Our technology-driven world is evolving at an exponential pace. According to IBM, 90 percent of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone--that's how much noise we're making online!

The (multi)million-dollar question is: How can we possibly predict what the future will look like, so we can better prepare today for the realities of tomorrow?

To help answer this question, I reached out to 17 of the world's most prolific super-influencers to learn what they think about the future of marketing and technology. Each of these influencers reaches more people than the populations of the world's small countries. Combined, they reach enough people to be in the top 100 nations.

These folks accurately predicted the future once before--investing in social media to become powerful, personal brands--which is why I reached out to see what they think is coming next.

The responses varied widely. For example, automation plays a major role in how a few influencers think about the future of marketing, and they highlight elements like mixed-reality and artificial intelligence as necessary tactics that we must all embrace.

However, other influencers highlighted old-school marketing strategies that will still resonate in the future, including elements like brand identity, authenticity and good old-fashioned advice like "deeply understand your audience."

The question I asked them was: What does the future of marketing look like, and how should brands prepare themselves now to thrive in the future? Here are their responses:

1. Create a Winning Identity

The future of marketing will include a strong focus on digital identity, visibility, and credibility. Before you can market yourself appropriately, you need to first define who you are and where you stand as a brand. This is important to know when building your identity. If you're unsure of what you do or who you are, you'll find that your customers will also be confused as well.

-Juntae DeLane, Founder, Digital Branding Institute

2. Invest in the Millennial Method: Digital, Mobile, Social and Influencers

In order for brands to thrive, marketers and business owners need to think digital, mobile, and social media first. If your website does not provide a seamless experience for users, if your website is not mobile optimized and if you have not put a social strategy into place... YOU SHOULD!

Millennial consumers are doing most of their browsing and shopping on mobile devices and are more influenced by their peers than branded content or branded advertising. The time is now to start building relationships with Influencers in your space to activate for campaigns, product launches, event promotions, and to overall amplify brand awareness.

-Chelsea Krost, CEO & Millennial Mindset Marketing Strategist at Chelsea Productions

3. Map the Path to Purchase

Mobile phones, search, and social media have changed shopper paradigms forever. Today, shopper's have unique paths to purchase tailored to their lifestyle. This has had a profound impact on how, when and where consumers engage with brands.

Marketing needs to win the new digital path to purchase by understanding, managing, and owning the key digital engagement points through content that delivers conversion. This will be done with shopper technology, shopper strategy experts, and content/influencer networks committed to generating authentic content to drive conversion.

- Ted Rubin, Social Marketing Strategist, Acting CMO of Brand Innovators, and Co-Founder of Prevailing Path

4. Listen and Engage

After a century of mass marketing, mass distribution and mass communication where brands learned to push out a message, consumers are now expecting two-way communication and an individualized experience. Take a moment to consider how much more engagement you could get if you listened to buyers.

In other words. STOP MAKING THE KIND OF MARKETING YOU HATE.

Connection fundamentally changes the nature of an item. The winners of the future will be the brands that move from a commodity to a full experience.

-Warren Whitlock, Director of Startup Grind Las Vegas

5. Use Strategy to Leverage Technology

Marketing has become about smart technology. CMOs are on track to spend as much as CIOs this year on technology, and most are very willing to invest big money to get the results that are being demanded from them. But, most are finding that there is a disconnect between the promise of results and the reality. While some of this failure is because CMOs have chosen the wrong tool for the job, most is due to a lack of strategy integration.

With the glut of money being poured into technology acquisitions, the focus has been on hiring technologists (tool-level specialists), not marketing strategists, to manage and implement. However, CMOs who bring in marketers who a) know strategy, b) can look for integration and usage opportunities, and c) can provide strategic technology acquisition recommendations, will ultimately gain the edge in the marketing-tech arms race.

- Steve Farnsworth, Chief Marketing Officer, The Steveology Group

6. Incorporate Mixed Reality

In the near future, nearly everything will be a marketing interface and "mixed reality" will be the only reality. Brands must invest now in agile talent that understands that disruption is opportunity. Marketing mavens must become part technologists and data scientists. As artificial intelligence delivers the holy grail of the "market of the one," storytellers will need to know how to weave addictive branded experiences with the thread of mixed reality.

-Glen Gilmore, Strategist and Faculty member at the Rutgers School of Business, Executive Programs, Digital Marketing

7. Prepare for Artificial Intelligence

The increasing complexity of digital marketing is making technology a vital partner for the digital marketer. It is becoming a science and not just an art. In 2017 and beyond, expect to see marketing automation become mainstream and more sophisticated.

This also means that even artificial intelligence will become an integral part of marketing for even small to medium business. We can see the start of this with the rise of chatbots and other enhancements. The future will see the continuing rise of the marketing robots that all brands should be preparing for.

-Jeff Bullas, Founder at JeffBullas.com

8. Constantly Experiment with New Tech

Brands that are concerned about their long-term recognition, and being at the forefront of the next major computing platform (think mobile 10 years ago), will have a strong leg up on the competition. Experimentation and building early relationships with the platforms sure to dominate down the road will provide long-term advantages for any company, big or small.

If nothing else, designate a small internal team to understand the VR/AR landscape, where the opportunities are today, and where they'll be in 12 months. When you are ready to put resources into a project, you won't be starting from zero for an understanding. And it is a complicated ecosystem to understand.

- Robert Fine, Publisher, Cool Blue Media

9. Focus on the One-on-One Experience

The future of marketing will revolve around relevance. Whether it's in your targeting for advertising (social or otherwise) or being present in search for relevant terms or leveraging A.I. to route customer inquiries to the right opportunities, we have to commit ourselves to stop talking to everyone and start talking to the one-on-one.

We've got to stop thinking of marketing as an end sum game and go after the relevant audiences that will be fulfilled and enriched by what we have to offer. The companies that do that will see long-term, lasting results.

-Jason Falls, Chief Instigator at the Conversation Research Institute

10. Embrace Voice Recognition

Marketing technology will make true 1:1 interaction with consumers possible at scale, and that hyper-targeted reality is perhaps not surprising. What will be even more disruptive, however, is the move to voice and audio as primary information retrieval and consumption modalities.

Amazon Echo and Google Home are just the first steps in an inexorable march toward a world where consumers use voice to research, interact, and buy. The movie "Her" may very well become largely reality, and the successful marketers of the near future will be those that create compartmentalized, structured content that is easily found via voice query, and easy on the ears, in every way.

-Jay Baer, President of Convince & Convert

11. Start Using Robots Now

Without a doubt, the future is automated. As artificial intelligence continues to advance by leaps and bounds, marketing's future becomes more strategic and creative for the humans, while the machines take over any repetitive tasks. This does mean significant human capital dislocation; we won't need people to copy and paste data from spreadsheet to slide, or to manually analyze reports.

Brands should be prepared by beginning now in their AI and Machine Learning experimentation, getting a feel for the landscape and what's possible.

-Christopher S. Penn, VP Marketing Technology, SHIFT Communications

12. Invest in Location, Location, Location

It's never been easier to target a market segment than it is today. The advent of Apple's iBeacon and related technologies are leading location-optimized brands to take advantage of location-enabled devices for sending out push notifications to shoppers, leveraging social platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

Hence, brands that will thrive in the future are those that are able to hyper-target their messaging based on identifiable social and geo-locational triggers using immersive marketing campaigns and augmented reality scenarios to engage and influence buying decisions.

-Douglas Idugboe, Co-Founder, Smedemy

13. Broaden the Definition of Media

The future of marketing is its past. New communication channels have opened up, but the same paradigm of much competition and limited attention span means that brands need to consider social media more of a pay-to-play paradigm similar to traditional advertising. They also need to view influencer marketing as paid media and another form of advertising.

Most importantly, brands need to become more visual in their marketing, as if each brand was not only the media, but also the creator of their own TV programming.

-Neal Schaffer, President of Maximize Your Social

14. Give In to the Tech Giants

One of the most powerful mantras in this digital space is to never build your house on rented land. Meaning, keep all your content on your website. Today all content is moving to the cloud. It's time to give up and surrender to Facebook. They want the content, you'll have to give them the content. Seriously. It's time to surrender.

People don't want to visit your website any more. They don't even want your app. They want all their information in their news stream. This means we will be optimizing for Facebook -- as well as Google -- instead of optimizing for people. Yuck. But that's the world we live in, so let's deal with it.

This trend is creating enormous problems for publishers. How do you monetize when Facebook and Apple own your audience?

-Mark Schaefer, Executive Director, Schaefer Marketing Solutions

15. Showcase Real People

Facebook is going all-in on mobile and all-in on video. Brands need to be focusing more than ever on highly engaging storytelling through live and recorded video content that draws their audience in emotionally.

Spotlight customer success stories, showcase real people using your product or service, introduce staff, conduct interviews, go behind-the-scenes, involve your audience on a personal level as much as possible. And, couple your video storytelling with exceptional social customer care--ideally that even includes personalized video content--and you'll have a serious leg up on the competition.

-Mari Smith, Premier Facebook Marketing Expert

16. Be Authentic or Die

The future of marketing looks chaotic! The blur of art and science is mind-bending. Brands need talent on both sides plus a brilliant translator to survive. Social media will continue to grow and expose your brand. Be authentic or die!

-Eve Mayer, CEO/Owner of Social Media Delivered

17. Stay Focused, Humble and Open

Winning marketing teams and brands of the future will be agile, prepared and calculated. The road ahead is filled with distraction and redundancies across the social and digital web with conflicting voices of opinion and best practices.

Smart and savvy marketers will do their research to know where their ideal clients hang out online and how they can best serve them. They will avoid chasing shiny objects yet at the same time must be ready to embrace new trends as they come so that they can provide the best customer experience possible. They need to be aware, humble and open to a new world where the only certainty we have is change.

- Pam Moore, CEO of Marketing Nutz, Founder of Social Profit Factor Training Academy

Although their responses were all very different, all 17 influencers agreed on one truth: we must cater precisely to the consumer--wherever he or she is, and whatever he or she wants or needs. Wherever technology is going, we must go with it and keep experimenting or risk getting left behind.

In other words, the consumer has all the power, and we must cater to our audiences like never before if we want to survive in the future.

Although no one knows exactly what the future will look like, we do know this: In more ways than one, it's already here.

Are you ready?

Published on: Mar 29, 2017