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The future of marketing: What will it look like in 500 years?

It’s easy to imagine what the world might look like in ten or even fifty years time, but what will New Zealand’s biggest sectors look like in 500 years’ time? Thanks to our friends at Tech Futures Lab, we went out to some of New Zealand’s most inspiring business leaders and asked them to imagine a far, far away future. Here’s The Warehouse Group’s head of content marketing Cassie Roma on the future of marketing.

500 years intrinsically feels like a long time. But if my 38 years on the planet is anything to go by, 500 years is a merely a blink of the universe’s eye, a flutter of its wings, a single exhaled breath. And whilst I am fairly certain that I won’t be around to see it, it’s fun to think about where humanity might be in 500 trips around the sun. Even more fun is pontificating on where marketing and communications might fit into the proverbial fold of the future.

As I wonder all the wonders and ponder all the ponders – I force myself to believe in the promise of a kinder, positive future. How will we live, eat, work, play, form communities, and thrive in centuries ahead? Will we all be communicating wordlessly through neural shunts or embedded chips that deliver thoughts seamlessly between people – kind of like AirDrop but for our innermost reckons? Will we even need languages at all or will we be hard-wired (literally) to understand a single “human vernacular” that’s based more on brainwaves than uttered words?

Money might not be a thing.

Whaaaat?!

No more dolla-dolla-bills y’all?
Wow, imagine if money wasn’t a thing today! A girl can sure dream.

And what about work? Work in whatever iteration it takes won’t look anything like it looks today. It can’t. The lines drawn across cultural belief systems will either become deeper or more engrained, or they might just blur so much that we all simply are when we’re together. Ah, the world of imagination, eh.

Before we move too far forward in pondering on where our species and our industries might be in 500 years, it’s important to get a good grounding in where we are now when it comes to how we live, work, communicate and interact. Right now we’re living in the most connected time ever known to humanity. We can reach anyone, anywhere, at any time, in almost any way. The magic of our digital-dawn is that we’re connected. Super-duper connected. The reality of this dawn though, is that we’re more disconnected from ourselves and each other than we’ve ever been.

With the democratisation of media and with the glut of social media apps that fill our days, there’s no line anymore between “on” and “off.” We’re addicted to being busy. WE MUST BE BUSY TO BE IMPORTANT! Even if busy isn’t particularly effective. As professionals, we’re addicted to e-mails, DMs, likes, love-hearts, comments, shares and every other dopamine-inducing interaction that keeps us glued to our phones, computers, and smart TVs. Big businesses and media companies buy and sell our attention as a commodity. They tell us we have less of an attention-span than that of goldfish, yet blink in wild-wonder when we can binge-watch eight seasons of Game of Thrones in a single working week (guilty as charged on this one.)

In 2019 right here in New Zealand we’re losing our young people to suicide and depression at a higher rate than anywhere else in the world. Professional people who once were able to turn-off when they went home are now tethered to their emails and the expectations that 24/7/365 is the new 9-to-5. The negative effects of our new media landscape and our new world of always-on content consumption is are palpable. Anxiety, depression, angst. I know this all sounds a bit doom and gloom for the here-and-now, and that’s because it should. We’re all living in a perfect storm of connectedness that serves to really to disconnect us. But, there’s hope for a look ahead that is both healing and truly acts to connect us in ways that fill our souls and our curiosity quotients at the same time.

In the world of marketing and communications, we’re not yet woke – but it feels like we’re waking. Looking ahead 500 years is a lot of fun. Why? Because we can reimagine a future that we want, and then leave a backwards road-map for our posterity that leads to better days ahead. In thinking ahead, I do have to giggle a wee bit because 100 years ago we thought we’d have flying cars & just thirty years ago I thought we’d all be like Marty McFly getting around town on our hoverboards.

We’re not yet at flying cars or hoverboards. But, we do have Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok. So we’re close, right? I should mention that, at the time of me writing this, an egg is the most liked photo on Instagram ever. An egg. Humans on the whole are quirky, nuanced, silly, arty, intelligent, and fairly predictable. I’d like to think that, in 500 years, we’d be just as quirky and surprising as a species as we are now.

In my mind’s eye I can see a world that is connected in ways that simplify our lives. Marketing and communications in 500 years will exist to better people. To better our health, the health of the planet – and to deepen connections between us, not separate us algorithmically into buckets of cultural chasms & differing ideologies. When we’re more connected and more accepting of the beauty of differences, I’d like to think that the arm-wrestle style of work-life-balance that we have now will become more a handshake. Imagine a world in which profit is not the be-all and end all of business success. Imagine technology helping to serve the mental, physical, and environmental wellbeing of all of us. Oh, to dream!

As it is right now, tech is almost inextricable from who we are as a species and from who we are as individuals. Fast-forward half a millennium and I imagine there’ll be so much seamless connection that we’ll need not to just reimagine our professions, but our purpose on Earth. With more automation in messaging and more individualised needs being met quickly, we’ll have time to build better societies. We’ll understand that the potential of knowledge is limitless, and then truly embrace our limits and sentient, conscious, mortal beings.

In my idealised version of a world 500 years from now, connectedness will mean just that. We’ll be connected. All of us. Marketing as it is might not exist (in fact, I’d put money of betting that it won’t) instead, it will serve a greater purpose – or, rather, many greater purposes. Flashing banners, shouty offers, interruptive media, soulless transactions will be truly a thing of a very distant past. Buying and selling media space like we’ve always done might be better reimagined as a place to share ideas, art, and goodwill. Like a Gumtree for Good & Goods. Or summat.

With trends like de-cluttering and Kondo-ing hitting the world by storm, I think we can safely say that we’ve already hit peak “stuff” in the Western World. The idea of life as a competition in which we must acquire more feels staid now. And, we’re already seeing changes leaning in a kinder direction. Purpose-driven businesses are not only talking the talk, but they’re writing it into the DNA who they are & of how they behave.

So when I gaze into my crystal ball and think about my profession as it is now and where it might be in 500 years, I see a world that, when reimagined, exists beyond the primacy of profit in driving any of us. Without profit being that which drives all professions, we are then left with a whole lot of the good stuff that makes up humanity at its core. Art, poetry, music, empathy, and caring leaders. Brands, if they exist, exist for good. In a time of true connection, connectivity will be more than the tech that serves us ads and commoditises our already overladen attention spans.

500 years from now, I see kinder tides on the horizon.
And I see marketing and communications as a tide that will eventually lift all ships.

About the writer

Cassie Roma is the head of content marketing for The Warehouse Group and has previously worked with brands such as Air New Zealand, ANZ Bank, Mighty River Power and NZME on their social media and digital storytelling. She also sits on the global board for VidCon, a global event celebrating online influence and video content.

About Tech Futures Lab

Are you looking to be more intentional about your life, career and impact on the world in the context of massive technological, organisational, social and environmental change? The Postgraduate Certificate in Human Potential for the Digital Economy, new from Tech Futures Lab, is designed to help you do exactly that. Registrations now open for our February 2020 intake. Find out more at its website or call +64 (9) 522 2858.​

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