ML & AI to play a key role for marketers in the third connected age: Rishad Tobaccowala

MUMBAI: The world is now entering the third connected age and it is going to have a huge impact on various areas of advertising and marketing. Shifts are happening including data connecting to data, which is machine learning. Artificial Intelligence is fuelling everything including marketing, advertising services, and biotech.

Advisor, speaker, and educator Rishad Tobaccowala who is also an author spoke at the MMA India seminar called ‘Impact India: The Future of Modern Marketing’ recently. While addressing at the event, he noted that the first shift going on in the third connected age is machine learning. The second shift going on in the third connected age besides machine learning is that there are much faster ways of connecting like Jio which has had a massive impact. “In the next few years, India will move faster and faster to 5G. It is very resilient and one can download a high definition movie in seven seconds or less. It will open up more things,” added Tobaccowala during his talks at the event.

He also highlighted that mobility will not just be about the mobile device. It could be things like glasses, and headphones because the third shift will be about new ways of connecting. He gives the example of 'Voice' and this will continue as devices become smaller and more powerful. Also, augmented reality technology will become important. Virtual reality will also happen though it is in its early days. It will have a big impact on areas like gaming which is already bigger than movies and gambling. The fourth shift will be new trust currencies emerging and blockchain will be the key factor. This third connected age will build on the first and second connected ages and will change the way the world of marketing exists.

He noted that 1993 was the first connected age with the world wide web where people connected to interact. That gave birth to businesses like search and e-commerce and to companies like Google and Amazon. In 2007 there was the second connected age which was about being connected all the time and it gave rise to mobile, and social media. Today, most traffic in the US comes from mobile and unlikely from the desktop. These three ages build on each other and they will not replace each other.

He noted that Audience, Brands, Content, Data and Enterprise are now significantly shifting. Every marketer recognises that they do not just send messages to audiences. Increasingly, customers are becoming active rather than passive.

He also spoke about the move towards re-aggregated rather than segmented marketing. In the latter, you take large audiences and make them smaller audiences like TV, newspapers including others. In the former, you are able to thrive in the digital age.  You start with an audience of one and re-aggregate him/her through things like decision engines.

He mentioned three trends that will grow when one talks about brands. The first is that brands will increasingly become experiences. That is important as a great experience will result in people speaking about it and becoming loyal. Second, the brand's purpose will become important. What does a company stand for? The third new trend is branding as employees. In the future, no company will survive without its employees and suppliers. “The most important advocate for brands even more than happy customers is happy employees," he added.

In terms of content, he noted that it is impossible to put content into a bucket. He gave the example of seeing an ad on Tiktok while travelling in a car resulting in him buying a product at a store. Is it ATL or BTL? Is it offline or online? Is it mobile e-commerce or social? Is it analogue or digital? It was all those. Content is morphing and so is marketing. Also, new content creators are changing pretty dramatically.

He mentions the fact that more views and interactions are happening for Instagram, and Youtube creators than those who watch the Superbowl. New kinds of content will emerge. In terms of data, he said marketers must recognise that data alone is not the way brands are built. It is about how you extract meaning from data, and how you tell stories utilising data. The big mistake people make is thinking that data by itself is the differentiator. Connecting data to other things in a company is what will make the difference. Less than half a dozen companies have special data. So, it is how you use, and leverage data to tell stories. That is important because human beings choose with their hearts to make purchases. Then they use data to justify what they just did. That is what happens 7 out of 10 times.

The future is about data-driven storytelling, not data-driven marketing. Marketers cannot be only driven by data numbers otherwise they will be out of a job, he warned.

He stressed that marketing is about stories & insights and not just about data and algorithms. Pure numbers are not the answer.

Enterprise, he said, is rethinking the way an organisation is set up for the future. The future, he cautions cannot fit into the containers of the past. The best marketing companies, he said, revolve around people speaking up freely and challenging each other. That is how ideas are born. Also, the best companies constantly reinvent themselves.

So, how does one do this? First, constantly learn, he said and added that if marketers do not then they will fake it and will become irrelevant as individuals, marketers and businesspersons. Marketers must set aside an hour a day to learn new things.

Also, marketers must build a case for the exact opposite of what they believe. That will strengthen an argument. Third, learn new technologies by doing things. “Learn, do, build the case for the opposite” he concluded.

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