The Age of Anti-Marketing: Human-to-Human Experiences

January 16, 2017

People are smarter than ever. They learn from each other and as a group, adapt quickly to new products and the new behaviors that those products support. The typical buyer has evolved more in the past ten years than they have in the hundred before that. We all have. Our buyers know that they're buyers, and they can smell marketing from miles away.

When I say they can smell marketing, what I really mean is that the average internet-using, tv-watching adult knows when they're being sold something. They especially know when marketing is being hidden inside something that's not typically marketing, like a movie (product placement) or a newspaper (fake news), or social post (clickbait). It's fun to call it out, too. In fact, it's natural to call it out. Like impalas warning each other of a nearby predator, we make sure to flag hidden marketing for our peers.

Social networks have woven our digital lives more closely together than ever. The downvote is more trusted than ever - it's what we use to signal to our fellow impala that what we're experiencing is not good. "Don't spend your minutes on this, you will have wasted them." The way people engage with digital content, and the signals that those engagements raise to the social network they're hosted on, act as a built-in filter for us. Our social networks are programmed to do this, because that's also the only way they know whether we like something or not.

What types of engagement do social technologies have to go off of? Computers only have a few input devices and the variable of time to determine whether a user is loving or hating a piece of content. If social sites don't give users additional means to apply their opinions to the experience, it's pretty difficult to identify whether it’s a good or bad one. Therein lies the simple genius behind the Page Rank. There's a correlation between the number of links to a webpage, and the value of that webpage to its audience. But when opinions are injected into those ranks by means of social inputs (up- and down-votes and the myriad of their reincarnations like Facebook and Buzzfeed’s reactions and of course the most valuable of all: the share), social technologies can utilize a whole host of these inputs to change our digital experience.

While the social technologies we're using are trying their hardest to predict what we'll engage with positively, we're being trained to give our opinion. Every content experience, whether it be within a social network where the input mechanisms are native, or on a website where they're embedded, gives users the opportunity to pass judgement on the experience. It's a user experience that plays off of our innate impala-like tendencies that allow us to warn others of hidden marketing, or just wasted time. It's what keeps marketing from traveling on social networks, and it's why there is really no such thing as B2C or B2B marketing on the web anymore.

Today's web experience is structured for human-to-human interaction, and automated to scale. There is no social network for businesses, because businesses don't conduct business with each other - people do. The marketers that are getting the most attention are those that have orchestrated a team of content creators behind a single brand, and focus them on creating personal experiences for each and every audience member. Perhaps calling them an audience at all is a misnomer. Our audience is now an enormous collection of people, interacting with us and each other, as individuals. Marketers now use a combination of experimentation and instinct to build more content that travels, and less content that doesn't. They're creating content that adds value, not content that teases value. These brands are not hiding their marketing behind something, they're creating experience for people and getting rewarded for them with attention.

That is what marketing looks like today, in 2017. It's more social than ever, it's distributed via more immersive content experiences than ever, and it's more human than ever. If you take those three elements, and imagine them 10 years from now, you have 1) social inputs that are more complex (powered by facial recognition and emotion detection), content experiences that are more immersive (powered by virtual reality and augmented reality) and automation that is more human (powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning). These powerful variables will usher in an age of anti-marketing, where marketers create human experiences in order to grow their companies.

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