Digital marketing will never be a discipline that can be entirely mastered, no matter how much time you have to practice.
It’s not like a craft or a skill honed by repetition, it’s a complex combination of business concepts, technological awareness, data analysis, psychology, prediction and creativity.
It relies on a mindset, an ability to adapt and an appetite for understanding the new.
As new technology impacts the world, the digital marketer is obliged to learn about it and work out its role in a commercial environment if they wish to be able to think and advise on the subject.
New technology creates opportunities and industries as readily as it destroys them. It is the job of the digital marketer to understand how technology impacts the relationship between business and customer. There’s little space for nostalgia.
AI in Marketing
The human response to AI is complicated. We are terrified of doomsday scenarios when a robotic Arnold Schwarzenegger comes back in time and steals our motorcycle.
Yet we can also conceive of a world where we virtually eliminate traffic collisions with an intelligent, connected network of autonomous vehicles. Or we can instantly diagnose illnesses and prescribe the best possible treatment to move closer to a world with less heartbreak and suffering caused by disease.
The utopian or dystopian outcomes create all kinds of hope and fear. Thankfully I don’t know any marketers who suffer existential dread about the way AI will impact their campaign targeting.
Marketers have the luxury of handling less difficult conundrums than things like “the trolley problem” facing vehicle AI programmers, for example.
Nevertheless, it’s still our livelihood, so let’s look at the impact AI is having on marketing, starting with something that has long been a domain thought safe from the reaches of robots. Creative content.
There’s an article by the Guardian which has been written by an AI computer. Realising that robots could feasibly write novels, instructions, guides, presentations, pitches and websites, we can begin to understand how a prolific content saturation could take place. With the tools of language at their disposal and understanding of all kinds of user reading habits, they’re able to produce compelling, entertaining content at incredible speed.
But it’s not exclusive to written work. Ever heard of an AI generated, 24/7 live death metal broadcast? No? Brace yourself if you’re not usually a fan of the heavy stuff and plan to listen. To a practised listener of extreme music, it contains all the technical hallmarks of the genre. Furious drum patterns, arpeggios, complex rhythm shifts, transitions and varied time signatures, even the trademark guttural vocals are all there, changing constantly but retaining the style of pure death metal.
What this tells us is that we can give AI license to create with parameters. That means that for all intents and purposes, AI can very efficiently interpret a brief.
Marketing on the Blockchain
If you’ve come across blockchain, you’ll know that it is a wormhole into a fascinating parallel digital universe that is as disruptive as it gets.
Tech news in the last decade has documented the meteoric rise in crypto assets, not limited to the likes of Bitcoin and now NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) which are being used to digital verify ownership of assets with a mathematically mind-boggling degree of security.
There is already a quiet financial revolution taking place due to blockchain technology and in 2021, the world of art became the new frontier as NFTs hit the mainstream and JPEGs getting snapped up by diverse buyers, we’re talking about everyone from VISA to Snoop Dogg placing their investment into this space.
Artists like Damian Hirst have experimented with the technology and digital ownership which raises fascinating questions about our perception of value – although this is not something unfamiliar in the world of art, it can be a leap for people to understand how a JPEG or tweet can sell for millions.
All of this starts to show us some of the potential applications in the world of business and creative industries in particular.
It’s very reasonable to anticipate that technology that allows people to irrefutably show legal ownership of properties could have all kinds of applications. Perhaps one day land registries, car registrations and stock certificates will be held on the blockchain. Could copyright law could benefit from this secure and auditable technology?
In fact, only this week (at the time of writing) did Adobe announce their plans to incorporate NFT preparation into their flagship Photoshop application. If you’re in any doubt that this is going mainstream then Adobe’s adoption and their Chief Product Officer’s attitude towards the subject might make you think again.
But the bit we’re interested in is how technology changes the relationship between businesses and their customers.
Just in the last week, the McClaren Racing F1 team launched their new digital collectable car, utilising the Tezos blockchain, one of their sponsors and an NFT marketplace called “Sweet”.
There’s a new engagement economy being built around these assets, connecting fans to brands in new ways.
At its core, blockchain is focused on decentralisation, which in other terms, makes it more difficult for any single controller to manipulate hard data in their favour.
In conventional digital marketing, data is captured and employed to serve content and advertising to users based on their browsing interests. Ad networks like Google distribute advertising across the web according to what they know about audiences and in line with the ad campaign targeting.
What if the system worked differently?
What if every time an ad was clicked, it wasn’t the network owner taking the biggest cut, but the content creator and even the browser themselves received a greater share of the benefit?
Well, that’s happening right this moment. Browsers like Brave and UK upstart Gener8 are changing the way that ads and users interact, giving people more control over how much advertising they see and even offering incentives and tokens to their users.
We can see that this technology gives brands the ability to make better connections with audiences, built on greater levels of trust, choice and reciprocity. In other words, a healthier two-way relationship.
Prepare yourself for some half-baked puns.
In a shift in control away from the large technology corporations, in 2022 the third-party cookie could crumble further.
For some time, privacy legislation has been chipping away at the power held by some of the world’s largest advertising providers.
Elimination of the third-party cookie is a chunky subject. Right, no more jokes.
Google announced this change back in 2020, in relation to the incredibly popular Chrome browser which has a market share of almost 70% at the time of writing. This dramatic move pushes user privacy further towards the top of the agenda.
This change brings concerns for some marketers and advertisers, who have benefitted from the ability to track users across different websites.
But it’s not quite that simple. Google are unlikely to damage their advertising interests without looking at smart alternatives.
One such approach is a shift away from individual tracking to a group tracking model. In other words, finding a way to anonymously hide user information in larger datasets, which can then still be used to accurately target groups.
It’s also important to know that contextual targeting remains unaffected. With smart media planning and a bit of research, you can still place advertising in the right location, we’re not being cast back into the dark ages.
If you want a slightly chunkier digest, then our Digital Lead Grace Weight has undertaken a more thorough analysis of the death of the third party cookie.
Overall, the smart approach for marketers is to evaluate the risk factor and opportunities presented by these changes.
Brands that are overexposed because of heavy reliance on third-party cookies, for example, could simply consider diversification in advertising strategy.
Those looking to attach greater value to digital assets may need to consider concepts about ownership of such assets, and how they can verify them. This can apply to physical goods too, offering solutions to serious economic problems like counterfeit prevention.
Considering the potential of the tech in this article, we’ve barely scratched the surface. There are plenty of options to change things up – just the way digital marketers like it.