The Future of Marketing: Brand Personalization

The Future of Marketing: Brand Personalization

Recently, Target Marketing Magazine asked me to keynote their Integrated Marketing Virtual Conference. As it often does, the task of preparing that address put me in touch with where we are headed with marketing. A number of factors have pushed us in the direction of what to me is brand personalization. These factors are:

  1. The Internet, the website, and search put the consumer in charge.
  2. Technology and marketing have fused together, which has totally disrupted the arrows of communication and the Four P’s of marketing.
  3. The development of apps, the growth of mobile (smart phones, really) and robotic technology has taken off.

First, let me talk about “arrows of communication” and the disruption of the Four P’s. By arrows, I mean the direction of communications between the brand and the consumer. Before the Internet and technology fused with marketing, the outbound arrows dominated. We painted a target customer bullseye, and then fired away via traditional media: TV, radio, print, mail, outdoor and the like.

The customer responded by walking into the retail location, mailing back the order form, or calling the call center. No more. Today the shopping process is more dominated by the inbound arrows and begins at a search online.  If you want to read more about that, read “Winning the Zero Moment of Truth,” a book about the dominant role search has in today’s marketing.

Search is an inbound arrow, and inbound arrows are beginning to rule. If the consumer does not search, they are likely to just go inbound to a site like Amazon, look around and buy. Or, put a “find” request into their smartphone to activate a GPS response. Traditional media have not gone away, but more and more are used to surround the site or app (and still the store) to stimulate an inbound response. This mixed picture has given rise to the term “customer journey” and has led to the task of creating the customer journey map, and to the task of deciding how to engage at points in that journey.

The Four P’s have been totally disrupted.  Take product, the first P.  One used to buy their Nike sneakers at a store.  Now we can go to and custom design our sneaker, purchase it there, and it is shipped to our home. We can purchase custom suits that way, or for that matter a Chevy. Take price, the second P.  There are dozens of price comparison apps, like the Walmart Savings Catcher, that allow one to scan the barcode and see prices both at retail and online, plus read reviews, etc. Take promotion, the third P.  I won’t even go into it because we all live it: search, social, digital display, mobile, content and native, etc.  And finally take place, the fourth P, which really means distribution. We used to make a product and ship it to wholesalers who trucked it to the store. We then drove to the store, picked it up and took it home.  Amazon has completely disrupted that by letting us buy online and then dropping it in our driveway via drone!

So, against that backdrop we have all kinds of new stuff going on, like automation, programmatic, mobile plus apps…all in a sea of big data. Let me finish by just discussing one development: the desire to make the First Moment of Truth (which is defined as standing in front of the product and deciding whether or not to purchase) more like an online experience. In my keynote, we talked about the app that allows one to put in the make, model, etc. of a car one wants to purchase, plus a mile radius around where one lives to find the entire inventory. When we drive to the dealer with that app to look at the car we found, using beaconing, the app tells us exactly where our desired vehicle is on the lot. In front of the vehicle we can get all information about it, and we can put another radius search into the app to compare that car to like cars at other dealers, including, of course, the price.

Now add in what we see coming: robots. Robots, you say?  Well, we now have Siri in our iPhones, Alexa in our Amazon Echo, and a smart robot in our BMW that will respond to instructions like: “Find me a five star hotel within five miles” (Have you seen that commercial?). So how far is it to travel that my brand app will have a robot in it, so I can converse with my brand?

For me, where this ends up is that brands will use technology to have a personal relationship with me, including robots that will allow me to talk to the brand at the moments of truth in the customer journey. Exciting, isn’t it?

George is Founder and CEO of UMarketing LLC. Founded in 2007 UMarketing offers Unified Marketing: strategy and content for data-driven marketers delivered via Accountable Communications. It maintains offices in New York, Chicago, San Jose, Princeton and Columbus. George has been a senior manager of agency services for most of his career. He joined the Wunderman agency, part of Y&R, in 1978 and was made Director of Client Services. He founded Grey Direct in 1980 and grew the company into a global $1 billion+ agency system. After WPP acquired Grey the company merged into a unit of WPP known as Geometry which is part of O&M. Always interested in the frontiers of marketing and innovation, George left Grey in 2000 to become President and CEO of Responsys (went public in 2011: MKTG, NASDAQ) which Oracle acquired in 2013 putting it at the heart of the Oracle Marketing Cloud. During his career George found time to serve for 15 years on the board of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), becoming Chairman of the Board in 1999/2000.