Successful Marketing in 4th Industrial Revolution. A road map for brands ...

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This blog is an introduction and background to my “6 Pillars of marketing for the 4th Industrial Revolution” - a series of blogs that will outline the key considerations for brand marketers & business as we move into the 4th Industrial revolution.

It is a general overview about Artificial Intelligence and the 4th Industrial Revolution ( 4IR), the hope is that it provides some context for the “6 Pillars of 4IR marketing” posts that will follow.

Before I start, I want to clarify that this is all about the future, and in the words of Alibaba founder Jack Ma,"There are no experts of the future, only of the past", and that includes me. I have always had my head buried in the future but it certainly doesn’t mean i’m always right  

The 4IR and AI can seem like scary subjects as they are complex and often misunderstood and they represent huge changes, and with that comes a lot fear. What has surprised me however, is how little information there is about these subjects and marketing, Ive been studying Machine Learning at MIT and in my class of 500 there are hardly any marketers, I would say less than 5%, this to me is a real concern. The 4IR and AI will change everything about industry and marketing, so we as marketers need to skill-up!

Hopefully these blogs will increase awareness in the marketing community and provide some added motivation to go on and study it - and study it you must.

So, to begin with, in the words of Klaus Schwab, Founder of the World Economic Forum and inventor of the 4IR term,  

"The 4th Industrial Revolution is the fusing of the digital, the virtual and the physical". 

At its core, this means that humans are moving to a time where they will be able to access and integrate with digital information in ways that will permanently change their perceptions, experiences, knowledge and sensory engagement with the world.  We will be human, but with the knowledge and abilities of computers, we will be able to experience the world – and each other – in virtual and augmented ways, and utilise data to enhance and personalise our experience. 

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Image of “Neural Network Architecture” courtesy of MIT copyright courtesy of Massachusetts institute of technology

 If you think this won't happen quickly then I think you will be surprised. Tech that is truly beneficial has a way being adopted very quickly, particularly if it is low cost, just look at smart phones, all 4.5 billion of them – when was the first smart phone?

 To understand how this will effect us as marketers, we need to understand a bit about General AI, but more importantly Narrow AI, Machine Learning and algorithms like Neural Networking, as they are the tech that enable the 4IR to occur. Once we have done this I will come back to 4IR and give examples of how that tech is being applied to marketing and business in general. 

General AI , which we are nowhere near yet, is when a machine has the abilities and perhaps sentience of a living being, plus all the data processing capabilities of a machine and all the problem solving advantages that go along with that. It will basically be an infinitely smart life form – when this happens we will be the second smartest species on the planet. That’s a simplified version but I don't need to dwell on this as we are nowhere near that yet. 

 Narrow AI however, is a machine that is able to do things like a human in one very narrow, specific field – such as drive a car, speak to us, etc. 

 In the words of the legend that is my Professor at MIT – Devavrat Shah; 


Image of courtesy of MIT. Professor Devavrat Shah - Director of Statistics and Data Science Center at MIT.  

More importantly, for our purposes as marketers, is Machine Learning, a field of Narrow AI that uses data to find patterns we as humans simply cannot find, and then uses those patterns to make accurate predictions. 

 Again, Mr Shah at MIT shows us the way... 

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 Image of courtesy of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Now most of the changes to business, marketing and culture in general, the good ones and the scary, "job stealing" ones, are related to Machine Learning, and a lot of those fears are legitimate, but a balanced view is needed. 

Machine Learning has only really been around in an easy to use format since 2012, when a form of Machine Learning - "Neural networks" (see above) - were supercharged and re-branded "Deep learning" by a Mr Jeffrey Hinton. It is this form of narrow AI that uses masses of data and is able to find patterns that are connected to desirable outcomes. It answers questions such as “what trends are growing”, “what new conversations and opinions are forming”, “what Videos will customers respond to” etc, and creates predictions and finds patterns that no human brain has a hope of finding. So now let's go back to the 4IR. 


Imagine you could take the power of Machine Learning, and using tech, monitor your body, all its signals, issues (physical and psychological), DNA, things like levels of cortisol, dopamine etc, and have the tech communicate with you and recommend what you need to do to relax, think faster, perform better, stay healthier, avoid sickness etc – that is an example of combining "data with the physical" or a cybernetic system. 

The new Apple watch is testing this, measuring cortisol in your body (the stress hormone) from your sweat, and that’s just the start. Imagine what marketers can do to this kind of physical response data - perhaps we need an ethics discussion here?

Or, if you really want your noodle baked about cybernetic systems and ethics, how about "eye overlays", where we have a contact lens with a screen display linked to the internet, accessing and showing us everything we need to know about our environment - including info on the brands, products and… the people we see. 


Image courtesy of “Hotel Artemis” © 2018 GLOBAL ROAD ENTERTAINMENT, LLC

Eye overlays could give us a heads-up display with product information something like this.. some nice branding there Chivas.


Image from Anon Film, courtesy of Sky Cinema, Anonymous Endeavour and Netflix

The above example would use and ML algorithm something like "K nearest Neighbour", its what Google uses right now on Google Lens, to identify things for you and label them – simplez.. Or, lets tie in some personal data linked to facial recognition tech (more Machine Learning) and give us this view on our eye overlay... 

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Image from Anon Film, courtesy of Sky Cinema, Anonymous Endeavour and Netflix

Scary? Doesn’t have to be and can do wonders for society but in the wrong hands (like all tech) yes, this kind of tech could have all kinds of societal ramifications, and China is already using facial recognition to monitor its public.  So this needs a massive public debate about ethics and how we use this tech and the data it generates..

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 And heres one being created right now..Bionic contact lens: Image courtesy of University of Washington. 

 And Elon Musk goes one further - of course - he is worried general AI will become smarter than us and perhaps dominate us, so he’s creating a "Neural Lace" - a brain lace (yes, a piece of tech woven into the brain) that connects us to the internet and helps us process data at computer speed.  Say wha?? Check it out, he’s serious, and he getting there. What are the ramifications for people with that little puppy in there head - some one say Super human? If you want to see a dystopian version of this then check out he film “upgrade” on Netflix.

But what about the medical benefits of this kind of tech. Imagine Narrow AI monitoring your blood and detecting, v v v v v v early some form of cancer and then using your DNA and families DNA history (and that of billions of others) to recommend personalised drugs to try and get rid of it. Or mapping your body parts and using 3d printers to grow you a new kidney (or any body part getting old) with your own stem cells made out of an organic / synthetic hybrid. This could mean you could live to a 100, maybe 200 or longer. What are the philosophical ramifications of that. So thats the kind of thing we are looking at, and should provide a small frame of reference when thinking about marketing in this coming environment.


But wait, theres more..what about the “Virtual” bit of the definition of the 4IR? This really refers to humans blending their physical experience with a Virtual, Mixed and Augmented reality experience - this hasn’t really started yet, mainly because "Social VR", hasnt taken off.

Social VR (or social AR & mixed Reality) are the spaces we meet each other in a Virtual or Augmented world, Avatars and Humans mixing, enabling us to immerse or scan change our entire visual environment or overlay the physical environment with on that is the partly Virtual.

This has huge ramifications, every product launch, concert, family gathering can be captured and engaged in VR / AR / MR, and then replayed and re-engaged. Imagine selling 10,000 tix to a live concert and another MILLION to people in VR. Volume cameras enable us to do this right now and ive been working on a car launch to do exactly this. Or "Mixed reality" where we can meet and also project objects into our real work using Volume cameras - or VR / AR systems like like Microsoft’s Holo lens or Magic Leaps “One”. 

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Images courtesy of Microsoft’s Hololens

I will get into these in detail in my later posts but think about it like this. 

In social Virtual it’s a whole new world which is arguably more attractive and more interesting than the real world, it's been held back by computing power and a lack of the social element but that is changing – fast. Mixed reality on the other hand allows us to overlay and interact with Virtual items - in the real world – transformational indeed. 

We are at the very beginning of one of the biggest periods of transformation in history, where what it means to be human will start to change as the digital, physical and virtual combine. For marketers who have a thirst for knowledge, an open mind and an ability to learn quickly, and employ a "test and learn" methodology, this will be an incredibly exciting period, affecting all brands and all agencies - none will be able to rest on their laurels. 

My "6 pillars of 4 IR marketing" are a road map of considerations to help you succeed in this environment as marketers, none of it is new, but hopefully it is clear, concise and insightful. So if you are interested please sign-up and click on. I will release one blog a week for six weeks.

The future marketing landscape is an exciting place to be and will benefit those who are always learning, well informed by data, prepared to test and be wrong, and be quick, and not many will be protected by privilege or hereditary…

Dudley Nevill-Spencer +44(0)7900 241 557