How a new age of 'hyper-connectivity' is set to turn adland upside-down
AnyDayNow's Tracey Follows
As the world prepares to enter a new era of "hyper connectivity", brands are being warned that the entire role of advertising is about to be questioned.
Speaking at the 2015 Connected Consumer conference, hosted by Mediatel, the futurist and founder of AnyDayNow, Tracey Follows, argued that the Internet of Things - which is set to transform entire markets as billions of everyday devices connect to both the web and each other - will make many current forms of advertising redundant.
"[The Internet of Things means] products and services can connect directly to the consumer - so why do you want to put a piece of advertising in the way of that? It is not required," she said.
"I think [the Internet of Things] will do away with the need for direct, targeted advertising. I think advertising will go back to what it has always done best: creating fame and building long-term brands."
Follows added that if advertisers can get a consumer to buy into and connect with the values of a brand emotionally then the "connectivity can be achieved directly from the product or service."
Current estimates suggest that within five years the world will contain some 25 billion items that are connected and communicating to each other.
The challenge now facing many brands is understanding how best to incorporate connected technologies into future advertising strategies.
Earlier this year, Amazon announced the 'Dash Replenishment Service' - an adhesive strip connected to the home Wi-Fi and placed on household appliances - is on the way and even Johnnie Walker whisky is set to launch 'smart' bottles that can communicate with mobile devices as part of a brand 'storytelling' gimmick.
The challenge now facing many brands and their agencies is understanding how to reach the increasingly connected consumer and how best to incorporate connected technologies into future advertising strategies.
Responding to Follows's comments, Bupa's head of digital, Jim Stevenson, said he views the growing connectivity of products and services as a retention and loyalty issue as much anything else.
"The Internet of Things doesn't mean bringing us into technology, but to bring technology into us; bring it into the real world," he said. "That will fundamentally change advertising."
Bupa's Jim Stevenson
Stevenson added that Bupa is now looking at ways for the Internet of Things to drive more "meaningful" consumer touch-points.
"We need to create new touch-points that will actually engage the consumer much more," he said. "That is when wearables come in - when you're actively helping people."
Bupa is currently working with IBM and its super-computer Watson technology on a scalable project that will see people coached to live "happier and healthier" lives.
"We can connect with people and become a health care partner rather than just an insurance provider," Stevenson said.
A new era for advertising?
Follows added we are now on the cusp of entering a new cultural era, moving past post-modernity to the 'Integral Era' - and brands who want to reach the connected consumer in this new age will need to operate very differently.
"Years ago, when we were in a 'traditional era' the values were very different to today," she said. "They were around family, belonging and authority."
"We then moved into a modernist era which was about achievement; then a post-modernist era which was much more about searching for meaning and brand community - and that is still very much in our culture now and is integrated into companies and organisations."
However, Follows said the current transition into the Integral Era - tipped as a trend to watch this year by Intel - means brands will need to embrace everything it represents - inter-dependence, "proper" connectivity, influence and tolerance - if they want to reach consumers.
"For most people who share the values of the Integral Era, 'connected consumer' means less about connectivity and more about connectedness," Follows said.
"At the moment there's a real counter-trend to the narrative around hyper-connectivity which is much more about humanness. It's about wanting to reorientate yourself around human values and people are actively seeking out those brands that accomplish that."
Recent studies suggest that more than 85 percent of millennials base their purchasing decisions and their willingness to recommend a brand on the social good a company makes - suggesting the need for brands to harness the values of the Integral Era could eventually become business critical.
"The interesting thing about the Internet of Things is that those values will become embedded in products and services - and this is what people will be buying into; the emotional connectedness, not the physical connectivity," added Stevenson.
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