There is no doubt that we are living in a unique time in human history. The advances in technology have meant that we interact with each other in ways never seen before. For many, this is increasingly becoming the age of individualism.

Social trends have moved on in such a way that religion is in decline, marriage is postponed, ideologies are rejected and patriotism is abandoned. All of these represent a collectivism that is dying out among the younger generation.

In the past many have found that this collectivism has given them a sense of belonging. But now, freedom has become more about serving the needs of the individual.

The 'Collect for Peace' in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer reads 'in whose service is perfect freedom'. To the vast majority, the falling away of these collective ideologies has made this an alien concept. Achieving freedom through serving another is considered, by most, an unfashionable world view. To do this is to not be authentically true to yourself. We live in an age where to give yourself up to someone else's story is considered rather suspicious.

Democracy is now about individuals all talking to each other. The internet represents this almost literally as a system of correspondence without leaders. It allows the user to go anywhere and to make their own story. I'm sure we've all found ourselves down an internet rabbit hole of our own making at some point!

You only have to look at the current trends in pop culture to see this happening. The rise of talent shows in which one person attempts to 'better themselves' by becoming rich and famous. Or the dream of individuals setting up their own companies instead of aspiring to work for a corporation. The individual is everything and everyone wants to experience stuff their own way. The more immersive the experience the better - as in the case of the rise of virtual/augmented reality.

Social media in particular allows for an infinite amount of possibilities to indulge the individual and their views. Dating has taken on a more precise edge with online sites allowing people to search for partners by matching personality traits. In particular, personalisation is now an essential part of marketing. In the pursuit of sales every online retailer is attempting to make the experience as individual as possible based on previous buying and behavioural patterns.

The way in which we communicate has also become more about the individual. The popularity of emojis serving the purpose of being able to convey your emotion as well as your message. Many marketers are also utilising avatar builders to further aid individual expression. By presenting the user with an alternative representation of themselves they fulfill their need to be individual and provide more content for their social networks.

In no way am I this much of a hipster!
I am as susceptible as any to this trend by continuing to author this blog. More content is being written in the first person than ever before and the popularity of YouTube stars/vloggers also bears this out.

So, as marketers we are as influenced by the current culture and trends as any. Sometimes, we help define them and other times we do what we can to appeal to the majority. The rising generation need to see what the proposition we are offering gives them personally. In an uploaded world where everyone is transparent to everyone else we have all gradually reassessed our strategies. This has meant 24/7 social media monitoring. This has been necessary by people mastering the art of becoming a serial Twitter complainer - with the end goal being to score that person free stuff!

Much of the work I now do necessarily plays to this individualistic culture. Without doing so would mean we would be old fashioned and un-engaging to the majority audience. Yet, I also think it's important to champion the collective where possible to highlight what is being missed. After all, carrying out your job focusing on what you do in relation to others rather than for yourself makes for a much more rewarding career in the long run.
The ultimate home accessory
Technology is continuing to encroach into our home lives. For years people have welcomed the VCR and home computer into their houses and with them an increase in the electricity bill. Google and Amazon are currently pushing their 'Home' and 'Echo' products and the likes of Hive and Sonos all come with a certain degree of bragging rights. Of course, having a connected home is on the rise because it is an excuse to buy the latest new gadget. It's then pretty straightforward to plug in and start interacting with your new toy on a daily basis. I remember how liberated I felt when we bought a wireless printer!

Where this becomes a bigger challenge is outside the confines of our houses. On a crowded tube journey recently I was struck by the thought that almost everyone had a mobile phone in their pockets. That's a lot of batteries to charge! This proliferation is encouraging brands to engage wherever possible with 'Digital-Out-Of-Home' (DOOH) - yet another new technology based acronym!

Advertising to the public on digital screens is nothing new but doing it well is the real challenge. I remember our digital screens, at a previous workplace, being flanked by an army of pull up banner stands. Shouldn't the screen be able to do their job all in one?

'Oven can't!' Mistakes like this could be a thing of the past
The current growth in DOOH is being fueled by new technologies and innovative creative that plays to the medium’s strengths. Bigger more sophisticated digital screens are popping up in city centres all over the world. The old method of gluing posters to billboards is becoming increasingly redundant. Westfield London’s future expansion is said to include a full-motion screen that’s expected to be the biggest in London. You'd better make sure you've got high-production values for a screen that big

The real power of digital out of home though is by bringing it together with the aforementioned mobile. I've written before about the benefits of beacons and the limitations of QR codes. For me, the use of easy augmented reality apps such as Blippar are much more appealing. There is still a real appetite to make scannable codes work and last week's launch of Spotify codes proves this. I'm a big fan Snapcodes to encourage this interaction with physical outdoor markers. This is because it's much more likely that younger demographics will have Snapchat on their device than a QR code reader!

Importantly, DOOH and mobile are not to be looked at as separate channels. The two are intimately linked, and must be approached with a view to how they complement each other. For example, this is how you can get the most out of beacons.

A regular conversation topic at work recently is that of Smart Cities. By surfacing useful information for passers-by brands will see much more interaction with their content. Some good examples of this are apps such as Street Museum or the talking statues initiative recently launch in nearby Bedford. The real benefit though, is to ultimately help in improving the mobility and infrastructure of cities. Like any digital innovation the intelligent use of data is essential in making this work.

There's also no excuse to neglect the importance of targeting. Whilst is may be a bit more challenging when advertising on giant digital screens creative can be targeted according to weather conditions, time, location, or based on live data feeds.

The lesson for me is that digital marketing campaigns are so much more than targeted adverts fed to individuals smart phones. For a fully immersive campaign to be a success it needs to make the most of all technologies available.

Weaving these together to form a cohesive narrative is the real challenge and means planning and monitoring are more important than ever. A fully tiered and real-time approach can make going live with a new campaign more intricate and exciting than ever. It definitely makes it a lot more complicated when communicating the nuances to senior management!
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