Kim Bates is Chief Marketing Officer & Chief Futurist at LRXD, the Original Health & Happiness Agency.
We talk a lot about edge computing, which brings computation and data storage closer to the location where it is needed. As a chief futurist who helps drive innovative solutions for companies, I believe the same principle will be applied to purpose-driven marketing in the future.
Companies have become aware of data like 5WPR’s (via PR Newswire), which shows that “71% of Millennials will pay more for a product if they know some of the proceeds go to charity.” Big investment firms like BlackRock are holding companies accountable for helping society and addressing climate change, as the firm explained in its 2021 Stewardship Expectations report.
I believe just talking about a brand’s purpose is losing its meaning unless it becomes a “way of doing business” at every interaction throughout the entire organization. According to the Harris Poll, only 24% of companies today have embedded their purpose into their business “to the point of influencing innovation, operations, and their engagement with society.”
Some of the most sophisticated companies have extended their brand’s purpose into external-facing promises, or expressions of the benefit and experience that employees, partners and customers can expect to receive from the company or brand. These have manifested into some of the most inspiring and innovative “acts of the brand” or experiences, especially in the past year.
One of the best examples of this is Chipotle, which promises food with integrity. They built a digital farmer’s market during the pandemic to help the small organic family farms they work with to sell their farm-fresh food directly to consumers.
To extend the application of this concept even further, companies can measure their purpose-driven impact on people and the planet with data intelligence at every touchpoint. This could take ESG accountability to a whole new level.
This past year has demonstrated to me that local community has become more of a focus and that some of our workforce will likely remain remote for years to come.
As we look to the future of how companies impact society, I believe more of these purpose-centric actions will happen at “the edge,” closer to where and when consumers need them most.
We can expect to see an emergence of real-time manufacturing and distribution of products and services to employees and customers at a hyper-personal and local level. Many of these new experiences could be made possible due to innovation in “edge” technology.
With the growth of 3D printing, artificial intelligence (AI), digital avatars, location-based apps, delivery robots and voice assistants, we could someday be marketing to technological intermediaries that will be influencing, or even making, decisions for us in the future. I call this future-forward customer journey B2R2C, or “business to robot to consumer.”
To give you an idea of what this really means, we can take a look at a few emerging customer experiences happening at “the edge.”
If a company wants to deliver on their promise of “personalized health care” in the future, they could give their patients a way to 3D-print their own supplements on-demand, at home. I envision these countertop devices as the interface that people use to control their own formulas and dosages. Why should we have to take four separate pills a day?
As it stands today, P&G is already working to develop 3D-printed customized drug tablets with specific dosages and multiple drug combinations. Nourished has invented 3D-printed supplement combination stacks that are unique to each person. In the future, I believe this could all happen in real time in our homes.
If a company wants to deliver on its promise of “enabling better nutrition for all” in the future, it could identify the local neighborhoods in the U.S. that have the highest nutritional inequality. They could bring fresh food directly to these communities and build more affordable and accessible nutrient-dense crops by using hydroponic farm technology, for example, or donating tower gardens that neighbors can share, such as those LA Urban Farms sells.
If a company wants to deliver on its promise of “customized beauty solutions” in the future, it could invent more personalized skincare solutions based on each person’s unique skin biome and DNA makeup.
Companies like L’Oréal are already addressing this. They have invented a smart beauty device called Perso, which creates custom skincare formulas based on a person’s unique skin and the local weather conditions.
If a company wants to deliver on their promise of “eradicating loneliness for the elderly” in the future, they could enable our seniors to reconnect with loved ones or their most cherished memories right at the point of care — in nursing homes or long-term care facilities. Companies like MyndVR and Virtue Health are already developing or have already developed VR memory trips and terrain adventures that eliminate any physical constraints for seniors.
Next on the agenda could be holograms of loved ones who come back to visit us.
These are just a few exciting examples of what is emerging. You can begin taking small steps today to move your brand’s purpose closer to “the edge”:
1. Rethink Some Of Your Strategic Marketing Investments
Is it smart to invest all of your time designing flat web pages for your brand when the “metaverse” might eventually take over? Is it smart to sink every dollar into real-life influencers when their celebrity Genies avatars can also be paid for appearances — and may even outlive them?
2. Rethink Your Definition Of “Product” And “Distribution”
There is an alternate world growing where people are living, working, playing and consuming. This is giving people more equal access to virtual social and business connections and new pathways to prosperity through online businesses. There is something for everyone. People now have access to free or more affordable education and training. Other people want digital luxury status. A popular digital handbag in the Gucci Garden in Roblox just sold for 350,000 Robux, or roughly $4,115. That’s more than the value of a real one.
We are only at the beginning of this whole new world of possibilities. How will you move your marketing more toward “the edge”?