Pervasive technology is dramatically challenging our understanding of marketing.
In 2020 there will be 50 billion devices connected to the internet. And this trend is not limited to existing devices like phones, desktop computers, fridges or cars. We are already observing a new generation of devices that have been created with utilitarian purposes in mind that did not exist prior, like the Nike Fuelband. Technology is on the verge of becoming ultimately pervasive, not as a new complex layer on top of our existing infrastructure, but as the fabric within our daily life.
The implications of this development are limitless:
• How does user interface design look beyond the screen?
• How are we addressing senses like smell and taste through technology?
• Infrastructure cost to build out high bandwidth mobile coverage is skyrocketing.
• We need to find innovative solutions for power supply in Africa, where there is a higher proliferation of mobile network coverage than electricity outlets.
• Low cost of soft- and hardware technology penetrates the healthcare industry allowing us to generate data about our physics driving new concepts of preventative care, health routines and illness treatment.
• The amount of generated data will become almost unmanageable; let alone our ability to interpret it.
But pervasive technology will also have a profound impact on marketing. After 15 years in the “digital age” we have just started to truly embrace technology as a means to grow businesses. Yes, we already leverage technology platforms to target our messages better and more contextually. We optimize creative on the fly to increase conversion and we individualize messages to drive effectiveness. But ultimately, what we have done so far is taking our well-trained advertising methods and translated them into “digital language”. We are still disrupting a consumer’s intake of content or usage of services in order to sell. But in the end we have to realize that advertising is only a crutch when the product is not good.
What technology however will enable us to do even better than in the past is to understand marketing more holistically. We can now look at a brand’s or a company’s value proposition and come up with technological services that speak to this value proposition by either extending a product’s utility or even adding a whole new layer to it. Take for example “Beats by Dre”. Dre understood that his brand is not only music, but entertainment in a much larger sense. So he developed headsets as a technological extension of his original entertainment value proposition. He merged entertainment value, technology and style and is now able to sell headphones at $300 a piece.
The above mentioned Nike+ family is another example of how technology can extend a brand’s value proposition. Nike fulfills on the promise to “help athletes get in better shape” not only by producing and selling apparel, but by designing products like the Fuelband that adheres to the same brand benefit. It also serves as proof point for innovation that goes beyond just injecting air into the soles of shoes.
Coca-Cola is extremely inventive in creating moments of happiness, whether by allowing consumers to send bottles of Coke to random people around the world (Project re-brief) or by giving Brazilian kids access to data through a mobile service (Happiness Refill). In all of these cases the product has become the message.
By understanding the full potential of current and future technology, we are able to not disrupt consumers during their intake of valuable content and services anymore, but actually be that service and content. Pervasive technology becomes that value which we are so eagerly trying to exchange with our audience. And it can come in any shape or form, whether through mobile services such as utility or gamification apps, enhanced data layers to help us make better or more subtle decisions or through completely new products under a consistent brand value proposition.
And if that is what pervasive technology can do to our marketing, the opportunities as to how it can make organizational and sales processes more efficient and effective seem to at least equally as intriguing.