Secret Marketer: The real world is disappearing for marketers

Technology is not just changing brands’ relationships with consumers it is also changing how we as marketers must work.

As well as my role as the marketing director for my brand (and, of course, as a columnist at Marketing Week), I am a non-executive director of another big business. This is a fascinating experience – not only do I get to ask all the tricky questions that people usually ask me at board meetings, but suddenly people respect me and nod sagely at my observations. If only those around my usual boardroom table showed as much appreciation towards the marketing guy.

Interestingly, the brand for which I am non-executive director has just replaced all of its board meeting paperwork with a tablet device, issuing all papers in PDF format for the board members to read electronically on a 24cm x 19cm flatscreen. Now this is real progress. No longer do I have to destroy a woodland’s worth of trees to print off my quarterly board pack. No longer do I have to lug said forest to each board meeting in the knowledge that we will probably only dwell on half a dozen pages in the meeting. And no longer am I scrabbling for the right piece of paper as the meeting moves on while I am daydreaming. Given that this company is not an IT brand, I am truly impressed.

I recently went back to my old university and got shown around the new library. The two things that most hit me about the visit were the lack of books and the proliferation of laptops. When I was there, a laptop was a tray you ate your dinner off while watching the television. So here again we are seeing technology changing the way in which people work (or study).

Then I read that kids are no longer asked to carry around huge textbooks in their satchels because they too are being replaced by tablet computers, and homework is being done online at home. I guess that might prevent a few bad backs at an early age, though I recall it being character-building – as well as a great armoury to hit the school bully with when attacked from behind.

And I too am being dragged into the technological age. I live in a small flat with my wife, surrounded by bank statements, receipts and instruction manuals amassed over the years. So I have bought myself an automated scanner, with the idea that as post arrives through the door, I scan it to a tiny electronic file (in the cloud, of course), and then ditch the physical document.

For a marketer, these are fascinating developments. We are becoming more technologically aware; as Kindles, tablets, email, cloud-based storage and scanning become the norm, the real world slowly disappears. What is the future for paper mills, pen manufacturers and office cabinet makers?

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