In ancient Greece, to become a great orator, you had to master three disciplines—logic, rhetoric and grammar. A professor once told me that good leaders need to master three traits—logos, pathos and ethos. Some of the greatest scientific thinkers were also skilled in painting, music and poetry.
So, it’s only in the natural order of things that the brand icons of the future will be built by content that is inspiring yet programmatically curated, conceived, crafted and consumed.
Whether it’s Amazon using data to determine what would be its blockbuster content foray or Netflix concocting House of Cards by weaving together statistically selected subnarratives and character sketches, it’s quite clear that math has a determined tryst with creative in the future.
So what does the future of content, and marketing itself, hold?
To begin with, data will enhance human happiness. This will be achieved by knowing who we are, anticipating our needs via correlation, simulation or referrals, and by responding to those needs with relevant content, connectivity or utility. Given the richness of this data, brands will need to build a content architecture. Instead of a creative strategy, brands will need a content strategy that leverages all five pipes—advertising, editorial, expertise, peer-to-peer and influencer content—in their appropriate roles in the customer choice journey.
Another key component will be that automation will allow microsegments. Smart hybrid planners will use data to identify microclusters displaying homogenous behaviors, discover their drivers and barriers, and craft content based on keen insights and shareworthy ideas. These ideas will be prototyped and survival tested in real-time environments. They will be seeded into relevant affinity groups and egged on by catalysts, co-creators and propagators to unleash viral impact.
Intelligent algorithms will fingerprint individuals and their individuality across devices, platforms and sales channels—both offline and online. Data-driven multitouch attribution models will define bottlenecks in the consumer journey and will be able to schedule the right channel and content mix to address them. Real-time attributions will maximize marketing ROI.
We are also seeing data management platforms (DMPs) communicating more and more with supply-chain systems to enhance capacity utilization, effect optimum pricing and maximize profits for product categories. As DMPs with real-time capabilities plug into the supply chain, programmatic content will be the bridge between supply and demand.
With all that said, it is great storytelling that will bring a leap in impact. While automated algorithms dependably and consistently seek the incremental efficiency troughs and impact crests at a micro level, the true brand lift will continue to come from great storytelling built on mutant insights that bridge brands with people in an ingenuous way.
Moving forward, we will continue to see the lines blur between marketing and sales. In the offline world, people watched ads in their living rooms and then went to the mall to buy stuff. In the online world, where the media ends and where the shop begins is difficult to tell. As more and more of our lives are mediated, often via content, rather than situated, it puts us in a great position to become experts in "mar-selling." Content will again be the key to own this future.
It’s clear that the golden age for our industry lies ahead. As the likes of Walmart and Amazon seek to leverage their data to become media owners; and the likes of IBM, Oracle and Adobe seek to automate marketing; and Accenture and Deloitte, with ambitions in marketing and media services, move into the ring central of our competitive arena—it will present critical challenges but also great opportunities for our industry.
People live their lives through media today, and what we do is more important to society than ever before.
Prashant Kumar is CEO of UM Malaysia and president, world markets, Asia-Pacific for IPG Mediabrands.
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