So, if the new generation spends so much time listening to audio, would not it make sense to spend more ad dollars on audio ads? We believe that in a few years, once this generation becomes the primary market and is actually able to spend money, it will become critical for companies to focus on audio ads. This market will be more likely to purchase screenless devices, since they are growing and developing alongside these devices. In the coming years, we expect every household to have at least one screenless device, if not multiple, which would make every household a target for audio ads. And this is where ad dollars will go.
Social Media
Social media marketing is huge at the moment. In fact, it is one of the most valuable platforms for reaching customers and connecting with people, and many companies are taking advantage of this. One of those companies is Pinterest. We got a chance to meet with Raashi Rosenberg, Creative Strategy Lead at Pinterest, and we asked her about the future of social media marketing. She believes that the future of marketing is going to be visual, as opposed to the current “text only” format to express ourselves. Pinterest is known for providing people with thousands of ideas in the form of images, or pins. Most people are aware of what they want to buy, so when people see these images, they get that reaffirmation to buy it because it looks cool in the picture. The future, according to Raashi, is to tap into this. Pinterest does it with Visual Search, which uses pictures or parts of the picture to find similar products, or Lens, which is like Shazam for things: just take a picture of something you like, and Pinterest will find where you can buy it. While others talked about the leaps in technology and how they would disrupt the industry, Raashi talked about the gap between users and technology, which is ahead of consumer behavior. That’s why they focus on easy-to-use, consumer-focused technology, because the gap needs to be bridged. And this is what is being done by Pinterest.
The future of marketing and technology is nearly limitless: from the use of screenless devices for audio ads to the use of a camera on the phone to find products rather than searching for them. We live in the time when everything is changing so fast that the way we do things will not be the same in 5 or 10 years. The near future brings us visual marketing, while the mid future will be all about audio. And if we look into the not so distant “Skynetesque” future, everything will be broken down to data and our decisions will be automated. There is one thing we can be sure about, is that the future looks exciting, and a little bit scary at the same time. But it will bring great opportunities for innovation, which we had a chance to explore at this year’s Midwest Digital Marketing Conference. The Conference was such a great learning and networking experience that we would recommend it to anyone who wants to make great connections or learn a lot about the changing industry, because we sure did.