The Futurist: Putting the human heart back at the centre

Predicting the future of marketing is a near impossible task, given the fast changing technologies and often at times unpredictable nature of consumer behaviour. All I know is that there will be more and more marketing in so many fields as the abundance of resources means more will be commoditised, and messages drowned out, and
consumers alienated.

Brands with clear direct messages, and which project strong values that capture the Human spirit continue to win through. Think of the John Lewis Christmas ads, which British consumers longingly wait for every November. This year it stars bouncing dogs, foxes, badgers, squirrels and hedgehogs. The questions faced by every marketer is how can we create smart cut through marketing in a world constantly bombarded by information, news, social, paid and earned media. Iconography, for example, one of the oldest marketing tools in the world, could make a comeback. How do you measure ROI to ensure the biggest bang for your buck?

More importantly is ROI the right, or only, measure? Ask our Singapore customers this year whether they remember Caltex’s flash gif file Facebook post, or special card discount, or even our new loyalty programme, and the answer will probably be “No, but I really liked your blow up Pump attendant waving us into your stations.” The problem for a marketer is how do you measure ROI, on an inflatable doll?

We have become ROI and KPI dominant, wanting to measure everything. We show all kinds of measures that highlight how our new Facebook campaign, or programmatic buy, or price discount, or new AR game achieve good numbers; but are these enough to change consumers’ hearts and habits? Good marketers will step back and realise people follow their heart when selecting brands. People want to choose useful brands they like. David Ogilvy’s dictum was right after all: “The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife.” Marketers need to think more about the relationships their brands should have with their customers.

Trust is a key part to this relationship. As brands go data-centric, collecting data with every customer interaction, consumers know that they are being monitored but expect more things in return. This data can be used two ways; one to destroy trust, or best, builds more trust by closer matching and anticipating human needs. Data capture, protection and encryption, usage and dissemination will be a minefield to marketers which needs Brand guardians to tread carefully.

The plethora of new technology will help marketers hone in on their audiences with the right offer, at the right time at the right place, but the right emotion will always be the secret sauce that builds bonds better.

The smart marketers will be focusing on behavioural psychology as the future of marketing. To successfully influence customers, it’s best to understand their behaviour at a deeper level. You need a clear and candid understanding of how people arrive at their decisions at the foundational level. Evolving research approaches will become an even more important tool in managing this. We know, for example, that consumers are twice as likely to buy from a brand if the message is aligned with their personality.

Whilst most marketers are looking at tech industry to give themselves an advantage, we could see a swing back to exploring the human mind and condition more first. We have to embrace the human elements and complications to see what makes us tick in the fast changing world and apply to technology to get our message out and resonating. If we want to create the best tech innovations then we have to place the human condition at its centre first.

The marketing space is littered with more and more fads, fashions and new shiny tools that trendy ROI focused marketers will grab onto and use. But unless you are connecting with the heart, all marketing will become more transactional and transient; and ultimately forgettable. The need to be human will make us better marketers, rather than mere sellers.

The writer is Brian Fisher, brand manager at Caltex.