The Future Of Marketing — Analytics Vs. Wisdom (Part 1)

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What is the future of marketing? In the past decade, the internet has flipped the traditional marketing model on its head: we no longer think of television, radio or magazines as being the primary advertising outlets. People visit these content sources selectively; for the most part, the daily driver of people’s media consumption begins and ends with social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. But accurately capitalizing on these sites has been a tricky business. Marketing executives are generally unimpressed with the ROI on internet marketing. And of course, there’s the question of what ‘content’ even means anymore: as the format of the internet itself gradually blurs the realm between the written word and video, traditional anchors of advertising become hard to identify. The future may lie in the development of savvier analytical and metric tools, and a more consistent format for content. But will it be consumer driven? Will the top sites of today be the dusty digital relics of tomorrow? What, in essence, will marketing look like 10 years from now?

The key to this question lies in the accuracy of metrics and analysis.

“I believe that we will manage to cut human beings out of pretty much all of the reporting business when it comes to analytics, or even marketing,” says Avinash Kaushik, co-founder of Market Motive and author of Web Analytics 2.0. “Intelligent systems that learn from consumer behavior and are able to optimize experiences and campaigns and outcomes in real time should be the norm. They will do things we are bad at.”

Yuchun Lee of the marketing company Unica (which was purchased by IBM in August of 2010) announced at OMMA Metrics, on March 23rd, that the company is planning to invest an additional $20 billion over 5 years into acquiring and developing more accurate sets of metric tools. Marketers thrive on information; and so far, the web produces a whole lot of data, but not that much of it is particularly useful. Getting an accurate read on behavior — in this case, what people do while they’re visiting a web page — is of tantamount importance to marketers. In order to effectively place ads, marketers need to know how much time people spend looking at a particular web page, and the actions they take while they are. Do they click on videos more often than text? Do they send links to their friends? How many times do they return in a given period of time, and what content is attracting them?

If we conceptualize of sites such as Facebook as the new magazines, then this behavioral data-gathering model hews relatively closely to the older standards of marketing. However, it has a potential for demographic precision only dreamed of in the past. What is challenging is that the content generators — in this case, individual people — will have their own small audience ‘clusters.’ In other words, marketers will be developing campaigns for groups of several hundred people, not several million, because the content on display is highly individualized. The amount of effort involved in the atomization of this technique seems mind-boggling, until one considers the second part of the equation, which is the need for saleable content. Will people be content to view videos of someone’s new kitten ten years into the future, or will the novelty have finally worn off? In other words, who will generate the ‘professional’ saleable content around which multi-million dollar marketing campaigns can be built?

Read the conclusion of this thought-provoking post tomorrow …

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