Marketers need to be the catalysts to help businesses embrace the technological revolution, or risk losing touch with the changing habits of their customers, according to Facebook’s Michelle Klein.
“As human beings it’s in our DNA to resist change. When the next technology comes around we start by fearing it,” explains Klein, the vice president of global business and customer marketing.
In a presentation at Advertising Week APAC on Building Ideas That Thrive in a Connected World, she argues that resistance to change is holding us back, and for the first time technology is moving faster than our ability to adapt to it.
She says: “As human beings our ability to keep up is lagging. We resist change as human beings. We’ve intersected - the rate of technology is skyrocketing, and the rate of us keeping up is behind.”
This resistance to change, she argues, has led us to a “nostalgia renaissance” where shows like Netflix’s Stranger Things, based in the 1980s, become wildly popular and children are asking for cassette tape players for Christmas: “We’re looking for excuses to go back in time and experience the past.”
Current changes in technology such as the rise of mobile technology, argues Klein, mean companies now need to think differently about how they will connect with their customers.
She describes four ‘Cs’ which marketers need to consider when designing their communications strategies:
Here is how she defines them.
“Community is as old as mankind, coming together to tell stories. But today it is changing and that’s all driven by technology. The fact is we’re digitally empowered to connect with people and that’s turbocharging communities to find one another and align with common interests and create movements, and come together in the physical world, then talk about what we did in the online version.”
Klein argues this change has led to people expecting brands to play a part in their communities, saying brands can win in this space by discovering those communities who will be close to your brand, astounding them by finding a way to entertain and empower them and finally expanding the idea, telling the stories far and wide.
“Throughout history we’ve been bemoaning the death of conversation. More recently we’ve been blaming it on the mobile phone - we’re all looking at our screens and not talking to each other. But we need to change this narrative and turn it into a positive and create opportunities for brands to connect with people in what they are doing today.
“About 30% of the Australian population has a smart speaker - think about those opportunities to drive conversation.”
She also points to brands starting to engage in conversational exchanges with customers on messaging apps such as WhatApp and Facebook Messenger to provide information, and help people make decisions on where to spend their money, citing stats which show friction in the retail funnel leads to $75bn of lost sales in the US each year.
“I have a six year-old son and I travel a ton for work. I always promise him some Lego from wherever I am travelling to. So last week I was late for my flight in Chicago, and so I went online to Amazon Prime and ordered him a set. Then when I got home it was sitting on my doorstep and I was able to put it in my suitcase and give him his Lego set ‘from Chicago’.
“The point is technology allows me to be a superhuman mum, I can be more efficient, more productive and I can do this all the time. So think about the opportunity this provides.”
She points out that while technology has intermediated the personal human-to-human retail interaction, it is “democratising commerce for everyone and taking the friction out of the experience” for businesses large and small. But Klein stressed it is still up to brands to find those personal touches which will help them to cut through with consumers.
“For years, since the internet came along, we’re saying nobody is paying attention any more and we are just full of information. But what is happening as human beings is it’s changing our behaviour. Kevin Kelly in his book The Inevitable talks about filtering, and as humans we are able to filter in a much stronger way, we know what is important to us and engage in certain content.
“As brands and businesses we need to think about the ability to filter out as much as in, and that’s what we call curation.”
“You need to think about context, what screen will it be on and what is surrounding it, as well as the creative process. To meet people’s expectations in the world they exist in today is an important part of connecting with them.”
Klein argues context is what allows brands to differentiate and cut through in online environments, and celebrate their differences and individuality.
Ultimately Klein says there is an important, if unofficial, fifth ‘C’ marketers need to embrace in order to succeed - embracing change and not spending too long dwelling on the past.
“I look back at my career over the last couple of decades and I think wow, I’ve spent a lot of time looking back at the data, looking back at the results, what have we learned, go back in history, go back in time. More time spent looking back than time looking forward at the things that are right in front of us,” she explains.
“It’s really important for all of us to be looking forward at the things coming right at us, because technology is moving faster than us, and we need to embrace that and take people on a journey.”
Klein argues that while “it’s not going to be easy “we need to educate ourselves and our clients about the opportunity and embrace that change”.
She finishes by reassuring her audience: “What I have shared today shouldn’t feel overwhelming or unattainable, companies all over the world are using this technology to create connections and moments.
“Let’s take one big step forward and stand together. I encourage all of you to lead the change.”