We have a client who is launching a new product in 2012, and we’re currently planning the digital support tactics for the launch. During the course of our idea development process, the question has been raised a few times: what is the digital landscape going to look like in 15 months? How will people be using the web, or mobile devices, and how will social networks fit into their lives? If we’re planning to support a campaign that is trying to make an impact on people more than a year from now, questions like this about what’s next in digital are more than just speculation, they become practical concerns.
So how do you help ensure that your marketing is ready for the future?
#1: Be a student of the [digital] game
I’m not a futurist, but I do try to keep my finger tightly on both the pulse of how digital fits into people’s lives today, as well as what advances in technology and shifting of trends could shape our lives tomorrow. Frequenting a few blogs (like Mashable, for instance), subscribing to a few email newsletters and following the right people on Twitter will provide you with a constant stream of information about what’s going on in digital. This is an essential first step, and an ongoing habit that is crucial if you want to really stay on top of the changing world of marketing communications.
#2: Integrate digital into your life
Gathering knowledge is great, but at a certain point you need to go from student to practitioner. Reading the occasional Adage article about what CP+B , P&G or AKQA is doing in the digital space is fine, but if you want to truly understand what’s doing on in digital now and how it will influence the future, you need to experience the space first hand. Don’t just open Facebook and Twitter accounts, actively use them. And pay close attention to how others are using them. Get a smartphone and use it for more than email. Install apps that help you choose a restaurant, manage your finances and care for your health. And play a few games, preferably on a mobile device: learning doesn’t have to be all work. There is no substitute for first-hand knowledge to help spark ideas for how your brand can best fit into the digital space.
#3: Understand that the future is now
Yes, in the future, digital will be interwoven into every aspect of people’s lives, providing a lot of new opportunities for brands to reach, interact with and influence consumers. But, really, the future is now. The internet and interactive technology isn’t going to redefine the marketing landscape tomorrow – it did that yesterday. To be ready for what is coming next, you need to be involved in what’s happening now, and that means integrating your brand into the digital world of today. It’s much easier to follow the course of things to come if you’re already moving in the right direction.
As for our current assignment, I think we’ll be ok (in case you were worried). No, we don’t know exactly what the future will hold for the digital world. But as long as the team keeps on top of how technology is being used now and continues to keep an eye on the future, we’ll never be lacking in ideas for how to put that digital technology to use for our clients – both today and tomorrow.