Whenever anyone says something about being on Cloud 9, I have to wonder about the populations of Clouds 1–8. Are there predestined atmospheric locations for those having a bad hair day, a flat tire, two flat tires, a screenwriting career? Is Cloud 1 the lowest level, or does it continually sow discord by boasting the distinction of being first? Was Cloud 9 just the beneficiary of an especially successful marketing campaign?
If so, it happened long before the Internet and social media started trying to direct our personal and (increasingly) professional lives. In assigning recent articles, especially “Shade 101” coming in May and the innovation features slated for the June issue, I’ve been asking a lot of questions about how our readers are handling their marketing (and measuring results). Everything is connected now, the marketing innovators tell us: the growth of mobile technology, the rise of video and virtual reality, the need for products and brands to be marketed in a way that matches the audience “culture” and provokes customer engagement and conversation.
In the future, they tell us, most branded content will come from consumers. And when social communication has become ingrained and nobody notices it anymore, supposedly, the interconnectedness of everything will allow marketers to start powering your remote control and taking over your television.
When public television was introduced, it was feared that it would decimate the movie industry. But the small screen didn’t kill the big screen, and the smallest screens aren’t going to kill television. But television’s content may continue to change, and shift from entertainment to message. It’s not something I’m personally very comfortable with, any more than I want to get email messages from my refrigerator telling me it needs to be cleaned. And how far is that from getting a message from the radishes at the local grocery’s produce department that they’re going to start crinkling up if somebody doesn’t buy them before Saturday?
If “mass customization” can be a manufacturing trend, then it’s not much of a stretch to see marketers using big data and metadata to send highly personal messages to a mass audience. This kind of marketing, however, probably is more suited for consumers and commodities than it is for many of the custom designed and highly engineered products in our industry.
I’m going to continue to try to focus on this topic in the Review, and badger our contributors about how they market their products and services—and how that translates to actual sales. If I find out that most awnings are now being sold because furniture is emailing homeowners in anguish about fading in the sunlight from the windows … well, at least I’ll get a few articles out of it, as I start obeying the local radishes. I’ll find the appropriate cloud.