The Future Of Marketing — Analytics Vs. Wisdom (Part 2)

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(Part 1 of this discussion was presented earlier)

If we consider the television series “Mad Men” for a moment, we may have a version of the answer. Suitably, “Mad Men” revolves around a set of New York City advertising executives in the 1960s. However, its survey of issues such as gender relationships, business campaigns, and the pressures of societal paradigm shifts have made it one of the most popular shows of the 21st century. Virtually everyone, whether they watch television or not, has heard of the show “Mad Men,” thus, because of its popularity, it is frequently used as a cultural touchstone in essays published in respected literary journals. Beyond serving as a stylish shorthand for analysis of contemporary mores, “Mad Men” is Grade A Saleable Content. Put it on television, stream it on the web, it will sell; this is the kind of thing advertisers love and need.

However, not all content is going to look like “Mad Men.” If we consider the recent salacious adventures of actor Charlie Sheen and his corresponding unprecedented “Twitter” popularity, it’s obvious that other forms of content function as Saleable Content, too. But the longevity of each of these forms is debatable; each is only as popular as long as the consumer deems it ‘good.’ This elusive designation can’t be quantified using numbers or metrics; it is a form of sentiment that can only be measured using a certain human sensibility. Charlie Sheen may be amusing now, but will he manage to sustain the public interest five years on? Similarly, will “Mad Men” escalate into a classic or become a withered parody of itself? The Magic 8 ball says “ask later.”

This need for a human sensibility is why social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter will probably remain integral to marketing, if not copycats of them, 10 years from now. Although metrics can track literal behavior, Facebook is a more organic forum where people post what they’re thinking when they are thinking it. As marketers know, the public is fickle; but the real-time reporting of these two social networking sites makes it possible to anticipate a shift in consumer demand, depending on the complexity and nuance of the analytical tools one uses. What will undoubtedly happen as Facebook ages is that newer social networking sites will develop to suit a group of people who don’t want to use their parents social networking site. However, a marketer’s basic need for honest feedback will still be there, whatever the new version of the social networking site is called.

For the first time in history, every person’s opinion of any given topic can be accessed instantly at the moment it is needed. Marketing, which has in the past relied on research and vision, can become a literal science, using the numbers and trends generated by hyper-savvy analytics reports. However, the generation of saleable content will continue to be wildly unpredictable.

As Kaushik notes, “There will still be complex strategic problems to answer and I believe that humans will solve those problems, often illogical problems with gaps in knowledge where rules don’t make sense. We are better at parsing those and applying ‘gut feel,’ for now. And that’s what we’ll do.”

‘Creative content’ is, by its very nature, something that the public has not seen before, or at least thinks it has not seen before. As has been proved by the motion picture industry, attempting to coldly analyze what sorts of movies people will like results in a slow but steady pattern of diminishing returns. While marketers can count on becoming more aware of traffic trends, and of learning how to anticipate shifts in those trends, 10 years from now they will be faced with the same conundrum they have always faced: what qualifies as gripping entertainment? And how do we get our ads on there? Only wisdom and experience can answer these questions.

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