What Marketing Will Be Like in 2067

Projecting 50 years of technological progress

Fifty years ago was 1967: the age of Mad Men, a show that not only reflects on the nuanced social strata of American culture in the years building to the first Apollo moon landing, but also one that centers on a very particular industry — advertising.

It’s fun to watch, not only for its critically acclaimed story, characters, and direction, but for its realism: marketers today certainly don’t rely on secretaries with typewriters, magazine spreads, or any of the other analogue technologies used in Mad Men. In the age of traditional marketing which was the 1960s, advertising in the form of TV and radio commercials was essential to a company’s success. The show concludes with the main character Don Draper’s invention of a commercial that was once called “one of the best-loved and most influential ads in TV history” by Campaign magazine.

It’s clear that over fifty years, marketing has transformed in big ways. Advertising agencies like Sterling Cooper have died off, the popularity of TV commercials have plunged, and the development of new technologies have changed marketing in ways that Don Draper could never have anticipated.

Besides the mere existence of computers which has impacted every industry since the 1960s in both dramatic and subtle respects, these developments include —

  • The entire field of Online Marketing with the invention of the Internet, and its many subcategories which include Mobile Marketing, Business Website development and more.
  • Highly targeted advertising that allows marketers to segment an audience from a range of highly-tuned variables never achievable in the past.
  • Social Media and the immediate, two-way channel of communication that it has opened up between marketers and consumers.
  • New Media including digital games, online video, blogs, micro-blogs (Twitter, Tumblr, etc.) interactive content and more.

The Word of The Prophets

Fifty years ago, did anyone expect the world to change so much?

The surprising answer is — yes. And some of them had a pretty accurate idea what would come.

Just this year, Google celebrated public intellectual Marshall McLuhan with a doodle depicting his accomplishments. While alive, McLuhan was well known for his wild ideas about the future, and after his death, became famous for predicting the rise of the World Wide Web;

The next medium, whatever it is …will include television as its content, not as its environment, and will transform television into an art form. A computer as a research and communication instrument could enhance retrieval, obsolesce mass library organization, retrieve the individual’s encyclopedic function and flip into a private line to speedily tailored data of a saleable kind. — McLuhan, 1962

Note the last phrase in McLuhan’s prediction: “data of a saleable kind”. More than a decade before the first personal computer, this has come to be seen as an accurate depiction of the Internet’s most basic form of commerce —the sale of information.

Electronics company Philco created a film exactly 50 years ago in 1967 to commemorate its 75th anniversary with a contemplation of how technology would change people’s lives in the future. This film included personal computers being used to purchase commerce remotely, keep track of inventory, view documents, and get personalized recommendations. The accuracy is almost uncanny.

The truth is, many people whose job it was to think about the future knew how the world would change in 50 years with a reasonable amount of accuracy. Other figures who predicted the rise of the Internet and its impact on marketing included Vannevar Bush and his theoretical Memex in the 1950s, and Douglas Engelbart who did his best to bring Bush’s ideas to life in 1968’s Mother of All Demos.

While the changing times may have come as a surprise to many people, the horizon was an open secret to those in the know. And now that the Information Age is here, there’s no reason why the next fifty years should be mysterious to us.

Marketing in 2067

If so many people knew exactly what to expect in 1967, it stands to reason that our own futurists have something to say about the next half century of technological progress.

And indeed they do. Drawing on contemporary trends, analyst firms and figures in the industry, the future will be dominated by a move towards several technologies which will have widespread impacts on every industry including marketing.

Virtual / Augmented Reality

In 2017, virtual reality is a toy. Nobody has quite hit on the right solution yet, and it’s not a staple in anybody’s home.

Nevertheless, every indicator points to VR becoming a major staple of the future: in 2016, virtual reality became the first and foremost emerging technology on Gartner’s Hype Cycle. According to Forbes, augmented reality technology will be a $5.7 billion industry by 2021.

Brands are already finding various ways to integrate augmented reality into their marketing schemes. Take Ikea’s PLACE app, an experimental way to virtually showcase furniture in a room.

A certain bridge has already been crossed with the widespread adoption of mobile devices; consumers are accessible almost anywhere, at every time, which is a big change from the days when advertising was limited to time and space.

With the advent of VR and AR, its conceivable that in the future the bridge will close even further, as advertising becomes an indistinguishable feature of augmented and simulated environments.

Digital Assistants

More and more ink is spilled every day about technological unemployment — the advent of robots that will take blue-collar jobs from human laborers, and eventually even industries that don’t seem susceptible to automation.

Doctors, office workers, and yes: maybe even marketers.

Of course, there’s reason to believe that the excitement about a robot takeover of human labor is an overreaction. As Robert Atkinson and John Wu explain in an ITIF report, “Predictions that human labor is just one tech ‘unicorn’ away from redundancy are likely vastly overstated, as they always have been.”

That being said, robots are indeed entering the workforce. And we already use some of them on a daily basis — right now, digital voice assistants like Siri and Google Now can be used for basic functions like setting reminders, getting information about films or restaurants, sending texts and placing calls.

But if current trends have anything to say, virtual assistants will only become smarter and more ubiquitous. For marketers especially,

  • It will be important to make business information available to digital assistants so that people seeking recommendations or making queries will be able to find it quickly. This basically means marketers will be advertising directly to virtual assistants, using some of the same methods that are used today: search optimization, keywords, meta-information, etc.
  • Virtual assistants like chatbots and automated telephone assistants are already prevalent, and will only become moreso as time goes by. Optimizing and fine-tuning these assistants to address questions in the most natural and helpful way possible will become an important area of development.

The Smart Home, and Internet-of-Things (IoT)

Plugging into the concept of virtual assistants, within fifty years homes will be truly automated, integrated, and intelligent. Basically everything that the Jetsons dreamed of in terms of a domestic life — and even aspects of Philco’s vision which were not quite realized in the 1990s — will become a reality.

Thermostats, lights, locks, security systems, washers and dryers, refrigerators, pantries, robotic cleaners, phones, computers and other appliances will talk to each other, talk to consumers, and talk to marketers.

New business models will develop around meeting the daily needs of consumers based on the information provided by a basically self-regulating home. Amazon has already toyed with this idea using Alexa and dash buttons.

As the gap between online businesses and traditional marketplaces like grocery stores closes — and this too is heralded by Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods — big data and targeted advertising will combine with the most mundane aspects of a consumer lifestyle, and open worlds of opportunities for product vendors and manufacturers around the world to sell and meet the needs of local residents with high quality goods.

As in the 1960s, the future is already here, in its infancy. It’s not too late to prepare, and by watching the signs and keeping up with the times, marketers have an unprecedented opportunity to become major figures and pioneers in business models that will one day dominate the world.

OMI is dedicated to helping small businesses navigate new marketing technologies more effectively, with practical education from experts across digital marketing fields.

To learn more about preparing for the future of marketing technology, consider viewing our brand new courses on emerging media including virtual reality, chatbot assistants, and more. For ten days, access to our entire library of classes is completely free.

Brandon Shutt, Editor at OMI