How to be “Future Ready” for a career in marketing


future readyI was challenged by my friends at Dell to write a post on what it would mean to be “Future Ready” … How do we prepare and remain relevant for the next 5-10 years of business?

I’m up for the challenge and here is my first insight:  Don’t worry about Ello.

But seriously.

OK. Here are the trends I will be looking for and a few career-antidotes to make sure you are lean, mean and Future Ready!

1. The fourth marketing revolution

Here are the three digital epochs we have been through so far: Presence (powered by the founding of the Internet, Discovery (powered by search engines), and Utility and Service (powered by social/mobile).

The Fourth Epoch will be Immersion, which will be powered by wearable technology and augmented reality. The marketing emphasis will be to get people out of their self-imposed (or Google-imposed) content filter bubbles by getting them to try something fun, bold and immersive in augmented reality.

Future Ready strategy: There is always an advantage for first-movers in each of these epochs. So … be first. The blending of the 2D and 3D worlds is already happening and will probably start to go mainstream in marketing by the end of 2016 or early 2017. Don’t be taken by surprise. Start studying this topic.

2. The marketing opportunity of malignant complexity

Let’s face it. Nobody really understands how the Internet works. It has grown so large and the growth in its complexity is not linear. With complexity comes vulnerability to hackers and the bad guys. If you think the last 12 months of corporate/international hacking was bad, this is just the beginning. It is going to get much, much worse and very soon.

Future Ready strategy: Remember those oh-so-simple days of differentiating your product through its new lemon scent or stylish floral packaging? The big consumer selling point in the future is going to be SAFETY. You need to spend whatever it takes NOW to put a digital buffer around your business. New businesses will spring up around Internet hacking security insurance policies.

3. The re-birth of content

The Internet is exciting but content is still rather … boring. Let’s face it, we read a blog post like we read a newspaper 50 years ago. We watch YouTube, consuming content passively like we did watching “I Love Lucy” in the 1960s. All that will be changing in the next few years. Shortly, the Internet will surround us like the air that we breathe. We won’t have to worry about a wifi connection or even having an “opener” like a computer or tablet. We will be able to live in our content, touch it, smell it, be it.

Future Ready strategy: At least two Fortune 500 companies I have visited already have an augmented reality department, exploring practical applications for the technology and even driving the development. It’s not too soon for you to be learning about this as well. And it’s not going to be expensive to get into this. We will have crowd-sourced AR platforms like we have WordPress for blogs. Also, we are near the era of bot-generated content and it will be nearly indistinguishable from human writing.

4. Big Data disappears

Well … it won’t exactly disappear. It will still be there. But it won’t be as intimidating as it is now.  We will simply verbalize a question, even a complex question, and get an answer back. We won’t need data scientist or statisticians. The answer will just be there for us. In fact, it will even tell you the right questions to ask to propel your marketing forward!

Future ready strategy: This is an easy one. You won’t have to do anything. This is already happening now, in fact. Amazing new services are popping up every month it seems. Stephen Wolfram (of Wolfram Alpha fame) unveiled new services at SXSW this year that mines all available public data they can find and answers complex questions about the environment, weather, popular culture, and more using common English inquiries. The bucking bronco of Big Data is being broken before our eyes.

5. Career shifts

There’s a lot of buzz going around about a massive loss of knowledge worker jobs in the next decade. I don’t necessarily see that happening for marketing but we will need a shift in job skills needed to keep up and compete.

Future ready strategy: Last week a college student from a major university came up to me after a speech and said “I learned more about social media from your one hour speech than I learned in four years of college.”

This is not necessarily a reflection on my speech but a view of the deplorable situation in marketing education today. I just lectured at a national university that had no classes in digital marketing. How is that possible?

I’m convinced companies are going to have re-train most of these kids when they graduate. Here are the skills you need to compete: Statistics and analytics, digital marketing and advertising strategies, content creation skills, and community management … in addition to the marketing basics of course.

What do you think? What are you doing to future-proof yourself?

This post was written as part of the Dell Insight Partners program, which provides news and analysis about the evolving world of tech. For more on these topics, visit Dell’s thought leadership site PowerMoreDell sponsored this article, but the opinions are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dell’s positions or strategies.

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