Marketing’s Future in the Immersive Internet

Lately, I’ve been spending quite a bit of my “creative thinking time” on the immersive Internet concept.  Simply put, it’s the next technological iteration, stemming from virtual spaces like Second Life and business technologies like Webex. The immersive Internet meshes experiences augmented by technology and social culture. These experiences are then grafted onto our real lives, providing data-rich encounters in touch with the vast depths of knowledge and distraction available on the World Wide Web. Think updating your social network status through a physical gesture and having real-time big data working to make your evening commute more efficient and pleasurable.  Imagine business meetings attended by your avatar in a virtual corporate headquarters.

Is this the “Matrix” come to life or just society’s typical lag to accept innovation and technological revolution? The immersive Internet, for me, raises more questions than it answers at this point in time, but the implications for marketing are profound even at this nascent stage.

We marketers depend on our use of personas to craft relevant messages and deliver on-brand promises. The new hybrid immersed persona this shift will create will have new characteristics we can barely begin to imagine. The access to and processing ability of tremendous amounts of data alone are staggering in their implications. On the other hand, marketers will have the same access and the weight of business resources (hopefully) behind them to adapt or die in the new immersive world.

Websites and apps will become obsolete as experiences trump all. Inbound marketing is already moving in this direction. Current tablet and emerging virtual technologies like Google Glass continue to blur the lines between human and virtual, but for now, user experience is still screen-bound. When all the knowledge currently stored within the Internet becomes an ambient, accessible intelligence network ported through every surface of our tactile lives (it’s coming, people), what form will marketing take?

Billboards in malls can already deliver customized advertising to passersby a la “Minority Report,” and big data currently allows us to deliver extremely targeted ads across social networks and websites. In 20 or 30 years, when the immersive Internet is the new normal, how will marketers sell to consumers with highly refined abilities to tune out white noise and finely honed skills at utilizing data to be informed decision makers?

It is our jobs to stay ahead of the curve and match value with finesse. Does this raise the bar? Yes, it does. This shift will force us to make value and affinity the central core of all strategy. But shouldn’t that be the case now? If you, as a marketer, are not obsessively focused on customer experience, delivering value, and understanding your audience on a deep level, you have already lost. The immersive Internet might raise the stakes, but I believe the game-changing moment has already come and gone.

This content also appeared as a blog post on the National Council for Marketing & Public relations website.