Couldn’t see that coming: how marketing evolves with new technologies

Bryce Michelmore
March 25, 2013

The other day I happened to look at a friend’s new business card.

He’s an accountant and he recently started a new job at a large corporate insurance firm. So I was quite surprised to see that he had a Facebook URL on his card. I never thought I’d see the day that interactions on Facebook would become standard practice in the corporate context.

In fact, it’s not surprising that this has happened, because Facebook creates a valuable funnel of information that can be tailored to an individual’s unique interests. But this was never the original intention. When it first began, Facebook was a rudimentary content sharing system targeted at a small tertiary education audience.

So how did Facebook become mainstream? Was it primarily through proactive corporate adoption or simply an inevitable by-product of the sheer size of its audience? I guess the answer is ‘does it matter?’, because it’s a moot point now. Whatever the history, Facebook is now an essential part of the marketing mix for many brands, because it facilitates sharing and word-of-mouth recommendation among a large number of people. This is something that advertising has always sought to do.

Facebook demonstrates that you can’t always predict how a new technology will be used. Let me give you an (embarrassing) example of my own. When SMS first launched on mobile phones, I dismissed it as something that would never catch on. After all, why would you choose to type if you could talk? Seemed obvious to me, but then I couldn’t foresee the myriad applications this economical method of communication would eventually support.

Examples of unforeseen uses of technology abound. Just last week, I read about an interesting use of Twitter to promote brands at the Toronto Auto Show. Sending a tweet to a nearby vending machine prompted it to dispense a limited-edition diecast toy car. It’s an interesting approach to brand building – probably not exactly where the future lies but certainly suggestive of a general direction.

In this brave new world, it’s worth thinking broadly, and laterally, about your marketing mix. With a strong voice – and an attentive audience – you may be able to build your brand in non-traditional ways. Indeed, there may be applications of new technology for your brand that you haven’t even considered.

Bryce Michelmore is an Account Manager at Wellmark

 

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