If there’s one thing that’s true about advertising, it’s that everything changes. From subtle suggestions to in-your-face demands and info-speak to peer pressure, the shifts that have happened in advertising over the years have been many. But what about the changes in advertising as virtually every industry goes through digitization? The changes we’re seeing today will continue to spiral into a bold new future as we learn to embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution. At its core, like the three Industrial Revolutions before this one, is a dynamic, all-encompassing change in our society. It will change how we work, how we play and how we connect with one another — the very essence of what makes us human. Is your advertising plan up to the challenges this brave new world will present? Here’s a look at how these aspects will change us and how to keep on top of those changes so your business can remain competitive.
What’s the Fourth Industrial Revolution?
The current change to digitization of business assets is being referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. If you’re not familiar with some of the other revolutions, you’re not alone. The first Industrial Revolution is the one most people think of when they hear the term, when steam and machinery came into play to boost productivity significantly. This started the shift to urbanization and factory work for much of the world’s agricultural and craftsman backbone. At the turn of the last century, electricity drove production to even higher levels while making everyday life even easier with the Second Industrial Revolution. Factories grew as concepts such as the assembly line came into use while housewives everywhere cheered at the invention of more tools to break the drudgery of everyday life. Following WWII, the use of computers began to switch from Enigma and military use to businesses around the world, culminating in the Third Industrial Revolution which put a computer in almost every home (and pocket) in America.
Today, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us: digitization. It’s different than the Third because the rate of change that we’re seeing today is significantly higher in terms of speed, scope and the impact on our production systems and society. Much as the addition of electricity expanded factories and computers automated these electrically-driven factories, digitization is creating a massive change in our society. If you’ve looked at past responses to these times of change, the stories you may recall include massive explosions from steam boilers or fear of machinery in old factories, general fear of being electrocuted while screwing in a lightbulb or complete incomprehension about how computers operate. Despite this concern, it’s vital that we embrace the changes happening in today’s Industrial Revolution or be left behind.
But what exactly is digitization doing for our businesses that’s creating such a change? It’s incorporating machine learning into a wide range of areas, allowing analytics to change how we work by making us deal with exception handling instead of day-to-day drudgery. It’s automating workflows as systems that can more easily integrate with each other, reducing the time spent moving information from one system to another. It’s adding 3-D printing to eliminate shipping time, using the Internet of Things to predict machine failures, biotechnology to improve disease treatment and so much more. It’s also changing how the general population perceives their role in the purchasing process, which is why we’ve seen such a strong drive to improve the consumer experience. It’s considering new business models and services that help keep our businesses competitive against disruptions in the market. This means we’re also changing how we do business as a whole, and that includes how we advertise our goods and services.
Digitization’s Impact on Society
What changes can we expect in the future that we can use to adapt our digital advertising plans? We may see additional changes in the middle class, as society divides into high-skill/high-pay or low-skill/low-pay sectors, or possibly as we all come together closer to the middle. Will this lead us to that promising tomorrow in Star Trek where Federation citizens are virtually without need and allowed to instead pursue their greatest passions instead of work that pays the bills? We don’t know yet. The push towards efficiency, sustainability and minimalism suggest that we could be headed in that direction as a people. Hopefully, instead of working harder, we’ll learn to work smarter. Mankind’s ever-present drive to innovate, invent and create will grow, including how we’ll develop advertising to reach this new society. One area of change is focusing on specializing while outsourcing other tasks, including advertising. Our social lives are becoming increasingly digital, and appealing to people through snappy customer response, a truly memorable ad or programs that reward customers for sharing advertisements with their friends are all potential directions to consider.
It’s changing how we perceive ourselves. Privacy, ownership, work, security, consumption, personal development: all these concepts are going through massive changes as people discover new and better ways of living their lives. Advertising must speak to these issues, whether it’s how your newest purse blocks RFID signals to protect chipped credit cards or how your university is offering new options to MOOCS courses that combine at-your-own-pace learning with degree programs. Products or services that provide customization to make consumers’ lives easier or gives them more personal time will drive industry change. Focusing on benefits and solutions provided by these new developments will drive advertising well into the future as consumers find the best options for their lives and their needs. These changes are being driven by the catalyst of the new ethical, moral and social changes of the Fourth Revolution.
Another way that advertising is changing is using storytelling to personalize a brand. An exceptional example is Carhartt’s video featuring Jason Momoa, tying Hollywood giants to their Midwestern farming roots, Pacific Northwest loggers, mechanics and families around the world. Through his personal story and images of his family at play with their products featured in all states of repair, Carhartt shows the personal side of their products and how they haven’t changed from their original dedication to durability in tough situations. It wonderfully connects the products to a wide range of environmental circumstances.
Digitization and Advertising
Digitization is also driving how we interface with technology. We’re heading to 5G, allowing people around the globe access to markets that would have been virtually impossible in the past, letting them compete on a more even playing field. Video is hot, making us even more connected than ever before. VR is no longer the thing of dreams, but takes school children on field trips, consumers into a 360-degree view of products or construction workers into the building they’re creating. An excellent example of how this is changing our society was a popular meme from a few years ago, that went, “Explaining a smartphone to someone who has time-traveled from the 1950s. I have in my pocket a device that allows me to access the entirety of human knowledge. I use it to get into arguments with people I don’t know and watch funny animal videos.” Just as the massive change of the Third revolution took us from sock hops to AOL, the Fourth will connect us together in ways we can’t even imagine.
Products and services that perfectly personalize to the consumer require these stories to show that the advertising isn’t just speaking to the crowd, they’re genuine and adaptable to that specific person’s needs and desires. Yesterday’s practice of dropping change into a jar to provide water filters for children in Africa has adapted to the point that we can buy products that provide equal number of those filters or even connect with people in Africa to determine the best way to solve the problem for their village and their needs. As our world’s population heads towards 8 billion, humanity’s primal need to connect and be recognized one individual at a time is being driven further on through these changes.
Because we have this level of connectivity and information, we can no longer simply sell our products on the concept that our brand is simply better than the others. Giants like Apple and Samsung have grown through their dedication to innovation while recognizing that disruptors such as LG are nipping at their heels should that innovation fall. Telling brand stories, providing VR options and having hot, memorable videos will only work as long as we remain dedicated to what has made our companies great in the first place. If the Fourth Industrial Revolution has done nothing else, it has solidly returned us to that dedication to quality, customer service, and communication which we must retain to survive the predations of industry or market disruption.
There can be no doubt that our world is changing, and as with past industrial revolutions, those who do not embrace that change will be left behind. The Fourth Industrial Revolution will bring our entire world together as a people even as we embrace our own individuality.
Are you ready to embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution so that your business can remain agile, efficient and responsive to changes in the market? The hardest part in a long journey is taking the first step, but we can help. Whether you’re interested in learning more about machine learning and artificial intelligence in our free guide or need help figuring out the best strategy to take your business into the next revolution, we’re here to help.