Mar 13, 2017

If you’re thinking Digital is the now… you’re already behind.

Someone once told me, if you’re feeling extremely scared and incredibly excited at the same time, it’s the best moment to be in. It’s no secret that the PR industry has been riding this wave for a few years.  We’re now in a blended world of communications where our accessibility to audiences is evolving (and, arguably, for the better).

Technology has thrown us into a hurricane which has dramatically changed the way we do business and the way we connect with people.

When I started my career in the age of dial-up, Motorola RAZRs, WAP and midi ringtones, the internet was a shiny toy that brought a sparkle to the eyes of many. It was humble, yet fascinating. AltaVista was the Google, Friendster was the Facebook and Xanga was the WordPress.

Then “Second Life” arrived and opened up the world of virtual reality, messing with our minds, just like QR codes.

Safe to say, we were a social community living in the digital age… decades ago.

Every year, brands ask: “What’s the next big trend?”

Digital Transformation, Disruption, Mobile Apps, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Marketing… these are the hottest buzzwords. Some of us think Digital is the now… but how can we be sure?

A few weeks ago, I took time away from my desk and attended the PRIA Communications Innovation Conference. One particular presenter shared a keynote on the Experience Age – the next wave of change that is [already] upon us in the industry. This world, this era – the Experience Age – is all about creating personalised experiences between a brand and consumer.

Consumers have already embraced the experience that digital can bring – and now they expect it. Technology is the channel, the experience is the core – right where our story sits, at the heart of it all.

Our role as communications professionals still remains true to what we’ve been doing for decades: tell a brand or customer’s story to a target audience, in a compelling way, with a view to alter their thinking or behaviour, and land commercial outcomes.

Today’s consumers want more for less. They want brands to know exactly what they want and when they want it. (I challenge that notion with this – consumers want brands to know what they want, before they even know they need it!). It is, now, the classic case of ‘faster – a lot faster’.

According to Google’s research, more than half of all smartphone users give up trying to load mobile websites if it takes longer than three seconds. Three seconds!

But if we dig a little deeper, the core of all these wants, is a greater need. It is the desire to be connected, be a part of a story and a conversation. This is the experience.

Experiences have two drivers:

  1. intelligence (data, insights, and all that measurement goodness), and
  2. immersion (stories that connect us).

We are creating huge amounts of data each day. Of this, 80% is actually what we call ‘dark data’ – operational data that can’t always be tracked. This data exists in dark places (get it?) like WhatsApp, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, etc. By using data cleverly, brands can broaden their reach and target their audience in personalised ways.

IDC Research Manager Gerry Murray predicts in just one year, there will mass developments of marketing applications that can ‘think’… you’ve guessed it: Cognitive Marketing. This is the humanisation of technology where machines are no longer learning from set data but behaviour, in real-time.

How can brands use this?

Recently our team worked closely with Ford Australia, announcing that the brand will have fully-automated driverless cars on the roads by 2021. Disruptively, Ford is introducing 30 driverless hybrid Sedans in California, Arizona and Michigan this year. With design and engineering being led by Australia for the world, we are part of this innovation wave. Get ready to say goodbye to speeding fines, road rage and not being able to eat Maccas whilst you shift gears!

Another example is Google Lens – the ‘eye-mountable’ smart contact lens that aims to assist people with diabetes by measuring the glucose in their tears. Pretty cool, right? Immersive Content Experiences are being adopted by brands globally, and intelligence is enriching them. Who would’ve thought a normal school excursion could turn into A Field Trip to Mars? If you haven’t already, watch the video… you will be inspired, I promise.

With the fear and excitement the Experience Age brings us, here are some words of wisdom: Don’t start with the technology, start with the story; Create an immersive experience that uses the technology to amplify it; Provide people with a product and we’ll have them for a moment; Provide them with an experience and we’ll have them for a lifetime.