And now for something completely different, again

Jed Mole

The ability of those in marketing, especially within the various digital specialisms, to move fast, and throw their weight behind exciting, new trends never fails to amaze me. It’s what makes our discipline so vibrant and fast moving.

The General Data Protection Regulation is now in full effect, but it seems there’s no time to give ourselves much chance to catch our breath before we again, must leap forward. From blockchain to AI and the IoT, the industry is surging ahead. On everybody’s lips, it’s full speed ahead towards the next shiny new thing. The driving fear is if we don’t, how are we to keep ahead of the pack or even protect what’s currently ours. Understandable, really. They’re exciting technologies, which dangle potential solutions to challenges we’ve been facing for some time as an industry or offer exciting possibilities that have us continually imagining new use cases.  

Blockchain for one has a lot of expectation and buzz around it – just as so many other new exciting technologies attract similar speculation, when their potential is not yet fully understood or mapped out. Creative applications for its use are rampant in marketing. Is it the future of a new, decentralised internet? The answer to click fraud online? A way of gaining loyalty and incentivising brand-consumer relationships? All have been suggested and we wait eagerly to see if Blockchain can do these things or none.

The more cautious marketers tend to wait until they have seen these new shiny objects being used in anger by others in the pack before sprinting for the bandwagon. Few will risk backing the ‘emperor’s new clothes. Given the landscape – fragmenting customer data, expanding numbers of channels, the never linear and now highly complex customer journey, it’s natural to have a note of caution ringing in our heads. Some of us, who have been around in the industry for a while, have seen this before. Most recently we only need to look at the cautionary tale of programmatic to understand how a good idea can encounter various well-founded concerns if embraced with too much enthusiasm and not enough test, learn and transparency. 

The Internet of Things and Connected Cars are often talked about and are borderline mainstream depending on how high you set the bar when defining if today’s integrated lighting, heating and entertainment are IoT worthy; delivering a ‘Connected Home’. And for cars, is the very latest, bluetoothed and WiFi’d to the max car a ‘Connected Car’ or not?

So, bright shiny new opportunities abound and only a cynic could be so jaded as to not be intrigued by their potential. Where the focus needs to be when judging these new options is a mix of the immediate part of the road ahead of us along with the horizon. As ever, it’s about balance. Only look into the distance and you risk crashing into potholes or worse right in front of you. Conversely, if you only look near and not further ahead, how can you be sure you’re headed towards where you want to go? 

As we explore these shiny new toys, it’s vital we don’t lose sight of what we have. In this world of digital disruption, it is data that differentiates. While how we work, communicate, explore, buy, entertain and socialise have changed, we as people, fundamentally, have not. Of course, our behaviour has changed as we’ve adapted to new, easier, more rewarding ways to interact with brands and the like but as humans, we still like to be recognised, to be treated with respect, rewarded for our loyalty, talked to like an individual and so on. In today’s world, this is only possible through data. Data differentiates.
 

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