A Revolution in Marketing Affairs

I recently listened to a great This American Life Podcast in which the term “Revolution in Military Affairs” (RMA) was introduced to me. The host went on to say that there have only been about 12 of these in the American history and when they are introduced, the way we resolve a conflict fundamentally changes.

According to Wikipedia, RMA is “a military-theoretical hypothesis, about the future of warfare, often connected to technological and organizational recommendations for change in the United States military and others. Broadly stated, RMA claims that in certain periods of the history of mankind, there were new doctrines, strategies, tactics and technologies, which led to an irrevocable change in conduct of warfare.”

The example that was given was gunpowder, which fundamentally changed the revolution from one focused on hand-to-hand combat to conflict that could be resolved from a distance.

If we were to apply this term to our day jobs, we are objectively in a Revolution in Marketing Affairs: a paradigm that has perhaps only happened four or five times in our history. The printing press created mass distribution. Radio created a delivery mechanism that shortened the distribution time line. Television added a new story telling layer that was unrivaled. All of these revolutions in marketing affairs changed the way we connected with people and the way we marketed to them. Like the invention of gunpowder, they shifted the world from one focused on hand-to-hand combat (handing out flyers) to a dynamic that could be managed from a distance (broadcast television).

The interesting difference between a revolution in marketing affairs versus military affairs is that the inflection point comes in not just the invention of a new technology, but the adoption of said technology. What makes this harder is that it’s not just one technology. There was a 31-year gap between the invention of radio and television, and these were the academic models (not for commercial use). We are experiencing the effects of a few technologies gaining mass adoption and therefore causing seismic shifts almost simultaneously.

In 2010, touch devices outsold dumb screens for the first time, a touch revolution. In 2013, sales of mobile platforms over took desktop, a mobile revolution. In 2014, a study from eMarketer revealed that time spent on digital and social channels (5:46) mimicked combined time spent on TV and radio (5:48), a social and digital content revolution.

These adoption trends are key indicators and all of them did not span over the course of a few decades. All these seismic shifts happened underneath our feet in a matter of a few months or one short year. In 2015, we are reaching a confluence point of the above circumstances that will change how we work. Like an El Niño, when a few weather conditions come together to form a perfect storm, we are at a point in time where the simultaneous mass adoption of a few revolutions will fundamentally change the way humans operate.

We must consider how all these forces together can change the way we go to market. We need to build for this shift in marketing patterns. But we need to do so not in isolation of one pattern, but taking into consideration all of them at once. We must think of building social interactions into every campaign, but we must also simultaneously think about how we’ll mobilize these social interactions and make sure that the interactions are touch-led. It’s no longer one revolution at a time; what makes our jobs tougher than ever before is how we deal with these forces all at once.

We, as people and as marketers and business leaders, are still hesitant to deliver on this change. Revolutions happen, but habits shift more slowly. 2015 should be the year we reassess our approach, rethink our overall mix, and retrain our brains to operate in a new simultaneously connected world.

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