Marketing automation prepare to be out-thought

cyborg man

Tempus fugit for the mortal marketer

Time, the most precious commodity ever conceived by man, marches relentlessly towards the future without so much as a passing thought for marketer or consumer. It is an unavoidably finite resource that needs to become the central focal point for every product or service hoping to survive in an age of rapidly diminishing lead-times, customer attention-spans, universal time deprivation and stream of consciousness connectivity. But while we ponder the inevitable convergence of digital and physical worlds, marketing automation systems are already gearing up to take our place. They never sleep. They always perform at the optimal level. They never ask for a pay rise. To them, operating at the 200 millisecond level, each passing moment is an eternity.

We are entering a new age of marketing at the speed of thought, or to be more accurate at the speed of AI. To the all too human agency teams and clients, who know a thing or two about time expropriation due to being on the receiving end of over 150+ emails a day on average, innumerable and escalating social challenges, the problems of mobile integration and constantly overlapping campaign deadlines, this new beginning feels more like the end is coming. It’s one of many reasons the burnout rate for marketers is so high. According to a recent IPA survey the average age of an employee in the marketing industry was just under 34. Which is also why much of our ageing population feel uber-patronised and pigeonholed by advertising designed by Millennials for the Saga stereotype. Given that the ‘elders’ are, statistically at least, running out of time at a faster rate than the young, the time-saving imperative increases in direct proportion to age.

For every customer time is a personal resource that is consumed unconsciously until even the most transient goal is rudely interrupted for a matter of seconds by irrelevant brand, direct or digital communications. At such times, we are reminded that our time is constantly in danger of being hijacked by interlopers who consider their time to be more important than ours.

The majority of consumers really hate rude brands

In a recent Forbes survey regarding online advertising, 18% of respondents said they would actually pay to avoid ads on the internet completely. Yet, according to the IAB, the industry is planning on spending even more money on online ads this coming year. Way to go boys.

Sooner or later, most campaigns end up sending traffic to a landing page that is often far from optimised for the event. Here, the crushing inevitability of our fleeting tenure on his mortal coil weighs heavy on the mind of everyone involved in UX testing. They watch consumers proving that designers have to learn, unlearn and learn again how to serve the fickle needs of visitors. Forget what your art school tutor said about Degas and Rembrandt and watch the customer teach you about the real world in the form of expletives and seething frustration. This is advertising not art so at least you don’t have to wait until you die penniless in a Parisian garret to get paid for building virtually useless websites.

The collective mistake we make is thinking what’s ‘good’ for us in our lofty atriums is ‘good’ for consumers. We don’t need to teach them to seek a higher plane of existence. Before reaching for the wireframe, we need to remind ourselves of those rare moments when we think and act like a real customer. As when, for example, we are sitting at home in front of the TV or searching for a new cat viral vid on YouTube. I know you have exercised your omnipotent right to fast forward through the ads via the blessed skip button on a daily basis. It might be the only moment you think and behave like a normal consumer.

Even those existentialists among us who live in the moment regardless of past experiences and future consequences and Buddhists experienced in that time-dilating practice of mindfulness that requires intense observation of every passing moment like it lived in a quantum foreverness that just goes on and on and on and on, are in the same race against the egg timer of life.

We can’t go on meeting like this

What then for the type of advertising and marketing that deliberately or even tangentially gets in the way of our IPO (Immediate Personal Objectives? The interstitials, the home page takeovers, the irrelevant pre-roll ads; especially those that proclaim ” the stuff you really want will be here in 20-45 seconds” that newspaper sites seem to think actually work. What are you guys on? Should we always be doomed to serve the push agenda of the corporate broadcasters? Can we count on beating consumers into submission on an ad infinitum basis? Allow me to suggest an alternative: Passive-aggressive marketing.

Passive doesn’t mean soft 

Consider, for a moment, B J Fogg’s Behaviour Model which states that three elements must converge at the same moment for a behaviour to occur: Motivation, Ability, and Trigger. When a behaviour does not occur, at least one of those three elements is missing. It is a useful trifecta that the founder of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University and the author of Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do, makes. The term trifecta is a horse racing term that describes a bet which forecasts the first three finishers in a race in the correct order. The odds are not stacked in our favour but when we win, we win big.

If you want to influence consumer behaviour, enforced motivation from push marketing campaigns will only get you so far. What is needed is the ability to anticipate consumer needs with the capacity and patience to wait until they indicate they are ready to buy before shifting from open utility content to conversion messaging.

Check out Gary Vaynerchuk’s pugilistic tome on the subject “Jab, Jab, Jab, Hook” to see what I mean. Before the launch of this brilliantly written book he gave away advice for the best part of a year through webcasts, talks and sundry keynote freebies. Buy the time the book was launched, success was inevitable. That is passive aggressive marketing.

Lots of pain before any kind of gain

To build such a long-tail seduction process takes time, an extraordinary sense of optimism and what can only be described as missionary zeal. (And other lines of income is my guess). Google, for example, is on a mission to be a mobile first business. With search algorithms being refocused on mobile and the battle for weartech gathering pace, marketing in the moment draws near. Charles Darwin said, “A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” The always on digital consumer is taking us to a place in which virtually pre-cognitive anticipation of consumer needs will differentiate the winners and losers.

The truth is, we have been working towards marketing in the moment since Kottler advised us, “Marketing is the management process that identifies, anticipates and satisfies customer requirements profitably.” Identify. Anticipate. Satisfy. Profit. The keyword for marketing 2020 is anticipate. To use predictive modelling to get ahead of the game like the Precogs in Minority Report.

Precognitive marketing is a distant dream 

I recently watched the excellent analyst and fellow CYBORGg collective member, Matt Banks, regressively track a real customer journey from need recognition to purchase over a 10 month period and mapping 15 individuated touch-points across a variety of channels and platforms. The interrogation of the purchaser lasted 15 minutes and the real zero moment of truth was not the final online click but an arbitrary encounter with brand advertising poster site in a railway station that sat in the middle of the process but will never, ever play any specified part in the attribution process. As Matt warns, “The practical agenda for most marketing teams is to look at last (or next to last) click analysis over the week preceding the final conversion. Of the real 15 steps, 14 simply don’t count because they cannot be counted. Moreover, the regressed customer also confessed that a partner had been running their own search mission for the same purchasing decision. It is possible to work with other general data sources to shed a little ‘better than nothing’ insight into the process and run some qualitative follow-up research to add meaning to action but that has to run the gauntlet of unreliable witness testimony as well as the interrogative bias and influence inherent in all follow-up methodologies.

That’s that then – should we just give up

According to Adobe and Yahoo, 60–90% of cus­tomers research their pur­chase through a search engine. Which, as I have said before, makes brand advertising that isn’t backed up by the best optimisation approach, dangerous and profligate. If you want to increase sales opportunities for the competition, develop a brand brief in isolation or with little more than a passing reference to digital as a footnote on page 3. This acceptance of digital-is-in-the-small-print approach is all too common among digital specialists I see who are so busy working their silo that they are not winning the battle with the brand teams. Where are the champions.

It’s impor­tant to under­stand the jour­ney a cus­tomer will take before mak­ing an online purchase. we need to take a tip from Argos and turn our stock inventory into a sales weapon… “It’s in stock at this branch and you can click and reserve right now,” to me is one of the most exciting ideas I have ever come across. So to is Amazon’s “one click” masterpiece of customer service.

Once you get that tool in front of people, all future work is 90% done. So sell the tool not the product. It is the ultimate realisation of Kotler’s rule: Identify. Anticipate. Satisfy. Profit. Make life easy for the customer. Save them time and they will buy again and again. While brands without these time-saving tools push. Those with the time-saving approach pull like there is no tomorrow. A tomorrow in which many of us working in marketing will not be performing our current role.

The job is about to get faster than only we can imagine

As the need for speed increases, much of our current workload will be done by automated systems. Systems, ironically, that we will build and design to perform like us on our best ever day, everyday, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We simply cannot compete but we can take advantage. Just like the QWERTY keyboard was designed to speed up typing by preventing jams, we need to stop jamming up the works on automation marketing’s development. The odd thing is that the more talks I give on the future of digital marketing, the more I realise that most companies are still struggling to get to grips with digital in it’s most simple form. As Jack Welch ex-chairman and CEO of General Electric between 1981 and 2001, a time when GE’s company value rose 4,000% said, “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” When marketing automation systems finally realise their potential, that end will come in a matter of milliseconds. As we say in the CYBORGg team, resistance is futile.

Ever had the feeling you are being watched?

I Robot CYBORgs