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Years ago, I released a book named Memento that took me way out of my comfort zone. Unlike my previous nonfiction business books, Memento was for a completely new market and required an entirely different approach. It was a giftbook journal featuring a series of questions designed to prompt parents to write down their life stories as a keepsake for their children. Ten months after signing a big publishing deal with Chronicle Books in San Francisco, my family and I packed up and headed to the U.S. for a PR tour leading up to the book’s release.
While the media flurry took the predictable form of radio and print interviews, one appearance that popped into my PR calendar intrigued me. It was to record an infomercial on the Home Shopping Network. When the day of filming arrived, I caught a plane to Fort Lauderdale in Florida. At the airport, I was met by a driver who whisked me straight to the studios for hair and makeup. Little did I know how fascinating the experience would be.
When seeking to understanding their customers over the years, brands and organizations have had little option but to rely on blunt instruments and generalized patterns. The valuable work of marketers, analysts and strategists centred on segmenting society into broad groups based on gender, ethnicity or geographic location. These groupings would then inform how products and messaging could be tailored for relevance. In the modern age of data analytics, however, it is not only possible to understand and target an audience of one but it is increasingly becoming the expectation.
From online shopping to online dating, the digital age has introduced people to a range of options that previous generations could only have dreamed of. For every option that is swiped left or scrolled past, there is an array of others waiting that may or may not be better suited to our personal preferences.
Years ago, social media well and truly lived up to its name. Platforms which enabled the easy exchange of photos and statuses, these media allowed individual engagement for purely social purposes. The last decade has seen social media evolve into something much more overwhelming, addictive and ultimately lucrative than their original ‘social’ role, especially as their most native users have grown up into their most powerful and profitable consumers.
While trends are known to come and go, it is not often you see the economy come full circle. Over 100 years ago, before the turn of the century and the advent of the Industrial Revolution, the notion of a salary was not commonplace. Some estimate that as little as 10% of workers had one, the rest of the population surviving off what we would now refer to as the ‘gig economy’.
Whatever the circumstance, one thing we can be sure of is that the future is coming. No matter the success of the standards and systems of the past, disruption is inevitable. Incidentally, it is in crises that the future often arrives. Think back to some of the biggest technological innovations of the past and you will find yourself in the greatest wars and struggles of history.
COVID is no different. The past few months have seen the future that we knew was awaiting us arrive far ahead of schedule bringing with it the innovations and solutions that we were promised in a decade.