As the end of the year draws near, I find it a worthy opportunity to reflect on the marketing trends of 2016 and speculate on what to expect in 2017—from a Millennial perspective, of course. To do this, I examined the Millennial I know best: me.
On a personal note, most of my media, shopping, consumption, and social-tool preferences remain the same, though I have become much more conscious of both my data usage and the personal data I share. Chipotle Mexican Grill remains a staple in my diet, I’m still watching plenty of Netflix (if you haven’t seen “Stranger Things” yet, add it to your queue), and I’m using Snapchat as frequently as ever. I recently acquired my own voice assistant, an Amazon Echo, and, for now, use it primarily to play my Spotify playlists and set timers for baking frozen pizzas.
As a marketer, I’ve learned that what I do, above and beyond the art of storytelling and creativity, is now rooted in science. Marketing has become a technology- and data-driven practice. To that point, Michael Becker, managing partner at mCordis, where I work, estimates that if you’re in the business of counting things or pressing buttons, you could be out of a job in five years because it will be “outsourced to the algorithm.” While this is just a possibility, one thing is for sure: Marketing is moving toward automation. That timely “thank you” response you receive after registering for an event doesn’t come from a worker sitting idle at his desk; it’s programmed into a machine. Marketing automation is critical if marketers strive to serve an individual on the individual’s terms, in real time, yet at scale.
I’ve also become aware of how outrageous it is to declare Millennials as your target demographic. Perhaps I’m writing myself out of a job by saying that, but there are 92 million Millennials in the United States alone. If we were a country, Millennials would be the 15th largest country in the world—the same size as Egypt. Historically, age (and location) worked for segmentation purposes. But that method is no longer effective in this digital age, where interests, preferences, and explicit and implicit intent matter more. We have the technology and capability at an individual level to slice and dice that way, as well.
Earlier I mentioned becoming more aware of the personal data I share. That aligns with the notion of digital sovereignty, which, according to Becker, is about an individual’s right to control, access, and reap the value of his digital self. In other words, the data collected from our connected devices about our physical and digital activities should be owned or, at a minimum, co-owned, by the individual subject of the data, rather than that of the companies or agencies that collect or broker it through third-party markets.
In 2017, I predict—and hope—that my fellow Millennials will become much more aware of how much information about our personal activities, habits, and intent is being collected and stored. It is absolutely shocking. Movies and books, such as “The Circle,” portray a future that could be a scary dystopia for some and a nirvana for others. Either might become a reality if we continue to turn a blind eye to how our data is used.
All marketers play a critical role in shaping society, especially now, as competition shifts toward finding ways to understand, enable, and simplify experiences for the connected individual—at scale and on mutually agreeable and balanced terms.
Good luck to all of us as we head into 2017.