Brands need to be consistent in the content they bring to the various devices and prepare themselves for the era of wearables, mixed reality, machine learning and biologically embedded technology. This is the vision of the Global Search Business Director of PHD London, Sneha Nagesh.

People are more connected than ever. Do brands follow the same trend?
As more consumers are online, marketers have to find ways to value these people. Many brands are doing a great job in trying to match this new flow of data and potential customers. The most successful are those who seek to engage with consumers in the right way at the right time. The attention intervals are getting shorter, so it is important to hit the first one.
There is currently a generation of young consumers – Generation C, Generation Z – whose life is based on sharing, curating and a constant search for authenticity. Brands should strive to create authentic content that helps add value. At the same time, they should be consistent in their message and tone on all devices and channels.
On the other hand, consumers have become so demanding that they want to receive a product or service immediately upon request. There are companies emerging to respond to this challenge, with traditional models facing disruption to influence change in consumers. This is visible in the development of on-demand services: if we like a certain type of food, just use an application and place an order where you want, when you want. The business ecosystem that meets the needs of these consumers is ever-growing: food (Deliveroo), music (Spotify), transport (Uber), hospitality (AirBnB), video (Netflix). Traditional brands should think about partnering with these new players.

Content marketing seems to be the way. Is it more valid than ever in this digital age?
There are more people online, which means they consume and share different types of content. By day, there are 3.5 billion searches on Google and billions of hours of content viewed on YouTube. People are not only consuming content, but also creating and sharing it. Per minute, 400 hours of videos are uploaded and 6,000 tweets are published per second. As we narrow the gap between humans and technology, and indeed experience increasingly sophisticated technologies – chatbots, artificial intelligence, mixed reality, voice research – consumer expectations increase. In an age as connected and evolving as ever, it is increasingly important that brands identify the right context and time to engage consumers with the right content.
There are two major areas that marketers should consider if they want to generate content that resonates with consumers. One is to use the data to identify the insights and opportunities that respond to the needs of consumers. The simple fact of analysing the searches in Google can relieve several of these needs, while listening to social networks can show trends. You have to create content based on this information, using all available data – first, second or third hand. The other is to adjust the content to the equipment where it will be made available. While today this means personalising experiences for mobile devices, within a few years the technology of wearables will gain in popularity and brands must have a vision of how they will adapt to these changes.

With projections pointing to 80 billion devices plugged in by 2025, what challenges do they pose to brands?
The ability to network has already reached more and more objects. The possibility of monitoring both mixed-object objects and physical objects will increase. We can already put sensors on physical objects. “Smart Mirrors”, for example, can identify and display on the screen the parts a customer takes to the proof cabinet. The mirror shows the sizes and colours available for each product and can even make recommendations based on customer preferences. “Smart” clothing can monitor user behaviour, for example knowing when the parts are getting worn out. How can brands use this data effectively? Can this information be used to create new products or even shape loyalty programmes for existing customers?
One of the great challenges that brands will face is to ensure that there is consistency in the links and relationships between different devices and objects. Brands also need to assist governments and other public entities in matters such as security and privacy. With trust in brands becoming a decisive factor in loyalty, this will be instrumental in their success.

In this context, is advertising losing relevance? How can we reach audiences if people are less and less focused and less able to pay attention to offline messages?
In an incredibly complex and information-intensive environment, issues like ad blocking and fake news are becoming serious. As consumers continue to create and share data, as well as have a number of issues that they want to see resolved, brands have an even greater role to play in ensuring that each message they deliver adds value to the consumer. If a brand is creating a video asset, is the most important message being shown within the first three seconds?
Adapting to technological advances such as voice and visual research, AI, and connected devices; ensuring the brand message is consistent and that content is based on solution or value will be crucial to making the advertising relevant to consumers.

The information that exists about consumers goes deeper than ever. Is it a problem or an opportunity for brands? What is the role of data in marketing strategies?
Advances in computing technology have led to the emergence of machine learning, which allows computers to learn to be programmed specifically for this. Computers are also capable of processing natural language. Machine learning is therefore helping to make the big data accessible and manageable in new and exciting ways. 
Brands and marketers have a great opportunity to use this data to improve their marketing efforts and make them more personalised and consumer focused. In the future, some of this information will also bring monetisation opportunities.

Brands are made by people for people. So how is effectiveness achieved if algorithms start to outnumber humanity?
Algorithms already govern many aspects of our lives, not just in search engines and other technologies, but also in operations related to finance, logistics, transportation, and more. In the future, this influence will grow.
With each object and contact point having associated information, and with algorithms prevailing in various industries, having a strong data strategy underlying brand activity is essential. This will make it easier to use algorithms and technology to help brands. In the future, there may come a time when marketers have to target algorithms or machines. This will probably start with basic choices. For example, simple merchandise purchases can be automated based on price. This will mean that brands work more in the pre-purchase phase, in order to influence the rules of the algorithm and thereby choose a brand on behalf of the consumer. But the focus should not be limited to influencing the algorithms. The emergence of personal assistants, such as Alexa or Google Assistant, will also shape the way we choose a brand. Brands and marketers will need to think about anticipating people’s routines and needs so they can have a preference for their purchases. They will also have to create better products to help meet these needs while taking into consideration sustainable supply chains.

Given all the above, is media planning also at a point of no return? What challenges does the industry face?
There are cultural, political and social challenges associated with any technology that is widely adopted. Scale is one of those challenges: the best technology is still expensive – a Microsoft HoloLens costs more than $3,000. It is not easy to test technology because demonstration products are limited and nothing is better than experiencing them ourselves.
Another major challenge is the development of technology and content – since technology has not yet gained scale, companies do not invest heavily in content development and technically all of this is still very difficult. Regulation is a whole new territory – our society is not yet mature enough to absorb all this evolution. Health and safety issues can arise, and there are consumer laws that need to be developed. And as with any innovation, competition is tough – HoloTouch has just sued HoloLens for some patents.
And what is the social impact of some new technologies? What happens if a car without a driver runs over someone? Or if a virtual personal assistant realises that someone has committed a crime? Marketers who are promoting brands using these new media play a role in formulating solutions to these challenges.
But the major challenges will come with the merger between humans and technology. As the use of external devices disappears and is replaced by biologically embedded technology, more complications will arise for advertising. An industry that has settled into disruption will need other methods to reach people.

The original interview is in Portuguese and first appeared in Briefing.pt