Looking from the inside out, we can all develop blindspots when attempting to assess how our own industry may become disrupted. Or how vulnerable our own businesses may be to this disruption.
Peering in from the outside is often a lot easier. It became pretty clear Uber and Lyft were going to throw taxi markets into upheaval. That free and easy shipping for online shopping was going to change the landscape of mom-and-pop shops. And that Netflix had cracked the code on a better way to rent movies.
Sometimes change looks like a revolution. Sometimes it happens slowly as a natural evolution plays out.
Every once in a while, though, it is swift and relentless. Think about the plight of restaurant owners as daunting Covid protection measures forced them to change overnight or close. Suddenly, upscale restaurants were selling picnic dinners. Many owners went all-in with mobile delivery apps and curbside pickup procedures. They ordered heaters by the dozens and erected tents and impressive outdoor dining structures. Though executed on the fly, many of these developments will prove enduring.
This is what devolution looks like. Devolution happens rapidly and impacts markets in aggressive and highly disruptive ways.
I’d argue this is exactly the circumstances facing marketers right this very moment.
Big Tech’s whims are the winds of change
As marketers, we collectively face the most consequential disruption our industry has ever seen. 20 years ago, the rise of digital brought opportunity. Decades before, broadcast media gave us new paths to audiences and new ways to tell stories.
This time is different.
The changes we face now require deft maneuvering and a swift response. No one wants to be the next Kodak, Blockbuster or Sears. But the potential to meet that fate is very much a reality.
The market is in a disruptive mode. We are not operating in a friendly, “let’s work things out” atmosphere.
Covid is impacting supply chains and limiting physical interactions with buyers. Data is getting more expensive and simultaneously cloudier than ever, taking a cleaver to value and effectiveness.
Then there’s Big Tech. Once happy to provide access to vast user bases for a handsome fee, the FAANGS are now gleefully cordoning off access. The acronym could not be more spot-on, as these bloodsuckers move for the jugular in a bid to have the market all to themselves on their take-it-or-leave-it terms.
So let’s stop playing their game
We don’t have to get down in the dirt with the pigs. In fact, there’s a high road to be taken here.
As these juggernauts preach privacy from a pedestal while quietly taking liberties with user data, we can carry a brighter torch toward a more ethical, transparent frontier. One where we interact with people as humans, treating them with the respect and digital dignity they deserve.
Let’s be honest. Over the past few years, the wheels have been coming off the machine. While this is causing some to skid to a stop. Others are making plans to fly.
Devolution isn’t just about the threats, it’s about the success stories for those who take them head-on. For marketing, that will entail the establishment of intimate relationships with buyers. It will mean deemphasizing aging metrics and creating marketing workflows that let us understand the full lifecycle of engagement.
In other words, even if we can no longer measure something like opens, we’ll still be able to understand if an audience member exposed to our messages ultimately took action – either in the digital or physical world.
There are two paths ahead as we see it: pursue an opportunity as an industry yet again or suffer the consequences of sitting still, waiting for a consolation prize from Big Tech.
We’ll see you in the sky.