Want to See the Future of Marketing? Head to Chattanooga

July 26, 2016 Carlos García-Arista

modern marketing

When it comes to predicting the future, the best you can do is make an educated guess.

At least, that’s how it used to be.

Today, some pioneer cities with super-fast, fiber-optic internet connections are bending the space-time continuum so content marketers can actually peer into the future—and innovate their strategies accordingly.

The Chattanooga Experience and the Future of Marketing

There is a small handful of US cities with municipally owned fiber optic networks, including Lafayette, LA, and Bristol, VA. Google is building its own fiber systems in Kansas City and Austin. But none are currently as advanced as Chattanooga’s experimental superspeed internet. Once a decaying city hit by the decline of heavy industry in past decades, Chattanooga, TN (otherwise known as “Gig City”) is now one of the few places on Earth with internet as fast as 1 gigabit per second. That’s about 50 times faster than the US average.

The Chattanooga experience has the potential to inspire many new ideas about creating content and telling stories, but it’s also proof that the demands of modern marketing will be easier to meet with faster internet speeds. Most of those demands will be related to the creation of powerful stories and experiences—and it seems there’s nothing better than high speed to get both the adrenaline and the ideas flowing.

Leading with a Story Will Be Easier

Brands that intend to build story-driven cultures need to find ways to let their customers help shape that story—even more so if their messages have to cross international borders. And when it comes to engaging customers in conversation, video streaming is going to be essential.

You probably already know that people are turning away from traditional advertising in favor of online content they can consume through their smartphones and computers. But there’s more to the story than that: consumer behavior is evolving, and it’s becoming more focused on immersion and multitasking. Their experiences with content will be much different if, for example, the members of a household are recording TV shows, streaming video via Wi-Fi on their individual smartphones, and Skype chatting through their computers, all at the same time. Or, if they can download movies in 33 seconds—like they can in Chattanooga—versus the 25 minutes it currently takes with an average high-speed broadband connection.

For content marketers, the key here isn’t solely that online video content is becoming important; rather, it’s the idea that faster and more dependable streaming will make it easier (and more crucial) for marketers to associate their stories with their products in the minds of their customers.

Why? First, audiences will be able to select from a wider range of accessible content options; second, there will be better opportunities for brands to develop user-generated content and interact with consumers through customer support, questions and answers, special announcements, and product introductions. In these ways, businesses can let their audiences help shape their stories—and do so in a more consistent fashion.

Developing a Storytelling Process—a Must in Modern Marketing

Even if brands follow Oscar Wilde’s advice and decide to be themselves (because everyone else is taken), they will quickly discover an unfortunate truth: Telling the world who you are is not that easy. Long-term story lines that actually end up revealing a character’s inner self through a series of decisions take time to develop—and they require well-designed storytelling processes that often involve global teams collaborating across borders and time zones.

For marketers who are managing deadlines on a global level and working to build consistency among cross-cultural teams, higher internet speeds offer a possible solution with several benefits, including:

  • Swifter workflows that save time
  • High-definition—even holographic—video conferencing without the latency that people commonly experience with their current broadband speeds
  • Facilitated use of cloud computing technology, which can help businesses save money by granting access to such cloud-based systems and services as accounting, information storing, content creation, and translation
  • Easier sharing of data-heavy files—as they are doing in Chattanooga with medical images such as MRI scans

Overall, faster internet offers businesses a more agile storytelling process that enables them to offer better experiences (and add value) for their customers.

Coffee, iPhone and Laptop

Experiences Will Supersede Things

If we think of the internet as a highway, are we traveling along it toward a destination? Or is our destination coming toward us? As people, we use spatial metaphors because we live in a three-dimensional reality, but inside a fiber optic cable—or in a virtual world—things can get tricky.

People instinctively gravitate to the word “connection,” and that’s what marketers need to do. They have to connect people to the spots that interest them in the global stage. Whether it’s a city, a sporting event, or a news story, the public wants to be there—and they want to be in the thick of the action. With high-speed internet, content strategists can enhance their audience’s experience with new formats and media, especially virtual reality and video streaming.

Augmented reality and virtual reality are not mainstream marketing channels yet, but they may be on their way. According to a study by Gartner, by 2018, around 25 million virtual and augmented reality headsets will be in the hands of consumers.Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2015

Online streaming is being used in various ways to improve companies’ capacities to adapt and improvise. From interviews and influencer outreach to live events and backstage passes, video streaming allows for better stories that communicate, educate, and fit perfectly into any social media strategy. Take, for example, #DRONEWEEK—an initiative launched on Periscope by GE last July, which broadcast live video from a GE-engineered drone as it flew coast to coast. GE took this opportunity to communicate with its fans through two Twitter handles: @GeneralElectric and @GEDronePilot.

Adding Value for the Customer

Faster internet is bringing incredible new business opportunities to Chattanooga and the other up-and-coming gig cities—home automation, 3D-printed houses, maquettes and models that allow surgeons to train or plan operations, delivery drones, driverless cars, and robot construction, for example. As the goals of modern marketing move away from persuasion and toward the development of authoritative resources for the public, brands working in these state-of-the-art sectors need to reorient their communication strategies, study their customers’ needs, and help them get more value from their products. That’s another important way to prepare for the augmented capacity of the internet.

Although today’s collection of gig cities seems like a small sample, super-speed internet is going to be a reality. Google is already leading the way, and other internet providers will find it difficult not to follow.

An accelerated internet will change consumer habits—and through the lens of Chattanooga, marketers can look into the future and get a head start on incorporating this knowledge into their content strategies. For global businesses, this means only one thing: it’s time to take your marks, get set, and go.

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