Future shock: ‘In five years’ time we’ll view Minority Report with nostalgia’

7 Feb 2013

Digital marketing guru Mark Schaefer

Digital marketing guru Mark Schaefer believes we are only in the silent movie stage of the social and mobile revolution. Schaefer was in Dublin today at the Digital Marketing Institute (DMI) conference on the confluence of mobile and social media.

There’s a scene in the movie Minority Report where Tom Cruise’s character is biometrically recognised by his eyeballs and a computer yells out at him on the street, “John Anderton you look like you could use a Guinness!”

To the movie audiences of 2002 when that film was released, that scenario must have seemed novel. To the 2013 users of smartphones, search engines and social networks, this scenario is becoming less surprising.

The speed at which digital marketing is evolving in step with social media and increasingly powerful mobile devices and apps is breadth taking. Already apps like Hailo will bring a taxi to your location within 10 minutes while McDonald’s has an app in the US that will set in motion the frying of your burger when your mobile device uses GPS to tell its servers you’re within a kilometre of the restaurant.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, said Schaefer, who addressed the DMI conference.

Schaefer is a former journalist who went on to manage the global marketing for brands such as Coca-Cola and Budweiser, and who today advises IBM, AT&T, Johnson & Johnson and the UK government on their digital market strategies. He has also written books, such as the Tao of Twitter and Return on Influence.

Schaefer explained that the internet as we know it has become an ever-present entity in our lives, increasingly so because of the power of mobile devices and social and mobile networks.

“Social is driving mobile. Mobile is driving social. It is hard to distinguish the two! Social media is all about publishing and feedback. Mobile allows that to happen instantaneously and from wherever you are. Each trend is helping the other explode in popularity. And beyond mobile and social is augmented reality. The internet will surround us like the air that we breathe. In five years, we will view the Minority Report movie with nostalgia.”

Breaking boundaries

The speed of innovation we are experiencing in the world today, Schaefer explained, is impacting on the world of traditional business.

“Crowdsourcing ideas and innovation is becoming a legitimate business model for even the largest companies now. A new tech/university/business/municipal partnership in New York City is blurring the traditional entrepreneurial roles and deliverables. A US entrepreneur is paying business-oriented students to skip college and start their own companies. In Ireland, CoderDojo is enabling entrepreneurial high-tech skills in schoolchildren. The traditional boundaries of innovation are being smashed.”

It is no accident that after Facebook’s disappointing fourth-quarter results, Wall Street took solace in the fact that 23pc of the social network’s advertising revenues now come from mobile.

Schaefer believes Facebook will be under increased pressure to make money from mobile.

“This is a freight train heading right into Facebook’s business model. Facebook derives almost all of its revenue from advertising. How many ads do you see on the company’s mobile app? Currently, zero with the exception of ‘sponsored’ posts.

“As the adoption of mobile technology as the preferred mode of internet access continues and intensifies, the revenue stream is at risk. People generally hate mobile ads even though they still want the free Facebook service so it seems like an uphill battle. Facebook is working on this problem and they will solve it. There is no alternative.”

But what does this mean for the consumers who could see their rights to privacy eroded by technologies that strive to tell brands and advertisers everything about them?

“Why hasn’t there been a backlash already? Some of the privacy violations have been very arrogant and serious. It’s like slowly turning up the temperature to boil a lobster in a pot. If it happens gradually, we don’t notice or act and then it’s too late. Our privacy is eroding week by week and we are being conditioned to accept it and, in fact, hand over more and more information all the time. It’s possible that an absolute privacy crisis could stir public opinion but short of that, people generally don’t care.”

‘The internet will surround us like the air that we breathe’

So how will we shop in the future? Schaefer gave a glimpse of the future web where augmented reality will enhance our vision.

“As you enter a store a few years from now, your mobile device will trigger a signal that you are there and all of your preferences, sizes, and previous purchases will be loaded. You will no longer need an actual mobile device or screen. You will be able to see offers, discounts and sizes through your web-enabled glasses, and eventually contact lenses.  

“A map in front of you will direct you to the correct department, and by simply looking at a rack we will see price, size, and other information hovering above the product. We’ll be able to see holographic images of ourselves trying on the clothes and then we can accessorise our images by voice command.  

“Mobile devices are just a temporary aggravation before the day when a digital layer is across the entire world, seamlessly integrated with the traditional ways that we communicate, connect, learn, entertain ourselves and shop,” Schaefer predicted.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years