Your Wish is Granted: Zoltar & The Future of Marketing

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Zoltar is a foreseer of the imminent, a granter of wishes and the perfect representation for the future of advertising. And while he won’t transform you to an adult overnight, he can illustrate a larger idea – that the future of algorithmic and data-based advertising is mysterious. Will data continue to capture the hearts (and wallets) of advertisers? Or will the industry evolve to a system based on a more human marketing experience?

During Periscope: Algorithms Can’t Understand Love, speakers Liz Ross, (CEO – Periscope Agency), and Deborah Westphal, (CEO – Toffler Associates), detail a future where authenticity and smaller human intricacies dictate the marketing world.

There are over 8,000 websites and 500 mobile applications dedicated to dating. From Farmers Only to the even more obscure, these apps use algorithms to match people together. But niche audiences and ultra-specific questions cannot give the same experience as meeting face to face. As Ross puts it, “[An algorithm] can’t tell you if you can you stand the sounds of someone chewing.” She notes that programs can’t make all the decisions because human beings are more subtle and intricate.

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn,” writes Alvin Toffler, cofounder of Toffler Associates. And “unlearning”, as Ross and Westphal continuously stressed, is the key to marketing in the near future. While today advertisers can rely on the comforts of banking on data, they need to have a plan to adapt and “relearn” new strategies.

In the spirit of Toffler, a notable futurist whose books have solid millions of copies, Ross and Westphal describe five “seismic shifts” that may soon occur in the world of marketing.

#1. The balance of power is changing.

Due to the internet and communication technology, power is shifting away from industry and government to the individual. Companies will need to be more transparent and more authentic in this new information age.

#2.  You will own your personal data.

Currently the industry is built on free data, but modern privacy rights may shut that down. With that comes a whole new industry revolving around personal data protection. While the Target of today can offer data of individual shoppers to marketers, the rules may change to empower the consumer.

#3. Artificial Intelligence makes humans more important not less.

Billions of dollars every year go into automation, robotics and cognition tools in multiple industries, but the concept of “creation” is still fundamentally a human idea. AI, at this point, cannot fully think or create art. The move is yours, Skynet.

#4. Innovation and manufacturing move from the factory to the family room.

As technology becomes more prevalent, it usually becomes cheaper. This is the case with 3D printing. At CES 2005, conference-goers were printing chocolate. Yes, you read that right. In the near future, as Westphal predicts, you will even be able to print your own pharmaceuticals at home, essentially manufacturing our own products in our own house and changing marketing as we know it.

#5. Soulless companies will not survive in the new era.

Companies that exist just to make money, when humanity gains a more empowered voice, will cease to exist. If they don’t “unlearn” and “relearn” new marketing strategies, they risk disappearing altogether.

In the real world, a Zoltar fortune-telling machine cannot tell the future. It cannot posses magical qualities and it certainly cannot set forth a chain reaction of events that lead to dancing on a giant piano with Robert Loggia at FAO Schwartz. You cannot predict the future, but you can understand the foundation of change, put together guesses and connect the dots. Ross and Westphal believe that data-based marketing will soon change and that’s quite the BIG idea.

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