The Borogoves are a’ Mimsying: Marketing in a hyper-connected world

By | May 12, 2011

I’ve been thinking a lot about the long term impact an ”instantaneous, on demand” life. Imagine that from birth, you never had to wait for anything, and had everything you wanted delivered immediately. News, entertainment, connecting with your “group” – everything.  Never getting lost. The collective knowledge of the human race there for you at all times. How would this shape your assumptions and expectations?

Because this is what’s happening to the generation being born. My nephew is almost 2. What struck me is how – without any real language skills yet (my sister would disagree) he tells her what he wants to watch, and when.  He “requests” Blue Clues over, and over (and over) again. The concept of watching something on schedule – and waiting for it, and not choosing which episode, is completely unfamiliar to him. If it’s not on when he wants it, he gets very, very angry.

So clearly, his brain is being trained to work differently than yours or mine. It reminds me of the 1943 short story “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” by Lewis Padgett, where an alien toy from the future is found by children and in the course of playing with them, they become “re-educated” to think differently.

Reality for him is a world where he will be completely connected to everyone he’s ever known, and (personalized) information, interaction, engagement, and entertainment will be fed to him how he likes it, and never more than a few seconds away.

What assumptions will he develop – as inherent to his interaction with the world as breathing? How will this quintessentially change the relationship he has with products and brands? And from a business point of view, how do you make sure your products and services are the “right” ones so that your company can successfully deliver what he will not just demand, but expect without thinking?

Well, for one: immediate gratification is a given. Patience will no longer be a virtue, when waiting is never necessary. So everything must be available immediately, and immediately relevant. This means devices that are never off, always connected to a information delivery infrastructure (10G?) with enough bandwidth (no doubt, an antiquated term by then) to deliver immediately.

It also means that accessing masses of data and instantaneously extrapolating what he likes, then projecting what he should like. Ultimately, continuing to learn who he is, then fine tuning that knowledge at an algorithmic rate will be a requirement, not an option.

Brands / companies will need to mine/model all the data they have about your preferences and past interactions to instantaneously tailor on-the-fly experiences for you. And woe betide the brand that guesses wrong – it will feel as inauthentic to him as a “real” inauthentic interaction does to you today.

And my guess is, he’ll have short patience for a brand interaction that doesn’t feel right. So branding in the future will be about creating entire experiences – including real time interactions (suggestions, whimsy, connections) just like a real friend would. A virtual concierge, as it were.

It will require a conflux of inputs, working together (and seamlessly) to create the experience he expects, and demands. So to hijack the traditional “Who, What, Where, When, Why, How” model, this is what the brave new world of branding and marketing will have to master:

Becoming interactive with him will require that your brand becomes a “friend”, someone who knows what you and your friends like, what you’re talking about, and how to be there in the right manner. You’ll need to deliver the information you want him to see and engage with in a manner that he wants:

  • Does he prefer text? Voice? Articles? RSS feeds? Audio? Something else? A mix of these? What are his preferences? When does he interact the most?
  • Snippets of info throughout the day? Is he an information snacker, grabbing bits in between other activities, or does he prefer to set aside a stretch of time to catch up on everything?
  • Does this behavior change depending on whether it’s a week day or weekend? Is he more receptive in the morning, or night? Can you ensure that you’re there at the right time?
  • Where is he? Close by? Is the message immediately relevant (is he nearby)? How close? Half an hour? Half a week?
  • Has he done something relevant in the past? Can you discern a pattern and overlay it on the present?
  • Who are his friends? Influencers? Who does he rely on for information? Opinion? Does he listen to different groups of friends depending on the situation, or product (fashion friends, tech friends, etc)?
  • What communities is he a part of? Active? Passive? Are these relevant to your brand? Who is he connected to there? This is the social networking part of the equation, where you mine his activity and network for insights an influence.

The friends/connection influencer role will increasingly be critical, as the only way for a brand to reach a consumer in the future will be through engagement with them AND the people they listen to. I personally believe the “push” model of advertising that we’ve all grown up with (billboards, print ads, television) will continue to atrophy in influence as people who’ve only ever, in the face of overwhelming messaging / branding, listen to “trusted advisors” – their own connections.

The list can go on, but obviously things are increasingly difficult as a marketer. It’s no longer about your brand, your market, your positioning, your message, and placing your message – it’s all about creating *true* context, meaning, authenticity. On your customer’s terms. I’m calling it Six Dimension Marketing. Marshall McLuhen said the medium is the message – in this case, the time, place, and context are too.

The brand challenge is/will be to facilitate meaningful engagements, and keep it going. Because by continuous listening and learning, the opportunity exists for a long and fruitful relationship. The barriers to creating a meaningful relationship with customers will be higher, but so will the barriers to exit.

So once again, technology will have the opposite effect many expected; instead of being a a great equalizer of opportunity, it will take more money/savvy / strategic creativity than ever to stay competitive….although I welcome seeing some of the ”In Culture Marketing” (grassroots) that will emerge, that smaller brands can take advantage of (as well as some of the savvier larger brands). We’re just at the beginning of truly disruptive times for how business is “done” - all the things we “know” and grew up with are changing, and while it scares some, I personally find it exhilarating. Strap in for the ride!

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  1. Pingback: Authentic belongingness » The Decahedralist

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