A marketer’s personal view of technology

James Gregory is a comedian from the Atlanta area who told a story about his uncle watching a commercial about a movie that ended with the phrase “Coming soon to a theater near you.” The uncle responded with the question, “How do they know where I live?”

Technology.

I haven’t purchased film for a camera in a decade; I use a digital camera. Using digital printing, graphics can be changed from one printed piece to the next without having to make a physical change to the printer. I’ve noticed that if I’ve gone to a website looking for a product, I start seeing banner ads about the product I viewed, prompting me to buy it; this is called “retargeting.” Although I’ve not seen it demonstrated, I attended a meeting where a media buyer talked about pushing commercials to home televisions through cable and satellite systems much in the same way that the banner ads are pushed to the shopper on digital devices. I guess that means “Coming soon to a home theater near you.”

Technology enables me as a marketer to reach customers with more precision than I’ve had in the past. I can go from a shotgun or scattergun approach to a rifle approach with the information that is available. I can target by geography, economy, ethnicity and job title. I can use combinations of targets.

As you shop at a grocery store or a pharmacy, do you get coupons printed when you get your receipt? They’re based on your buying habits. I often get coupons to order contacts from a store where I only buy contact solution.

This year I was at a convention with a group of clients. We wanted to get away from the hotel to eat. I made reservations for 14 people with an app on my phone. I’ve used an app to get a taxi in a major metropolitan area.

I get messages on my phone from apps that suggest things to see and places to eat. I can be eating at a local restaurant and see a banner on my phone that asks, “Are you eating …?” and it knows where I am. I can follow my friends as we travel from different origin points to a common destination.

I can see and talk to my two-year-old niece using Skype or FaceTime although she lives almost 2,000 miles away.

Technology has its place. For marketers, it helps us add more credibility to our media buys. We can see the needle move and look back at the dates of our campaign to correlate how the message was received.

I look at a popular online retailer called Amazon.com. I hear a lot of retailers who wish they could be the next Amazon. Amazon started as an online bookseller and now sells almost anything imaginable. Amazon is constantly working on itself to make the purchasing experience with them better. So what is their latest move? Amazon has opened its first bricks-and-mortar bookstore in Seattle. Have they come to the end of their technological journey? Of course not. It’s possible they’re going to find that the human connection can be as important as convenience.

Technology has invaded Scouting too. I recently pitched a tent that had plastic guyline tensioners which allow the user to adjust the tension of the rope attached to the tent to lengthen or shorten it as necessary. I also know how to tie a taut-line hitch, which is what the guyline tensioner was designed to replace. The plastic pieces work great until they break. The taut-line hitch doesn’t break.

Technology is a tool. A tool is neither good nor bad. It’s how the tool is used that is important. It’s important to know how things work because technology – as good as it is – may not always work. And, I don’t want to answer a client, “Because the app told me to.”

I enjoy learning about technological advances and how I can use them to my advantage, and I like to know how the technology works to spur ideas of how I can effectively use technology to the benefit of my clients.

Originally published on page 5 of the December, 2015 issue of the Northeast Mississippi Business Journal in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

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