A Literacy of the Imagination

a deeper look at innovation through the lenses of media, technology, venture investment and hyperculture

The Digital Landscape: No Longer Truly Predictive, No Longer Purely Online

There has been a lot of exciting talk about 2010 and where digital marketing is headed. No doubt there are some very good insights being shared from a lot of very bright people.

But as marketers, I think we all tend to get caught up in predicting things like channel adoption, how to somehow reengineer ad content, and in figuring out ways to deliver the “soft-sell”.

The reality is that all of the variables around engagement as well as conversion — actually, building relationships — are all attributable to culture, first and foremost. And while we can make predictions about human behavior, we’re still figuring out the nuances of how communities share information and content. We know that people now sell products and services to other people, but what what we don’t have a firm grasp on just yet is why.

But that’s where things are getting quite interesting.

Take a social utility such as Facebook, for example. We’re seeing tremendous growth in adoption, yet profound shifts in retention, and a noticeable decline in attention. This means that people are yearning for experiences they can’t get anywhere else (or those they can get anywhere), and are not interested in being herded into a corner to find them. They also crave ubiquity — this means less time spent in a particular location, engaging with content we think they care about. Blogs for one, are taking a huge hit in this regard simply because people are starting to figure out that they don’t need to visit a destination site to get the information or content they need.

The Digital Landscape: No Longer Truly Predictive, No Longer Purely Online
Consumptive behaviors and user archetypes are constantly changing, and these aren't purely functions of 'digital' or 'analog', 'online' or 'offline', but rather experience extraction, creation and recreation. And these aren’t things we can predict, but rather things we must adapt to.

As Griffin Farley puts it so brilliantly on his blog: “Plan not for the people you reach, but the people they reach.”

As for being smarter about developing and selecting ads, what all of this data tells us in sum is that no one really cares about ad-like objects... and if that means disguising ads as entertainment, then so be it, but the reverse is not likely, at least not anymore.

Or, you can simply create a conversation and then determine what your messaging can be as the result of a collaborative experience. Here’s an example of a happy medium we’re developing through a platform we call AdTalker (and no, we’re not afraid to share this because the idea isn’t entirely new, but the backend data framework – the secret sauce – certainly is ;):

The Digital Landscape: No Longer Truly Predictive, No Longer Purely Online

The larger point is that all of the real-world intelligence we have available at our fingertips is actually reopening the doors of self-actualization, because we are now seeking  action, not just alignment with our personal value systems. The social web of the last few years has validated much of our beliefs, and now it is formalizing more viscerally in the way we build our social graphs and in how communities band together. We are witnessing a profound shift in consciousness, and this is not something that I think any of us could’ve predicted or even imagined, at least not to this extent.

The Digital Landscape: No Longer Truly Predictive, No Longer Purely Online

Perhaps now we should be really focusing on things like:

  • adaptive analytics — how we move with markets, not just channels or inventory
  • publishing versus messaging — creating, enabling and propagating conversations & experiences
  • thinking of mobile (or mobility) as more than just a platform — geotilities as the regular instigators of physical connectivity
  • socializing the more 'traditional' forms of media through these stronger content offerings and extensions (OOH, print, radio & TV)
  • living a more enriched life -- (you fill in these blanks ;)

Going forward, do not fear technology, because even though it has leapt ahead of our thinking for a good many years, it now depends on our evolution as people. Technology, after all, cannot create experiences, it can only enhance them and help make them more accessible.

People are pixels. People are media. Fathom that, and then entertain the possibilities, because now, we can all play a significant role in this evolution.