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Exclusive article - You don’t need to ride a Segway to be part of the future

16/09/2014
  During a recent trip abroad I caught a glimpse of, what many people think is, the future. Before me on the sidewalk was a man riding a Segway while simultaneously wearing Google Glass and playing with his smartphone. Technology in our hands, on our faces and under our feet: prevalent now, everywhere in the future.

It’s not just American super-geeks who are trying to keep up with technology though. Big data, the internet of things and 3D printing are just some of the technologies marketers have had to get to grips with in the past year.

What does it mean for my brand? Is it a threat or an opportunity? What will my competitors do? Who should I hire to help? All of these questions pulse with urgency as soon as a new technology emerges from the hype cycle. But what marketers often forget is how they’ve dealt with new technologies in the past.

SEO, paid search, social media and mobile apps have all emerged over the past 10 years fundamentally changing consumer behaviour and our relationship with brands. It is, without question, the marketers who have upskilled and hired well that have the top jobs today.

Those who embrace change have flourished, while those who look the other way have subsided.

Saturo Iwata, CEO of Nintendo declared in 2010 that the iPad was “just a bigger iPod touch”. Two years later revenue from iPad sales alone was five times that of Nintendo’s entire revenue.

After Netflix was founded in 2007 it took Blockbuster the best part of a decade to launch a rival service.

In retrospect, Nintendo could have owned gaming on Apple devices and Blockbuster could still be the number one movie service in the world but both were closed to new ideas. The lessons from these and other case studies show that keeping up is key.

To compete marketers must do several things:
  • Create a radar or early-warning system that identifies important emerging technologies.
  • Make use of the modern marketing toolkit, which has expanded from radio, posters, TV and print to include hundreds of different ways of reaching customers.
  • Generate insights from data to work out how their target markets are changing their behaviours and base their strategy on those insights.

Within all of this is, of course, lies the most important part of any business: the people.

Marketers need quality tradesfolk to use the tools of the toolkit but also strategic minds to decide which tools to use for which job. They need to hire well but also train and develop their teams to keep them interested, motivated and useful.

Doing this while adopting agile ways of working is the key to keeping staff, moving fast and, ultimately, creating a winning strategy. By focussing on people and not technology is the way to stay relevant.

No one should be expected to be proficient in all the technologies at our disposal. What is essential is an open-mind to understanding them and identifying emerging opportunities.

We don’t have to be Segway-loving super geeks to ride into the future. We just need the right people with the right attitude and the right skills to understand the world today and the opportunities of tomorrow.

The Knowledge Engineers

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