This post was originally published in Mediaplant
By Rob Salkowitz (@robsalk)
When I started teaching a class on the future of marketing at the University of Washington Graduate School of Communications (CommLead program), I got a lot of questions, most of them taking the form of “how do you teach about something that hasn’t happened yet?”
Fair point. It’s hard enough to talk about the present of marketing, seeing as how much of the industry is rethinking its approach to everything from media channel strategy to metrics to the kind of talent that marketing organizations need. Charting the future under these conditions is like mapping the trail up a mountain in the midst of an avalanche.
And yet, that’s what I, and the students, had signed up for. As the instructor, I came to each class with the terrifying knowledge that I might have some information, but I didn’t know the answers. The best I could hope for was to help us ask the right questions.
Sorry, crystal ball not included. When people talk about the future of digital technology, the conversations often revolve around specific predictions: how many zetabytes of data will be created over the next few years, how much infrastructure will move to the cloud, how wearable devices like Google Glass will change our relationship between the digital and physical world?
Those are interesting questions with profound implications for businesses of all kinds, including marketers. They are the kind of thing you could reasonably expect to see addressed in a class called “The Future of Marketing” – and address them we did. However the goal of the class was not only to study the tech trends, but give the students – many of whom are mid-career professionals looking to add skills to help them get ahead in marketing and media – a framework for figuring out how they might play out in different kinds of organizations under different sets of business conditions.
Four visions of the future. To do that, we employed a method called scenario planning, used by many companies and institutions to develop strategies for an uncertain world. After a crash course in the basic technique, the class broke up into four teams, each owning a different version of 2020. Continue reading