As technology becomes indispensable from everyday life, humanity and tech will merge to the point they are indistinguishable, predicts communication and marketing firm PHD.
Its research into the forces shaping marketing’s future produced Merge: The Closing Gap Between Technology And Us, a documentary and book on how technology and human evolution had progressed since the 1950s and how technological advances over the next 25 to 35 years would reshape society and the marketing industry.
The research drew on experts’ insights and foresights, including inventor and author Ray Kurzweil, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, futurologist Dr Ian Pearson and Microsoft UK chief envisioning officer Dave Coplin.
PHD Malaysia head Eileen Ooi said the year ahead would bring a host of new technologies that would challenge the industry but also present new opportunities for those willing to invest in innovation and take a bold first step.
She cited four key trends: chatbots, sentient virtual personal assistants, next wave of wearables, and intelligent data layers that give you additional info when viewing things.
Quoting data by IT consulting and research firm Gartner, Ooi said the amount of Internet connected tech outnumbered the human population by 10%, at 8.4 billion devices.
She added that by 2020, that number is predicted to hit 20.4 billion devices, with 63% of it driven by consumer devices.
Ooi said technology sometimes already feels like it has a mind of its own, and over the next two decades, this would become more pronounced.
“Machines will get smarter and the gap between us and the technology will continue to close, and we’ll reach a point where we become indistinguishable from one another,” she said
“We call this the ‘merge’,” she said, at the Malaysian screening of the documentary.
Following the screening, Ooi moderated the forum “We’re all cyborgs, and AI assistants will make us more human” alongside Malaysia’s Wellness Association president Dr Rajbans Singh, Astro Awani CEO Suhaimi Sulaiman and Omnicom Media Group SEA and India CEO Torie Henderson.
Henderson said consumers would continue to want great brands relevant to their lives, though the question became how to use increasingly available data to create convincing storytelling that would win over and retain customers.
Suhaimi said predictive technology was also helping newsrooms determine which stories had the best chance of going viral or get the best traction, rather than depending on news editors’ gut feeling.
He said improving computer intelligence was driving technology past the point of a research assistant to where it could almost write the stories itself.
“You still need professionals for stories that are sensitive or politically driven, but otherwise now even social media sites can arrange your holiday photos into a narrative,” he said.
PHD strategy and platforms head Jessey Chew moderated the second panel, “How brand experiences will change in the face of digital technologies growing at exponential speed”, comprising Hyperlab chief marketing officer Chris Greenough, GetResponse Malaysia head Mellissa Lee, and Moving Walls CEO Srikanth Ramachandran.
Chris Greenough said smarter chatbots was the way forward for customer service, and that introducing avatars as if they were actual customer service representatives would make people more empathetic towards the virtual chatbots.
Lee said e-mail marketing would still be relevant, though many Malaysian companies’ e-mail blasts still had too much clutter and were too data heavy, a fatal mistake in markets where Internet connectivity was still patchy.
“Though some like (financial comparison service) iMoney has been breaking through with personalisation and being mobile friendly to the point Gmail is starting to put them into users’ primary tab,” she said.
An e-book that expands on the documentary is available on Amazon and via the PHD Media app.
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