US marketing tech has transformed how brands communicate

The marketing world has undergone a revolution in the past decade. There have been two major drivers of this: the rise of media-savvy and empowered consumers, and the rapid innovation in the digital technology space. Most of that innovation has come from the US.

It has led to Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Oracle and Cisco having combined market caps of $US2.2 trillion ($2.9 trillion), and to the US being the No 1 hi-tech country in Bloomberg’s 2015 most innovative countries report. It is little wonder Sir Martin Sorrell, head of British marketing giant WPP, says that “the world is not globalising, it’s Americanising”.

The story of Facebook is well known, from a website enabling on-campus social interaction at Harvard, to today’s 1.13 billion active daily users. No media conglomerate has ever been able to reach a sixth of the globe’s population before, so Facebook is massive from a pure media-reach perspective, let alone the sophisticated data on each individual that is being captured.

Other US companies such as Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Snapchat have followed suit, building platforms that millions of people want to use every day, and providing marketers with either a mass-media or a hyper-targeted solution, whichever is required.

Apple has been the big marketing enabler with the iPhone and iPad. It meant consumers had the internet at their fingertips. It has empowered consumers, and changed the way they purchase products and services. In 2016, 90 per cent of Australians use a smart phone and half of those are made by Apple.

Google’s initial aim was to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible, but by the mid-2000s it was becoming a key weapon in marketers’ armoury. First through its search engine capabilities, then through its acquisitions of YouTube and what later would become Google Maps, then through the launch in 2007 of its Android mobile platform and a year later Google Chrome. These innovations have seen advertising revenue on the various Google platforms rise to $US60bn annually.

The other achievers in the marketing innovation space have been those companies that provide the tools and platforms to bring together the disparate marketing touchpoints, in order to drive customer engagement — the search activity, the social media, the digital ads, the traditional ads, the websites, the emails, the loyalty programs and so on. Again it’s the American companies, Adobe, Salesforce and Oracle, that have led in this space. Their Marketing Cloud platforms enable marketers to mix the data they have on their customers, as well as all of the various communications and content they have developed, and then personalise campaign messages to customers across multiple digital assets and devices.

The next few years will see the uptake of the Internet of Things, where almost any object will be able to receive and send data online. Companies such as Cisco are leading the charge here. For marketers, the opportunities are endless: switch on your coffee machine from the other end of your house when your alarm clock goes off; automatically order your coffee pods when they are close to running out. There are already more than 10 billion connected devices in the world.

Augmented reality, virtual reality and artificial intelligence are also reaching a point where marketers will be able use them well. In the AR space, it took only days for McDonalds to introduce Pokemon Go “gyms” at all of their 3000 Japanese restaurants. Pokemon Go is another brilliant example of American technology, that also highlights the massive changes taking place in the marketing landscape: it took 38 years for radio to reach 50 million people; Pokemon Go caught that many in just 19 days.

US companies have done a terrific job in the past decade in driving marketing innovation through technology. South Korea’s Samsung, and China’s Tencent and Alibaba conglomerates, won’t let the US companies have it all their own way over the next decade, however. It’s an ever-evolving space, and one that the top marketers are constantly assessing.