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Are marketers underestimating the pace of technological change?

I speak and consult with clients frequently about the pace of technological change. I believe that all of us consistently underestimate how fast things are changing. I think that’s because the pace of change continues to increase–that means that changes don’t just continue to happen, but that the rate of change is actually getting faster. More things are changing this year than last year. In that type of environment, our feeble human brains (and mine often seems more feeble than most) have trouble adapting because we don’t know what to hold onto and what we can just not worry about. I found that out myself recently. I was staying in a hotel and got my wake-up call on how fast things are changing.

In fact, I got a literal wake-up call. Two of them, actually. One on Thursday and one on Friday. OK so far, but the problem was that each one came one hour earlier than the time I requested. I really could have used that sleep, but it didn’t happen. The first time the mistake occurred, I wrote it off–the clerk I told the time to just got it wrong. But the second time, I knew it had to be something more. And I realized what it was–they had failed to adjust the wake-up call system to daylight savings time. But we had been on daylight savings time for five days when this occurred!

a juxtaposition of tubes - 30/365/2010
Photo credit: nashworld

I was flabbergasted that the problem could persist for so long. I mean, if they knew something was wrong, all they had to do was to fix the system. Failing that, they could tell every clerk to put in a time one hour later than the “correct” time so that the guests would get the calls at the right time. Geez, this seemed so simple that I was stunned that five days later everything was still broken.

Then it hit me like a thunderclap. The reason this is happening is because they did not know. No one has complained. I mean, I hadn’t complained when it happened the first time. I only realized it when it happened two days in a row. But surely, someone had to have been staying at the hotel two days in a row in five days, right?

Well, yeah, but maybe no one really uses wake-up calls anymore. That is when I started to feel old. And out of touch. Yeah, I know how to set the alarm on my smartphone. But I have a habit. I have been traveling on business for over 30 years and I have my routines. Wake-up calls were just one of them. No reason for me to fix it.

And that is how technology sneaks up on you. You might think you are keeping up, but, all of a sudden, there is something that hits you that you completely missed. So, wake-up calls are not the same priority for hotels that they once were, because people just use the alarms on their phones. Which is why, even though my alarm clock at home changes to daylight savings time by itself (and so does my computer), the hotel’s expensive wake-up call system needs someone to fix it twice a year. It’s an old system with old technology that is not going to be replaced because the need for it is dying.

So what does this have to do with marketing? Everything. Marketers are in a brave new world where 98% of the world’s known data was created in the last two years. Marketers are in a world where Big Data is the rage but we haven’t even done a good job responding to Little Data. Marketers are surrounded by technology that gets faster and cheaper each year, making things that were previously just nice to have possible, cheap, and seemingly necessary. Especially because your competitor might already be doing it.

Sometimes, I run into marketers who think that we are just going through a turbulent period but that it will calm down again. Wrong. This is the new normal. You will be constantly surprised at the new things that show up–and they will show up faster and faster.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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