The third age of marketing: product voice

Change happens fast. A few years ago, most didn’t consider taxis as a business sector in play. Then Uber came along and overturned the market. More than half (51 per cent) of senior marketers worldwide agree that the internet of things (IoT) is now a top priority and is creating extraordinary opportunities for growth. But what’s less clear is how they prepare for this rapidly advancing era of IoT where smart products are guaranteed to disrupt existing markets.

Andy Hobsbawm

At Cannes Lions Innovation, I’ll be exploring the idea that, for marketers, the Internet of Things means we are moving into a third age of marketing – Product Voice. The first age of broadcast media was built around the brand having a voice, and the second social-media driven age centred on what we might call consumer voice. The third age will need to focus on product becoming both a media channel and an interface for service delivery.

The era of smart, connected products changes everything. For the first time, products have a voice and can talk directly to consumers, while data talks back to the brand with real-time analytics, letting them know who their customers are, where they are, what they engage with, and how interaction drives sales. Consumers can ‘friend’ their stuff for personalised digital services and experiences – instead of hunting for missing shoes in the morning, Google them. Brands can ‘follow’ products in real-time from factory floor, to high street to living room and improve supply chain operations to protect revenue and brands from counterfeiters and grey market traders.

Your customers can now buy physical products that come with a digital layer of personalised interactive services, and use data to improve the usage experience over time. These products are stickier, more differentiated, and create new revenue opportunities from subscription or usage-based services. These services have every opportunity to become higher value than the original product. Babolat’s Play Pure Drive, for instance, lets a tennis racket become a service through sensors that provide feedback on ball speed, spin, and impact to measurably improve your game, while wireless HiFi Sonos can decide to upgrade its functionality via over-the-air software updates while you sleep.

Digital, product-based services represent a new playing field of competitive advantage and marketers have the opportunity to create systems that will transform both customer experiences and the underlying business models. We’re working with one customer on turning a ‘dumb’ light bulb into a smart, connected object with multiple services and revenue streams such as remote lighting control and energy management, motion sensors for retail footfall monitoring, security services, and even CO2 sensors for smoke detection services.

In this third age of marketing, the product itself – as a dynamic, web-connected intelligent object – gets a say in how it is made, sold, and used. Diageo prototyped a new printed sensor tag from our partner Thinfilm, powered by EVRYTHNG’s IoT smart products cloud, at this year’s Mobile World Congress for Johnnie Walker Blue Label whisky. This kind of sensor-based smart packaging enables not just direct digital consumer engagement through products at scale, but also supply chain tracking via access to real-time data about product identity, location, usage, and authenticity.

Creative and media agencies see the possibilities to create amazing new brand experiences using product as a personalised, real-time platform for content and services, and the biggest and bravest brands are embracing the technology at scale in global markets. A new generation of businesses – with IoT technology at their core – are taking leadership positions by digitising physical assets and managing how smart products can make their supply chains smarter, and drive greater brand attraction, affinity, and customer intimacy.

Products have a voice. It’s time to listen.

Andy Hobsbawm is founder and CMO at EVRYTHNG

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