As Data Axle celebrates fifty years in business, we asked our President of the Axle Agency, Tom Zawacki, for his thoughts on what data and marketing will look like fifty years from now, in 2072. Since Data Axle’s founding, the company and the entire marketing industry have changed and grown in astonishing ways. Some of those changes were predictable and some have been totally unexpected, but Data Axle’s core tenets of trust, transparency and tenacity have driven them to become an industry leader in data acquisition, data strategies, and data management.
In my humble opinion, the last 50 years of marketing and business evolution have been extraordinary. We’ve moved from paper to pixels, 3 TV channels to unlimited streaming video consumption, static resolution on the big screen to super HD on my watch, human to artificial intelligence, and on and on. Some of this is good, some of it’s bad, but all of it requires businesses and brands to transform and evolve along with the speed of changing consumer behavior and technology innovation.
When thinking about the next 50 years, there are two historical and anthropological observations we can use to define the data, technology and marketing innovations that will impact us: one set of innovations will become invisible and fall out of our lexicon, and the other set will become so essential to our everyday life that the brand name will become an everyday verb.
For example, the first bank ATM was set up in June 1967. The ATM was an amazing combination of technology innovation, business improvement (literally an “automated teller”), and consumer experience enhancement. For 55 years, banks have worked hard on the education, distribution and eventual adoption of depositing and receiving money via the ATM. When ATMs first displaced tellers, people might have said, “I am going to the ATM to get cash.” Now, though, generations of customers using banking ATMs, mobile and online tools will simply say, “I am going to get cash.” To these consumers, the technology is invisible and unnecessary in the description of how they bank. The ATM and all the digital banking options that have come since have changed society so profoundly it has fallen out of the lexicon.
On the other hand, the first search engine, WebCrawler, was founded almost 35 years ago by Brian Pinkerton. Since then, many have come and many have gone (I miss you, Ask Jeeves), but one has profoundly impacted society more than any other: Google. Through sheer enormity, speed and capacity to process, analyze, and deliver information, Google has provided an invaluable and unmatched service to us. So valuable, in fact, that this brand has become a verb. We have moved from saying, “I searched for it,” to “I Googled it. “ Similarly, someone might “Venmo you” the $20 they owe you from dinner last night after you “Ubered” home. So, as we think about the next 50 years and try to identify data, technology, and marketing trends that will profoundly impact society, we can consider innovations and changes in consumer behavior that will either become invisible and fall out of our lexicon, or those that will convert from brands to verbs.
I have a few high-level ideas of what might be coming in my head (and also the song “Video Killed the Radio Star.” Fun fact: the first video ever played on MTV 40+ years ago in 1981):
Companies and consumers will have more control of the privacy, security and use of data. The infrastructure to handle profiles and attributes will be blockchain ledger-based, enabling the safe and free flow of information from brands to consumer, business to business, and peer to peer. And companies will become much better at knowing us as humans vs. B2C or B2B data points. The combination of bandwidth and distributed processing power will enable nano-second speeds for ID resolution and marketing activation. Data in all its forms and user experience manifestations will be similar to electricity: ubiquitous.
VI takes over for UI
If you’re still watching TV, you might have gone through the evolution of getting up to change the channels, to a remote control, to asking your TV to find a show. More and more, all aspects of our lives are moving from a tactile-based UI to a seamless Voice-Interface (VI). “Siri, get me directions to the grocery store,” or, “Alexa, play Lizzo for me.” We currently generate approximately 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day, and combined with the exponential learning and improvement of AI-enabled digital assistants, this will lead to a world where consumers, business customers, donors and patients will all interface with brands and businesses via speech instead of touch.
Quantum Marketing Plan
Moore’s Law is the principle that the speed and capability of traditional computers can be expected to double every two years. New methods of quantum computing will leapfrog Moore’s Law by centuries in the next 50 years. Quantum computers are complex thinking machines that operate at near Absolute Zero and rely on the properties of entangled particles. Computational progress, and therefore the activation of ubiquitous data and performance of your martech ecosystem, will become significantly faster, smaller, and more efficient over time. There will no longer be a distinction between “online and offline” or “digital and traditional” marketing. Rather, it will simply be brand to consumer experiences in which the physical world is IP-enabled and the digital world is informed by, and immediately responds to, our real-world interactions.
It has taken about 30 years to achieve marketing contextual relevance. Over the next 50 years the connection between a brand and consumer will move from relevance to empathy. Human and artificial intelligence models generate contextual relevance based on audience profile attributes from historical interactions such as demographics, geographic, psychographic, firmographics, and RFM. Then they use that contextual relevance to determine the best channel, creative, offer and moment to deliver an experience. In the future, human and artificial intelligence will be infused with emotional intelligence garnered from real-time sentiment, biometric, and life-moment-based data attributes. Marketing strategy and analytics IQ will necessitate an understanding of EQ to achieve authentic, efficient and effective campaigns.
Anticipation vs. Personalization
Personalization is generated by an analysis of who you were and what you’ve done. I see a personalized ad unit or website experience for a 2023 Honda Odyssey days after I’ve searched for “safe cars for kids,” visited Consumer Reports to read articles and watched videos on minivans. Over the next 50 years, AI/ML advances will enable marketers to vastly improve the speed, activation and accuracy of predictive “intention” models. Based on life moments and EQ, we will be able to anticipate the needs of a family and personalize experiences months ahead of the actual time of need of that minivan.
Peter Drucker said, “the best way to predict the future is to create it.” I plan to work at Data Axle over the next 50 years (yes, I’ll be working until I’m 95 years old!!!) to create a more secure, anticipatory, and empathetic experience for audiences, and a more efficient and effective performance model for our clients. And, spend as much time traveling and laughing with my wife and kids along the way.
Tom Zawacki manages digital strategy and product innovation for Data Axle. He leads vision, planning, development, and execution of next level solutions that provide transformational results for the company’s client base.