What are some of the things in this modern data world and in the modern world of technology that you are going to need? One of the most powerful things that I would urge everybody to focus on is something long standing, which is a direct relationship with your customer — ideally where you have the first party data.
You don’t have to buy them from Google or Facebook or LinkedIn. Or if you do initially, you will eventually find ways to own that relationship. Sooner or later, those companies will keep increasing their prices and they will take away all your margin. And you will be basically left just as a manufacturer.
That’s already happened to the United States, where Google has turned on all the travel companies. Travel companies, like booking.com and Expedia, who were the biggest marketers on Google.
Google increasingly has vertically integrated into every part of this business. And today four out of every travel search on Google, regardless of what you’re searching for, end up at other Google properties, where they basically finish the exact transaction. So when you are dealing with an Amazon, a Google, a Facebook, a LinkedIn, all of these are very terrific companies you need to work with and you need to align with, recognize that their business is to grow their business. Sooner or later, if they own the data, they own the measurement. They own the platform. They own the marketplace. They own the search. All you’re going to own is a factory, and that is not going to be enough.
Whenever you’re partnering with people in this world of data, make sure you have the option, make sure you’re not too dependent on any one particular platform. And the most powerful thing in creating a direct relationship with people is something simple called email. Email marketing, it’s still very, very powerful. And as the world becomes more broadband, Jio goes from 4G to 5G, as more things happen in India and the rest of the world, think about email, not just as words and not just as pictures, but increasingly real time video as a whole bunch of other ways to connect. Email is not only a way to connect with people directly, not only a way to communicate utilizing video, it’s a fantastic way to understand their needs to research, to do customer relationship management and so on.
So what is your first party data program? What is your email program? What is your middle to long-term strategy to make sure that when you’re working with all the platforms, you keep them particularly honest. What is your preference when you’re dealing with a DSP or a DMP, are you dealing with a modern one, which is primarily based on the cloud or are you dealing with one where you have stacks of servers somewhere?
There is a world that’s emerging. As you plan your MarTech stacks, think about the third connected age that we are entering. The first connected age was about search, and ecommerce, which still are very powerful. We built it in the second – mobile and social, still very powerful. But now we are entering the third connected age, and you want to make sure that anything you do from a marketing technology stack, technology stack and the way your company is organized and how you partner for the next three to five years is built on the third connected age. And for the third connected age, there are four things.
First is data connecting to data, which is what machine learning is. And machine learning is the very powerful form of AI that today is taking off or has taken off. So how are your platforms, your partners, leveraging machine learning and AI, which is number one. Number two, much faster forms of connecting — you are seeing how India was revolutionized over the last three or four years on the Jio platform, a combination of 4G, but more importantly for many, many months, free, easy to get access.
And that is going to continue. It’s going to be much faster forms of connection. So you’re going to have data connecting to data, which is AI. Much faster forms of connection, 4G plus to 5G. Third, you’re going to have new ways of connecting. People are going to speak more over time. There may be AR and VR, but today it’s going to be voice in a country like India when you have so many languages, voice is the most amazing interface. So how are you leveraging voice? What is your voice strategy? Do you understand that most searches in most countries are now voice rather than typing? How do you respond and react? And finally, how do you work in a world where the real computer is in the sky, which is in the cloud. Cloud based computing is basically the future. Now think about very, very powerful mobile phones, which are going to get more powerful and cheaper all across India, connected at rapid 5G and other speeds for almost free to a cloud with massive computational power with initially besides typing and touch, voice, and then maybe in the future, AR and VR as an interface. That is the world for the next thousand days to 1500 days in India. That is what you should be thinking about. As you are looking at your technology – don’t look backwards, look forward.
The real challenge in technology is not necessarily the data driven advertising marketing first, second, or third connected technologies. It is organization and people. How do you change organizations and people? Everything is easy, but organizational structure and yesterday’s mindsets get in the way when there are new technologies that are revolutions. General Motors and Ford refused to understand how Uber and Tesla were going to change the industry. The future of automobiles is much more about electric, much more about shared, much more about autonomous. Gillette and Schick kept thinking that the future of blades was making more and better blades and selling it for higher prices, but in a world of social media and YouTube, you began to have Dollar Shave Club and a whole bunch of other players. L’Oreal and Coty believed that the way you sold cosmetics is you spent a lot of money making it cosmetic, distributed across hundreds of thousands of stores and spent millions of dollars in bulk magazine and television advertising, and then Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian built billion dollar companies in less than 18 months outsourcing everything and using the 120 million Instagram followers.
The biggest difference in technology is trying to get your management and yourself thinking about how the future is different, how your business model may need to change, not just your technology, how the way you initiate, bring in, incentivize and admit talent to your company is going to have to change. The biggest lie about technology is that the problem is to solve technology. The real truth of technology is how you basically reorganize companies and people’s mindset to truly unleash themselves and therefore leverage technology. And therefore not only how do you upgrade your technology operating system, but how do you upgrade your mental operating system. To upgrade your mental operating system you need to spend an hour a day learning new things. It could be about new technologies. It could be about how people behave. It could be about anything, but otherwise you will find yourself growing irrelevant.
I’ve been in the business for 36 years. When I started working, there were no computers. Today, six weeks ago, I started learning about something very important called Substack, which is a way for people to create their own subscription services, which I have done. And I decided to go and experiment and do it myself. And you could find what I do at rishad.substack.com. It’s a newsletter, which I launched six weeks ago, which already has 2,500 subscribers. It’s free, where I talk a lot about the future of technology and marketing and advertising among other things. But why did I do that? I’m not charging anybody, anything. It’s not to get 2,500 subscribers. It was to learn how Substack worked.
This is not about reading and giving presentations and talking in meetings – ‘do it’ – as they say from Nike. I would finally leave you with this – despite the challenges we today have with COVID-19, we have a world that is fragile, a world that requires resilience, and a world that will eventually be a world where we will all resurrect and get better. But in order to create such a world, the most important thing to think about is humanity and people, which is how are you going to make things better, both for yourself, for your company and the world? And that’s the technology that matters the most.