Marketing 4.0 envisions a world where corporations and brands would deploy layers of enhanced experiences in everyday consumer lives to provide information, win trust and build imagery.

Today,  ordinary  people  on  social  media  have  thousands  of  ‘friends’  and  ‘followers’,  thus  building  a  relationship  fabric  that has impressive breadth, even if it may compromise on the depth of interactions. To be able to participate in the lives of so many people, with a click here and a like there, a comment here and a share there, is magical. The erstwhile six degrees of separation has become the six clicks of separation.

People wake up first thing in the morning and go to social media to get their little dollops of dopamine and spend the rest of the day in an addictive daze induced by these micro-stimulations. 

In the 1970s, Pope John Paul II once famously said  about  TV:  ‘If  you  are  not  on  TV,  you  don’t  exist.’  In  the social village of today, where content is the currency and sharing  is  the  essential  ritual—if  you  do  not  share,  you  do  not exist.

As  people  spend  hours  and  hours  each  day  living  almost  parallel lives on social media, the mediated living has started to  shape  its  own  reality  versus  the  actual  physical  situated  living.  It’s  a  case  of  persistent  perception  creating  its  own  reality. If an exciting new filter makes a teenage boy look like his  favorite  idol,  and  if  that  is  the  visual  that  90  percent  of  his  network  see  90  per  cent  of  the  time,  and  say,  70  percent of the network may ever see, then this raises important questions  about  the  innate  assumption  of  superiority  of  the  physical reality over the virtual. This growing eminence of the mediated over the situated is set to take another leap with the mainstreaming of the metaverse. Eventually, all these changes lead to a very different notion of truth, as people perceive it via social media. Let’s look closer into some of the usual distortions that we all experience.

The New Influence – Social Media and Truth-Bending

The  limitations  of  the  social-media  algorithm  and  the  lack  of  editorial  mediation  have  given  birth  to  systematic  new  cultural distortions. On social media, the private lives of people  often look better than they are in reality. However, public life—how a nation or society is faring in general—feels a lot worse  than  what  the  real  world  is  like.  The  secret  to  this  is  the simple fact that people rarely put up bad or boring aspects of  their  personal  life  on  social  media. And  when  they  do,  often very few tend to click on such posts and hence very few people get to see it, as social-media algorithms prioritize posts that get more reactions on the assumption that more people would like to see them. Similarly, as traditional mass media had  already  proved,  good  news  doesn’t  sell  as  much—and  hence, it once again gets de-prioritized by algorithms due to fewer reactions. This ensures that the public news often feels grim and hopeless.

Social media is a machine perfectly designed for the extremes, the centrifugal force of its prejudices creating one of the most powerful brainwash machines ever invented.

A dictator  now  does  not  need  to  cancel  the  newspaper  license of a recalcitrant editor (or abduct him). He just needs to build content factories that can churn relentless hate that cater  to  the  prejudices  of  the  ordinary  people,  and  social  media algorithms are capable of and keen to do the rest of the job of turning them into rabid mobs. It’s the stuff that Hitler’s  propaganda  chief,  Goebbels’s  dreams  must  have  been made of.

Data and Marketing Technology

The last ten years have seen a flurry of investments in marketing technology  and  data  infrastructure  by  marketers.  But  after  a  few  years  of  making  these  investments,  they  increasingly  realize  the  age-old  truth  that  technology  is  technology,  merely  a  tool.  The  ability  to  make  the  best  of  the  tool  still  requires   strategic   thinking,   creativity   and   the   analytical   ability  to  convert  data  into  insight,  foresight  and  far sight.  The most important marketing technology is still the human intelligence,  imagination  and  ingenuity.  Micro-targeting  is  rarely enough; it’s the micro-delighting that really moves the needle. We decide with our hearts and then conjure numbers to justify what we did all the time in our lives. Plumbing can’t replace the poetry when it comes to marketing (but, of course, it can create a more powerful platform for poetry).

Marketing 4.0 and the Kingdom of the Mind

Marketing 4.0 envisions a world where corporations and brands would deploy layers of enhanced experiences— anticipatory, personalized, connected and immersive—in everyday consumer lives to provide information, win trust and build imagery. Smart connected products would similarly simplify and improve people’s lives by communicating with and learning from them, as well as exchanging data with an ecosystem of other connected objects. Enabling transactions of all sorts could be managed by autonomous immutable ledgers improving transparency and replacing centralized governance with distributed trust and leaderless consensus. All this could be further underpinned by highly intelligent algorithms and cyber-physical systems run from the cloud.

Mankind can finally transcend the physical to embrace an uber-life with multiple realities. It will also become possible to infuse elements of its sentience into inanimate objects which, in turn, will serve to liberate the human living experience from the mundane and repetitive so that man can focus on the unbroken pursuit of stimulation, origination and self- propagation.

Marketing, Meaning and Mankind (The new marketer)

The new marketer should be able to move fast to time the market  well  in  order  to  tap  the  most  lucrative  windows  of  margin; yet not be afraid to unmake and remake the customer-value proposition—and realign the organization behind it—just  when  the  gravy  is  flowing  out  to  move  on  to  the  next  s  curve,  within  the  typical  category  cycles  today  of  three  to  seven  years. 

The  new  marketer  is  able  to  wear  both  hats—that of a pirate and a navy officer—at the same time. He has a judicious understanding of the difference between a martyr and  a  game  changer  when  it  comes  to  dealing  with  change.  In that sense, every marketer wears a venture marketing hat every once in a while, comfortable with the uncertainties, yet smart and thorough in making his bets.

Sustainable Living Needs New Ladders of Pursuit

Striking a better balance between the planet’s limited resources and people’s propensity to consume requires a major cultural shift.  Most  ordinary  people  in  the  consumerist  world  tend  to map their life’s journey around two key ladders. The first is the ladder of relationships, which defines the various life-stages we go through, the relationships we build and love we give and get. The second is the ladder of possessions—from durables to semi-durables to Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCGs).

Our natural instinct is to climb as many steps on this second ladder as possible. Our sense of accomplishment, happiness and meaning are closely tied to these two ladders. It can be argued that a richer and more fulfilling ladder of  relationships  could  obviate  the  dominance  of  the  second  ladder. But in a practical world, humans need more than that to stay  occupied  and  focus  their  energies.  So,  there  is  also  a  need to create alternative ladders of meaningful pursuits that humans can keep themselves busy with. These need to be able to serve as bona fide substitutes to the ladder of possessions in terms of a sense of accomplishment, happiness and meaning. These  new  alternative  ladders  of  meaning  could  be  built  around  accumulating  planet-positive  experiences  or  around  intellectual, creative, altruistic and spiritual fulfilment.

Marketing keeps relentlessly churning these desires and dreams that keep billions motivated each day to give their best to whatever they do.

Excerpted from “Made in Future”, a book by Entropia founder and former President World Markets at IPG Media Brands Asia,  Prashant Kumar.  After successfully selling Entropia to Accenture, in one of Southeast Asia’s biggest acquisitions, Prashant is now creating waves with his new book. Published by Penguin, the 322 pages and 12 chapters long book seeks to recast marketing from a white sheet, with an incisive view of how vast changes in media, content, influences, and people’s expectations have come together to forge a new marketing.