The following is a guest post from Jeff Hasen, strategist at POSSIBLE Mobile.
Artificial. Virtual. Augmented. Machine-driven. These and other words have entered the marketer's lexicon.
Out with the old. In with the new.
"There's going to be a lot more innovation and disruptors," Stacy Minero, Twitter's head of content creation, said in an exclusive interview for my new book, "The Art of Digital Persuasion." "I'm not sure how it will play out. I do think that great stories that are rooted in human insight and strike a cultural chord will be sustainable forever."
Of course, human insight has been key for marketers for generations. Minero appreciates the introduction of algorithms but sees them as an element in the modern marketing mix rather than a game-changing end-all.
"You're never going to take humans out of the creative process," she said. "That's because ideas come from understanding mindset and motivation and universal human truths. But I think technology will continue to up our game in terms of optimization, everything from understanding what hair color resonates in a video to the type of product and packaging you should showcase in a shot."
Here are three additional lessons learned during my half-year of spending time with a dozen digital marketing pioneers.
Participate rather than only observe
The decades-old concept of focus groups shouldn't be dismissed even in today's tech-focused world. However, one expert strongly recommends against just listening to others talk about emerging technology, and that we should experience it ourselves.
"I've always been someone who likes to 'live in the future,' and I've been fortunate enough to have roles where I'm working with cutting-edge technology and then going out and speaking to others about what the impacts are," said Dave Isbitski, Amazon's chief evangelist of Alexa and Echo.
"That means constantly looking at new technology trends, learning how they apply to our lives, and in the end teaching people what that future may look like. It helps generate people's ideas and then they run with it. For a marketer, tech adoption is no different than any other topic. Keep on top of the latest buzz and trends, look at what the community is saying, whether through social media or at networking events, and start to use the latest technology in your own life."
The learnings, Isbitski told me, are invaluable.
"Not being a late adopter can have tremendous benefit here," he said. "I've talked to marketers who have been using Alexa since 2015 and the ideas they have for what conversations are possible are very different than someone who has never used a device at all.
"Using early versions of technology today can give you a vision for what tomorrow may look like."
Remember history when it comes to adoption
"Any transformative technology encounters challenges to mainstream adoption in its early lifetime, such as cost, size, comfort, and technical barriers," said Lorraine Bardeen, Microsoft's general manager and studio manager, mixed reality. "We've seen this all before with the very first computers, the internet and mobile phones."
Bardeen said that B2B usage commonly precedes B2C acceptance. That's why she's bullish on Microsoft's HoloLens progress that has come with business growth.
"Just like the evolution of other similar technology, we expect momentum for the technology to begin in the commercial space and then trickle outward to consumers," she said.
Bardeen forecasts a place for all flavors of reality, including mixed, augmented and virtual.
"We believe that these are not separate concepts, but rather labels for different points on a mixed reality continuum," she said. "The reality is that if one succeeds, then the ecosystem succeeds, and we're interested in further education and adoption of the spectrum as a whole.
"Specific to marketing, this technology allows marketers to engage with their audiences in new interactive and immersive ways. The possibilities truly are limitless."
Think experience rather than technology
Google's Jason Spero has a healthy respect for technology. He, however, sees it more as an enabler than a story in and of itself.
"The consumer doesn't see the technology," the vice president of performance media said. "What the consumer sees is that they should be able to continue their game from a tablet to a mobile phone. That is a logical, rational, human thought.
"And so the better we can do in our research of studying those expectations of consumers, of understanding the moments where they expect things of us, and then drag the technology along with us kicking and screaming, we need to build those experiences."
Digital leaders rely as much on the lessons of the past than the vision of the future. We would be wise to follow them down that path.