In 2005, my first book, BRANDING UNBOUND, hit bookshelves proclaiming a new era for marketing – one where the most measurable, personal and direct link to consumers ever created would change the world of marketing forever.
Written in 2003 and 2004, and published in June of ’05, I prognosticated about Apple Pay, iPad, Google Glass, Nest – and trends like marketing personalization, social applications mixing physical and digital worlds, augmented reality and more.
The book came out in June 2005. Two years before the first iPhone was launched and heralded seismic changes to our relationship with technology.
When I first started pitching my book to publishers, first reactions to this thing called “mobile marketing” tended toward “Wait, What? Do you mean marketing mobile phones and service?”
Once I explained the tsunami these little computing devices and the networks behind them meant to our consumer republic, eyes got real wide, real fast.
Ellen Kadin, my now longtime acquisitions editor at Amacom Books (and one of my favorite people anywhere), instantly grasped the enormity of this revolution when I described it to her in the fall of 2003, at a time when only around 1/2 of 18- to 24-year-olds in the US actively sent text messages via mobile phones (and those users sent, on average, fewer than 20 mobile text messages per month).
Advertising displays that call you to you on a first-name basis.
Services that let you shop for pizza, music, books and movies – anywhere, anytime.
Offers sent to you in-store, based on your age, gender, location, stated preferences and past purchase history—and even what merchandise you’re holding, in real time.
Mobile social platforms that let you do everything from get your gossip on to facilitating real-world meet ups between “crushes” who happen to be within 10 blocks of each other’s physical location.
Stores where the costs of goods is automatically deducted from your bank account – without you ever writing a check, doling out cash, swiping a card, or standing in line.
It all seems so commonplace now. But 10 years ago, very few people believed any of this would so quickly come to define modern living.
Just think about the hype about the Web back then, and how it represented a marketer's dream come true – an interactive, one-to-one utopia linking shoppers and their quarry in the electronically enabled Elysium Fields of 24-7 commerce.
Of course, Google, Amazon and eBay notwithstanding, banner ads, online communities of interest, and click-and-mortar etailing had yet to truly the deliver the attention or sales they had long promised – tethered as they were to cumbersome, confounding devices called desktop and laptop PCs.
But over the first half of the aughts, a new generation of wireless and mobile technology was quietly liberating the Web from its PC-based subjugation.
Thanks to high-speed mobile networks, what we used to refer to as the “Information Super Highway” and its advertising, applications and services were finally hitting the road with you. Unlike its first 10 years, the Internet was finally living up to its anywhere, anytime premise.
And yet despite all of this, most marketers didn’t have a clue about what was happening all around them—much less how to leverage it.
Over the next several weeks, I’ll share some of the predictions I made way back then about what mobile marketing would be like in 2015.
We’ll see where this long-ago stranger staring back at me from the book jacket got it right, and where he got it laughably wrong.
Along the way, we may just also start glimpsing what the world of marketing looks like in 2025 (it’s closer than you think).
First Up: Wearables
To be clear, I was nearly done writing the book when Google even had its IPO, and the company was almost exclusively known for search.
I had no idea Google would have a product called Glass, which is scheduled to go into wide release in 2015. And even now it remains to be seen whether it or some future wearable, eye-based tech will meet mass adoption.
But I was clear that glasses (and wristwatches) would be among the earliest forms of wearable interfaces to layer mobile Web and even augmented reality elements over the physical world.
We’ll check email and exchange personal contact information and even multimedia content with our friends and colleagues while on the go; place transactions without ever reaching for a wallet or purse; and look like lunatics as we walk down the street jabbering away on hands-free phone calls.
Using the conventions of virtual worlds like There and Second Life as illustrations of this model, I talked about how we would one day use interfaces built into glasses and other devices to instantly access a pervasive, always-on, global mobile network.
Once logged on, we would toggle between the physical and digital world. Check our buddy lists to see where our friends are. Conduct transactions. And do an endless array of daily tasks from the beach, the back road, or even above the clouds.
And the networks behind it would create a mesh of mobile technologies that extend the Internet, with apologies to Visa, “everywhere you want to be.”
TBD, at best. There’s no doubt these technologies are quite topical. It’s jut an open question as to whether Google Glass or Apple Watch will prove successful; if later products gain more traction in the marketplace; or if other technologies leapfrog them altogether (look for direct mobile-to-brain connections by 2025 – seriously).
However it all shapes up, my point in 2005 was that all of these emerging trends and technologies create questions with which marketers would spend the next decade struggling.
What does mobile mean to businesses trying to keep up with – and serve – the increasingly mobile masses? What happens when eyeballs once aggregated by “gross ratings points” and “mass markets” now gather in micro-markets and niches of one?
How do we redefine “advertising,” "marketing" and the “brand experience” when the most direct link to the consumer is less and less the 52-inch flat screen TV in the living room, the 17-inch PC monitor in the den or office, or the 15-inch laptop screen - and more and more the completely personal, interactive device in the hands of virtually every man, woman and child on the planet?
This coming year, it will be fun to revisit some of my predictions on how marketers would sort this all out by 2015 (to the degree they have succeeded at all).
As I read passages from the book today, I come across some that make me think, “Nicely played, smarty pants” – and others where I roll my eyes and wonder, “WTF was I thinking?”
As I put it in the close of the book’s first chapter, “One thing is clear: Something cool – and very important – is happening on the wireless frontier. And in the decade ahead, it’s going to change expectations for consumers – and the companies that serve them – in ways most of us can’t even yet imagine.”
On that score, prediction has now progressed to everyday reality for billions of people (and brands) around the world.
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