Predicting and Shaping the Future of Marketing

In episode 30 of the Marketing Trends podcast, host Ian Faison discussed the future of marketing with Peter Schwartz — who is Salesforce Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning, as well as a noted futurist and author.

THE FUTURE IS A STORY WAITING TO BE WRITTEN

Peter has spent the last 45 years helping organizations think about the future. As a result, he has always tried to answer questions about new technologies and incoming changes. When it comes to his career as a marketer Peter doesn’t think of himself as a conventional marketer selling tangible products. Instead, he says he’s always marketed and sold ideas for people to act upon.

For Peter, storytelling is key to understanding the future. In his 1991 book, The Art of the Long View, he explains that human beings are storytelling animals — we tell ourselves stories all day to bring context and meaning to our circumstances. The future is the story of our lives. Every story has a clear structure: a beginning, middle, and an end. This is also true of marketing messages, whether they feature explicit or implicit storytelling.

BRANDS CAN INSPIRE THE WORLD OF THE FUTURE

In 1987, Apple Computer released a short film demonstrating the company’s vision of the future in the 2010s. Dubbed Knowledge Navigator, the video successfully predicted the future of touch interfaces, online encyclopedias, and artificial intelligence (AI) voice assistants. This was what every technology company immediately started working towards; all it took was the power of one short film to inspire decades of industry development.

Knowledge Navigator inspired Peter, too. He applied its lessons to his consulting work on Steven Spielberg’s 2002 blockbuster Minority Report, starring Tom Cruise. With the movie’s script, Steven Spielberg, Peter, and their teams set out to influence the vernacular of the future. Before Minority Report, the default filmic template for the future was Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic Blade Runner — but they wanted to change that language, so that ten or so years after Minority Report was released, people would say new technological innovations were “just like something out of Minority Report!”

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE WILL PLAY A MAJOR ROLE IN THE STORY OF THE FUTURE

From a marketing standpoint, the future is full of exciting new stories to tell — many of them featuring AI in a key supporting role. In Peter’s view, marketing is about understanding the people you’re trying to reach, and AI is the perfect tool to match individuals with the right messages. AI can recognize the patterns in the ‘data sets’ of human behavior on the fly, allowing marketers to speak to the real concerns of their audiences in real time, at scale.

Peter suggests that people shouldn’t be too worried about AI taking jobs away. AI will certainly change demand for some jobs, but — as the history of innovation has shown time and again — it will inevitably end up creating more jobs than it replaces. For example, people have suggested that truck drivers will be replaced by autonomous vehicles, but Peter says this isn’t the whole story. While it’s true that the truck drivers of the future won’t be in the cabs of trucks, they’ll still be truck drivers — sitting in cozy offices, driving trucks remotely through city streets before handing them off to AI on freeways.

For more of Peter Schwartz’s future predictions and marketing insights, listen to episode 30 of the Marketing Trends podcast (featuring a special introduction by Alec Baldwin) brought to you by Salesforce Pardot.