The influence of technology on marketing

Every generation is transformed by technology but alongside technological and social change, marketing communication has developed just as rapidly

The influence of technology on marketing

Every generation is transformed by technology. In the 40s Model T Fords mobilised an entire American nation, many of whom had previously lived in remote rural communities. Then in the 60s the airplane bypassed many of these communities and created forgotten flyover states and booming mega cities. As a teenager I’d have to pluck up courage to phone a girl at home knowing their dad would answer. Now my kids’ generation swipe left or right without a care in the world. In fact, it is only in the last decade our social interaction has changed so radically because of advances of mobile telecommunications. And now we have AI. So, what’s next?

Alongside technological and social change marketing communication has developed just as rapidly. Back in the 50s billboards on interstate highways were state of the art. Now brands are fighting for dominance on social media. Back in the 50s the Don Drapers of the time would have poured over designs and straplines to make them the best they could be. We still remember them today. Coke’s ‘It’s the real thing’ was penned in 1969. Today the speed and churn of social media has stripped out any time for consideration in the marketing team. The sheer volume of content we actually want to see on Instagram is tipping us into overload, let alone all the marketing content we’ve got to contend with. I know I’m a boomer and clearly don’t have the capacity for drivel that a Gen Z does, but mathematically and neurologically there is a point when we reach capacity, and we know AI will get us there very soon indeed. So, what’s next?

The model has to change. Henry Ford would let you have any colour you wanted as long as it was black (black paint dried quicker so helping increase production speed). To keep profits up and prices down product production has always gone down the lines of making the least number of products for the maximum number of people. The same approach was reflected in the marketing.  Brands with the most universal appeal grew fastest. Coke remained top of Interbrand’s league table for 13 years, peaking at a value of $81.6bn in 2014. It is now 8th and Apple is number 1. Technology has changed the game. In fact, it has reversed it. Brands like Coke have a simple product which is kept relevant by rapidly evolving marketing campaigns. Brands like Apple have rapidly evolving products with consistent campaigns. 

Back in the 90s technology companies went in search for the singular ‘killer app’ that was going to change their fortunes following the FMCG model. Apple’s genius move was instead to create one platform for a million killer apps.  This allowed them to maintain constant relevance – as long as they kept up with their technology. Because the consumer always got something new, they stay engaged and loyal. Apple don’t need to constantly refresh their communications to stay relevant – their platform is doing that for them. 

What does that mean, for example, a soft drink brand. If marketing communications refreshes get accelerated to the point of social media blur it may mean they should take a leaf out of Apple’s book and change their model, flipping from a singular flavour to become a platform for flavour. It is now possible, through apps, e-coms and same-day fulfilment, to move from one product for many to many products for one. AI will soon provide the organisation of complex data and interactions to make this a reality. 

The question is, are marketing and R&D teams ready for this? Decades of delivering on the old system in more and more streamlined ways and with less staff and short term financial targets leaves zero room for adaptation or change of direction. What you can be sure of is the winners in this new world will not be who you might expect. 

Nick Dormon
Nick Dormon

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