Friday, May 30, 2008

The Future of Interactivity (1996 Style)

We read a fascinating article in class this week. It’s titled “The Future of Interactive Marketing” and it was published in the Harvard Business Review in 1996. It was edited by John Deighton of Harvard and features the opinions of academics and practicing professionals about where interactive marketing was headed 12 years ago. It’s at once funny, prophetic, and surprisingly relevant in a business where even 5 years is a lifetime.

What’s funny about the article is how antiquated some of their observations have become. Martin Sorrell and Eric Salama, then of the WPP Group, speculate “there is a reasonable chance that interactive media – including the web – could transform the way we build brands and communicate them to consumers.” Yeah! Been there done that. Anyone who didn’t take Sorrell’s and Salama’s advice to plan as if interactivity would revolutionize marketing probably still isn’t in business.

The practitioners in this article were also prophetic. Patrick Barwise of the London Business School predicted that security would be a big sticking point to the growth of on-line interactivity and commerce. Indeed, e-tailing didn’t really take off until on-line retailers could assure consumers that their transactions were secure, and many people still don’t trust it.

What’s even more eerie about this article is how relevant some of the concepts still are to marketers over a decade later. Here’s a sample:

Dennis Carter, VP at Intel: “You’ve got to be a pioneer. It is very complicated to do (interactive marketing) right (because) the target keeps moving”

Martin Levin, Microsoft: “A corporate website is different from a marketing website” (more of my thoughts on this later)

Frederick Webster, Dartmouth: “don’t forget the basic lessons of marketing strategy” like knowing the customer, and setting strategies before tactics

Stephan Haeckel, IBM’s Advanced Business Institute: “the important applications of any significant new technology are usually unthinkable in advance.”

Smart, smart folks.

If you’re interested in reading the whole article it’s available for paid download at the Harvard Business Review.

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