Advertising's Next Frontier: The Internet of Everything
For some forward-thinking advertisers, refrigerators are hot.
Smart refrigerators, that is. So are thermostats and your car's dashboard or even the lock on your front door, provided they're all connected to the Inernet. All this Jetsons-type stuff is coming. Actually it's already here. Advertisers and their agencies are trying to figure out where they fit in.
At SXSWi this year, talk of "mobile" was old hat. Instead, marketing-focused sessions dwelled on wearables, penetrating real-time conversations and "the Internet of cars." No self-respecting representative from the ad world these days gets too excited about a new iPhone app.
Talk about the Internet of Things, a term coined in the mid-'90s, is also a bit passé. What's replacing it is a unified theory of a connected life. Imagine if your appliances, your thermostat, your personal fitness tracker, the locks on your doors and your car and all the devices you use to be productive, worked together, seamlessly. Shiv Singh, SVP global brand and marketing transformation for Visa, foresees a day when you can complete a 10-mile run and your devices will know to order a Gatorade to be delivered to your door when you're done.
While Singh's vision is a rough sketch — why wouldn't a consumer just have a bunch of Gatorades in the fridge? — it shows how marketers are already grappling with the question of how brands will survive and thrive in such a connected future.
Objects With Digital Profiles
In such a scenario, objects transcend our 3D environment. For example, in 2012, British ad agency Evrything launched a program on Father's Day in Brazil with spirits maker Diageo that let consumers scan bar codes on each bottle they bought "turning each physical product into a uniquely identifiable object of digital media," according to the Harvard Business Review. In this case, the giver could make a video for the recipient to go along with the gift (see above). The receiver could also make a video.
Like Singh's example, the Diageo program seems to solve a problem that no one really has. For instance, why not just send a video without creating a digital presence for your gift? On the other hand, imagine if your refrigerator had a digital profile and you could see if you were low on milk. Or what if your car had a digital profile and you could monitor wear and tear on your tires or your transmission fluid level?
As objects get smarter, the opportunity for brands increases. Making your products a bigger part of your consumer's lives is the goal of all marketing, but we typically don't think of it as branding in itself. Instead, a brand is usually a vehicle that helps make that happen. That formula has been flipped. As K-Yun Steele, VP of Zenith Optimedia, a media-buying firm noted, Google has evolved from a search engine on your desktop computer to something you have access to at all times. "That's a billion times more useful," he says.
The same is true for brands. In particular, health care or insurance marketers could penetrate this ecosystem with technologies that gameify the process of becoming healthier and safer. Progressive Insurance already sort of does this with Snapshot, a dashboard camera that monitors how often you drive, when you drive and how many times you slam on your brakes.
Taking the idea further, Doug Hecht, president and COO of ad agency Digitaria, imagines an insurer app that could monitor your heart rate and your calorie intake, among other factors, and then attempt to modify your behavior by offering gentle reminders when you're shopping. ("That package of Chips Ahoy! is loaded with saturated fat!") Hecht's vision isn't of a smartphone app, though. He sees the app following you from your refrigerator to your car to your walk to work (to monitor how many steps you take) and so on.
Clearly, not everyone would be up for giving an insurer that much power over their lives, even if there was a monetary reward. Those who are grappling with serious health issues or just looking to improve their health in general, though, might welcome such help.
Beyond branding, the Internet of Everything also offers the chance to revolutionize the buying cycle and radically redefine advertising. As GigaOm recently pointed out, a connected dishwasher can automatically buy new detergent when you're about to run low. That's a prime opportunity for a brand in that category to either lock in a default position on the dishwasher (i.e., your Maytag always orders up Tide) or for brands to offer coupons and other incentives to convince you to choose them.
Starbucks is already doing something like that with its Clover smart coffee machines that "connect to the cloud and track consumer preferences," and its refrigerators that know when the milk's about to spoil. Hecht envisions another scenario: You're driving home and your refrigerator alerts your car dashboard that you're about to run out of milk. At that point, a milk manufacturer can offer a coupon to entice you to buy its brand.
In each case, consumer behavior is driven less by brand loyalty (though that plays a part) than convenience. If you're a savvy marketer, you can catch your target consumer right before they buy something. Why spend millions on TV advertising when you can do that?
This connected future will reboot traditional marketing. However, there's no guarantee that the vision will become reality. After data breaches at Target and Nieman Marcus, consumers might be growing wary of giving up so much personal data to corporate America. Steele predicts that "a huge blow-up of Snowden-like scale" could erupt in the consumer market within the next five years and scare the public away.
Barring such an incident, it's still going to take years. At this point, a smart refrigerator complicates your life rather than simplifies it, he says. "It tends to frustrate me that we have the ability to do all these things," Hecht says. "We're just not connecting them."
That will probably change. It may take 10 years or maybe just five, but at some point the Connected Life will become real and marketing will never be the same.
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This article courtesy of Mashable by Todd Wasserman.