Mike Doherty – Marketing in 2020: What will it look like and what do we need to do now to be ready for this future?

Mike Doherty, President, Cole & Weber United

While nobody has a crystal ball and we’ve all fallen prey to predictions like fully interactive television a decade ago, there are a few evolutions that seem both feasible and likely by 2020 that will impact the way consumers interact with the world around them.

Imagine a world where everything from your email to your music, photos and favorite TV shows is streamed from the cloud. Devices like DVR’s will go the way of the VHS tape. All devices including TV’s will be touch screen and no longer about memory or storage space. Apple seems to get this given they didn’t add any additional memory to the new iPhone 5. The devices with the best user interface for accessing what you want where you want it will prevail.

If you agree, then it makes sense that the commerce of content will also need to evolve. While different types of content market places are beginning to emerge, the economics of consumers streaming what they want, where and when they want it have yet to be fully defined. Content providers and advertisers alike will need to integrate with a streaming world. Is it a Hulu-like model or something new?

So what does this mean for brands and their agencies?

A whole new treasure trove of data will be available for brands to better understand their consumers. As consumers stream what they want, where and when they want it, we will be able to know more about what, when and why they interact with the things they do. Using that information, marketers should be able to better create products and experiences that people value.

Likewise, smart marketers will unify their marketing and product departments. With an increasing demand for a constant stream of activity, marketing will need to be even more of a service of the customer. Combining product and marketing will help advertisers take on the new role of creating useful things for customers to DO rather than just watch.  Nike+ and Nike Fuel have started down this path today but agency assignments in 2020 will look less like advertising and more like an ongoing program of activity and engagement.

And in many cases a brand’s product will become their marketing channel.  Consider how Microsoft has set up Solution Studio 415 where brand marketers will work with Microsoft product designers and other creative technologists to develop retail experience solutions using Microsoft technologies like Kinect.

And finally, in a fragmented constantly streaming world, brands will need to be very clear and focused about who they are and what they stand for.  Marketers and their agencies are in the business of fame creation and in a streaming world, how and where they bring their brand to life will continue to become increasingly fragmented. Without a clear and concise focus on what the brand stands for, its meaning could be lost. This is incredibility evident in the music business even today. The difference between how Madonna and her manager built her brand three decades ago and how Lady Gaga and her manager drive her brand today is staggering. They not only manage her music, videos, books, tours, TV appearances and specials, and movies, but they also direct her Born This Way Foundation, branded products, Haus of Gaga, collaborations (Polaroid, Nicola Formichetti, Barneys, Monster Cable Products), websites, Facebook pages, twitter, and all the content they distribute daily to a myriad of fan sites like gaganews.com all with a laser like focus on what the Lady Gaga brand is about.

Lady Gaga is also a good example what won’t change and that’s the currency of a great idea. To be a successful marketer, it will still take a smart person with vision, a big idea and the brashness to make it a reality. That can’t be crowd sourced.