What technologies will shape the future of digital marketing?

Since the radio era, the core advertising platform, the way in which marketers reach their primary audience, has changed every 10 to 20 years. Consider the following:

  • 1921 – Radio advertisements start
  • 1941 – First television ad
  • 1950s – First infomercials
  • 1960s – First switchovers to color television
  • 1980s – Cable advertising and early Internet
  • 1990s – The commercial Internet
  • 2000s – Social media and Web 2.0 advertising technologies
  • 2010s – Smartphone advertising

Each generation has had to cope with the new technologies and marketers have had to chase their audiences with these new technologies. Companies that have tracked these trends and mastered the technology better than their competitors have achieved a significant competitive boost.

What’s more worrisome for marketers is that when a new platform takes hold, the old ways of doing things can become far less effective than when they were the “it” thing. And right now, we’re on the verge of another one of these changes.

VR, AR, and MR

The next major platform people will jump to appears to be different forms of Mixed Reality (MR), a term which encompasses our current experience of reality along with virtual reality (VR) experiences and augmented reality (AR) experiences. It should be seen as a spectrum with our unmediated reality on one end and a fully virtualized reality on the other.

In essence, these new systems provide an overlay that enhances or overrides our current sensory perceptions. A gamer wearing a VR helmet has their sight of the real world overridden by the images on the screen. An augmented reality artist might make a piece of art in virtual space and have people use smartphones to view it from different angles as they move around a physical space.

Regardless of what it’s called, investors are looking to get involved in a big way. Goldman Sachs predicts that it will be an $80 billion dollar market by 2025. More units mean more people will have access to the devices as prices drop.

Right now, the primary use cases for these systems are art and games. There hasn’t been a true “killer app” outside of these spaces for widespread adoption of the devices in the same way that full access to the Internet was for smartphones. But it will happen. Whatever the next generation after the iGen (post-2000) will be called, the MR spectrum is going to play a huge role in how they approach reality and marketing, just like smartphones for the iGen and the Internet and home computing for the Millennials.

What should marketers do?

Too often, marketers try to look at different generations by trying to get into their heads. But they don’t look closely at the technologies that might be shaping young people’s minds as they grow up. Those who are able to think like someone who was raised with these technologies will have a strong advantage.

Each generation builds on the previous technology by extending it or overthrowing it. Television overthrew radio and broadcast television has had to move to the Internet just to keep up. But it takes time for marketers to really understand how to advertise on these platforms without disrupting the culture. The sooner you can get your foot in the door, even a little, to experiment with these technologies the better you’ll be able to capitalize on them.

Understanding the Millennial generation means really understanding how information is consumed on the net and on smartphones compared to earlier times. This is the key to unlocking their vast marketing potential. Read how Goldman Sachs did it in our eBook: “Cracking the Millennial Code”.