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Google pulled together 3 forward-thinkers for their recent Firestarter talk on the Future of Digital Marketing. A few of us went along to hear their predictions of what is in store for the world of advertising. Here are our 5 key takeaways from the evening:

  1. DIGITAL IS NOT THE WAY FORWARD

…Or at least, talking about ‘digital marketing’ as a separate discipline doesn’t make sense any more. For a long time now, digital has permeated all aspects of our lives and increasingly, younger generations don’t make any distinction between online and offline. From the outset of the evening it was clear that we need to move away from talking about digital marketing – reaching consumers is what counts, and to them the channel you talk to them on is irrelevant.

  1. WE’RE A LONG WAY FROM PERFECTING PERSONALISATION

As technology has progressed from cinema, to TV, to laptops to mobiles, screens have not only become smaller (iPhone 6 aside), but also more personal and more intimate. Yet existing personalisation and targeting often misses the mark and comes across as clumsy. There is a huge opportunity to develop this area – instant messaging, IoT, connected TVs and in-car operating systems all have massive potential to deliver truly personalised advertising to consumers. The key to creating relevancy will be to take in to account the user’s context in ways that we are only just beginning to touch on, while creating a value exchange that balances growing consumer unease around privacy and use of data.

  1. EFFICIENCY IS NOT THE ANSWER

The premise of digital marketing has been to create more targeted, more personalised communications; in short, to increase efficiency. But often efficiency is confused with effectiveness. Effectiveness should be our focus – it’s key to step back and ask whether the metrics we’re tracking are monitoring what really matters? Or are they simply the easiest things to track? As Byron Sharp points out in his book ‘How Brands Grow’, in our quest for efficiency with super-targeted, super-personalised campaigns, we may be missing the point entirely. Often the key to growth is in targeting people who don’t buy your brand, rather than loyal fans. P&G’s recent decision to move advertising spend away from targeted Facebook ads and instead focus on creating wider reach is an example of this change in mindset.

  1. PEOPLE DON’T WANT INNOVATION

… They want products that work. In recent years there has been a tendency to look for ways to innovate or create ‘digital experiences’ to win over customers, while key facets of the product or service itself have been overlooked. Tech and innovation have been championed, with the focus on us adapting to technology rather than technology adapting to us.  We should expect to see a shift in mindset towards more human forms of technology – with tech fitting around our lives rather than the other way around. Coupled with this comes a switch from focusing on selling to concentrating on getting the product and the consumer experience right.

  1. MOVE BEYOND THE VISUAL

With advertising there is often a tendency to focus on the visuals – but it’s becoming increasingly apparent that engaging more of the senses is key to winning consumers. In China, chocolate brand Dove (Galaxy to UK audiences) have been experimenting with advertising that puts audio front and centre.  There’s rich territory to explore here for brands, in terms of haptic design and sensory experiences – and the stats show that if you engage 3 or more senses, you are 70% more likely to convert to purchase.