Author: Jonathan La Greca
VP Strategic Growth, Hotspex

Thanks to our partnership with NLogic, Hotspex and several of our clients were invited to attend and enjoy front row seats at the Canadian Marketing Association’s Future of Marketing event.

As part of our post-event debrief with our partners and clients, I’d like to share the insights that resonated most with everyone who attended.


  1. Disruptions of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – Fusing Physical, Digital, and Biological Systems

Disruption is a theme that comes up in almost every conference and client engagement we participate in, so it was no surprise that it came up at the CMA Future of Marketing event when Craig Thornton, Vice President, Business Mobility Sessions at Telus, shared how disruption is affecting today’s marketers.

One specific point that Craig raised sent shivers of excitement and fear down my spine. When we typically consider disruption, we do so with a lens of a specific industry or practice area; we don’t often think about the interplay between different fields.

Craig asked the audience to imagine the scale of disruption that is possible when you consider the interplay between disciplines such as nanotech, 3D printing, quantum computing, AI, automation, and neuroscience.

It reminded me of previous research I’ve come across that suggested that the Fourth Industrial Revolution will dwarf the previous three because it is the first to fuse physical, digital, and biological systems. Scary? Yes. Exciting? Yes! Craig’s advice to marketers was to find ways to use the momentum created from these changes to push forward instead of pushing back against it, since it is inevitable.


  1. Beware Slowly Evolving Consumer Criteria Like a Frog Should Be Wary of Slowly Boiling Water

Craig also tackled the drivers of disruption, referencing Clayton Christensen’s work that examined the relationship between evolving product capabilities and consumer decision-making criteria.

Incumbent industry leaders are most at risk of being disrupted when product capabilities exceed consumer needs. Craig shared the simple example of how CDs continued to improve the quality of sound, but consumers no longer valued sound quality as much as accessibility and portability.

Consumer needs don’t change over night; instead, their criteria slowly evolve alongside their adoption and understanding of new technologies and the benefits they bring. Craig used the classic analogy of a frog in slowly boiling water, where incumbent industry leaders didn’t realize the slow changes in consumer preferences and decision criteria, only to find that the water has boiled – their industry has been disrupted.


  1. GAFA Spawns and BATs Taking Over the World

No talk on disruption is complete without referring to the disruption leaders – the GAFAs – Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon.

Craig suggested that the innovators of the future will be the GAFA spawns, or companies that address shifting consumer needs by leaning into the technologies that GAFAs enable, much in the way that Uber leveraged Google maps to address shifting consumer needs in transportation.

In addition to the GAFAs, Craig highlighted the importance of paying attention to the BATs – Chinese technology companies Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent – as they will continue to grow and increase their global footprint and will have a dramatic impact on the future of our local businesses and our innovations.


  1. Today’s Consumer Is Curious, Demanding, and Impatient

Kristina Elkhazin, Head of Industry – Retail at Google, focused her talk on the Age of Assistance, leveraging a Google Home virtual assistant speaker during her presentation to demonstrate the power consumers have at their fingertips to attain what they want quickly and effortlessly, while anticipating what we need before we realize we need it.

Kristina made it clear that today’s consumers are curious, demanding, and impatient as she shared that searches for “same day shipping” or searches ending with the word “today” or “tonight” have more than doubled in a very short time frame and that 53% of consumers are willing to abandon a mobile site that takes more than 3 seconds to load.


  1. Ratings Indulgence – How Many Consumer Reviews Do You Read To Buy A Toothbrush?

Kristina also explored the evolution of the consumer decision and suggested that the consumer buying process has become substantially more social.

Craig from Telus had earlier referred to consumers as being lost in a ratings indulgence, and this was backed up by Kristina sharing that searches for “Best Toothbrush” are growing at breakneck speed.

Marketers who have approached categories by classifying them as low- or high-involvement may have to revisit their tactics if they want to grow their share

  1. Building A Stronger Relationship With Your Data

David Phillips, President and COO of NLogic, shared his views on how marketers can improve the quality of their relationship with data. With Gartner predicting 20.4 billion devices to be connected by 2020, the amount of data we have access to is staggering.

David shared that data fails to serve us effectively when we make one of two common mistakes. In the first case, we ask too much of our data and expect proactive answers it is not capable of providing. Alternatively, we don’t ask enough about our data, not questioning where it has come from or examining it for limitations. In both cases, our decision-making suffers.

David discussed wrong term data, the idea that we tend to be overly fixated on short-term data attribution. He pointed to the fact that we need to recognize the importance of long-term data and that ROI should not only be measured in the short-term.

David shared the example of Trump’s appointment in the 2016 US elections to underscore the importance of using long-term data (in this case, an exploration of political trends over time) as opposed to wrong-term data (such as short-term polling data) which, having predicted Hillary to be the winner by a wide margin, turned out to be highly inaccurate. Short-term data can be satisfying in its immediacy but, ultimately, can lead us astray if it becomes our sole focus.

He then went on to apply the importance of blending both short- and long-term data to marketing. Equity and emotional tracking are built to measure the likelihood of people buying your brand in the future and these measures should help alleviate some of the short-term myopia that market expectations place on brands. David concluded that data needs to be fit for its purpose, with the right mix of both short-term and long-term perspectives.


  1. Ads Perform Better When They Are Placed In Cognitively and Emotionally Congruent Content

David went on to explain why advertising will perform better when it takes place within congruent content.

He used the analogy of having an alcoholic beverage in the comfort of your own home while sitting comfortably by the fireplace and how one’s experience in this setting would be dramatically different as compared to someone consuming that very same beverage on a roller coaster. Our experiences are influenced by the context within which we have them.

We must apply this thinking to how we target ad consumption. Marketers have made decisions on media buys by over-focusing on demographics. Cutting-edge research demonstrates that we need to go beyond the ‘who’ of media reach to the ‘when’, to ensure that ads are cognitively and emotionally congruent with the content within which they are being viewed.


Concluding Thoughts

Looking across all 3 of the talks at the event, it is clear that the pace of disruption our world is facing will only accelerate. These disruptions are evolving consumer attitudes and behaviors. Consumers are more curious, demanding, and impatient as ever. The buying decision process has become incredibly social – even a toothbrush can feel like a high involvement purchase.

As marketers face the fusion of physical, digital, and biological systems, the pace of disruptive innovation will accelerate and there will be many more new global technology disruptors that North American companies have yet to embrace.

While it is easy to fear the changes in the works, the only choice we have is to embrace these changes to push forward instead of pushing back on them, and there are several new opportunities to innovate and support those innovations with breakthrough techniques in advertising targeting.



About Hotspex: Voted among the top global insights consultancies for 4 years in a row, Hotspex is working with 15 of Top 20 advertisers in over 30 countries to apply cutting edge behavioral and marketing sciences. We apply System 1 implicit and System 2 explicit measurement in a holistic manner to uncover conscious and non-conscious drivers to understand WHY consumers behave the way they do.

From there, we apply marketing sciences, including the Laws of Growth, to help marketers determine HOW to apply consumer understanding to accelerate brand growth across a variety of brand strategy, communications, and shopper-based design challenges.