The Integrated Brand

The role of the brand is going to change dramatically in the next couple of years. Try to imagine a world where products talk together, coordinate their actions and act before you are aware of it.

Is that too futuristic? No, it is soon going to happen.

Many inventions that began as futuristic concepts have become commonplace. When the telephone was invented, for example, it was meant as a hearing device for deaf people. When the first television news segment was broadcast, the news presenter read from a newspaper on screen — in black and white.

Nowadays, the Internet has just reached the equivalent of black and white television. So what is the “color version” going to look like?

Forget about accessing the Internet exclusively from a PC in the future. The Internet is going to be everywhere – in your television, on your fridge, in your Palm Pilot, mobile phone, and even in your fixed-line telephone.

The Internet will soon be separated from any particular media — like the PC — and will connect everything. The Internet will also start to change its structure.

When the first sites appeared on the World Wide Web, they did not appear in any particular order. Providing an index to the Internet was the reason why Yahoo managed to gain a world wide position relatively quickly, as the number one search engine.

But as more and more pages have appeared on the Internet — currently 250,000 pages a day — an index is no longer enough. It cannot ensure that your search returns the right result.

This has led to the introduction of the infomediary that can surf the web on your behalf, and act on your behalf.

The infomediary takes care of it all. It informs Target, for example, about what you need, and ensures all items are placed in one order to avoid a delivery fee. The day you realize that you have run out of an item, there it is, and all your other items, waiting for you at home.

This is just the beginning. The equivalent to Greengrocer.com in the USA has been running trials, over the last 12 months, a concept where it not only delivers vegetables, but traditional food products as well.

The concept is simple. When you become a customer, you receive a fridge free of charge. By accepting the fridge, you agree to provide the code to your electronic garage door. This gives delivery access to the garage, where the fridge is placed. All orders will be mailed from the fridge via the Internet and all products automatically restocked in the fridge.

Next to the fridge is a cabinet for medicines. After all, why should you constantly think about buying your heart tablets? WAP (Wireless Application Protocols) takes care of this. And the laundry, too!

Over time, this type of infomediary will not only establish a very strong relationship with users of the system — it will also learn a lot about personal preferences and predict what you need next.

For instance, the system might automatically buy a special sauce for the steaks you ordered, and it offers you the sauce at a discount. If you don’t need the sauce, you can return it free of charge.

All this knowledge will not only reside in your home PC, it will be integrated into all the electronic devices in your home.

This has already happened to some degree. In 1998, Phillips launched the world’s first Internet Microwave that allowed consumers to download updated recipes when cooking.

A more powerful interaction will soon take place. By scanning your fast food, the microwave will automatically code the cooking time and display various serving suggestions.

The microwave will talk to the fridge, which has updated information about what it stores and the use — by dates of the products. By scanning everything you put in the fridge, it will constantly know what it stores and what you need to buy.

So when you pick a favorite recipe, the microwave instantly informs you about what is available in the fridge and prints a note of what you need to buy.

The more intelligent the infomediary becomes, the easier it will predict what you would like to eat. Think about it! How many different dishes do you eat over a year? Probably not more than 40.

By knowing what you like, the computer can at any time ensure that all necessary ingredients are available in the fridge for at least four of your favorite dishes. Or, you can ask the fridge what type of dishes can be created from available ingredients.

Although I have not mentioned the Internet or the PC once, this is the Internet. Perhaps we should call it the IIF-tranet — an internal information flow between all your hardware that is password protected and accessed by other people designated by you.

I began by saying that brands in the future will talk together. The future is all about networks, and making devices talk together.

When Bang & Olufsen back in the 1980s developed the world’s first Stereo Link system — where the stereo could talk with other electronic devices such as the television, the phone, the light, and the video recorder — it was a world sensation.

A few months from now, the television will be talking to your fridge, summarizing all relevant food commercials and ordering the items it knows you like, and at a discount rate.

Extracts of this information will be available in all sorts of devices. Everything from the Palm Pilot to the mobile phone or the car will be able to inform you about what’s going on.

Sweden is leading the world when it comes to introducing the latest WAP technology that enables a mobile phone to surf the Net.

Soon it will be possible to ask the phone or the Palm Pilot, when standing in the video store, what movies you have rented in the past and what movies it would recommend you watch.

Such recommendations would be based on your past choices combined with the opinion of thousands of other people with tastes similar to yours. Having accepted your selection of new movie, it will automatically store that choice and ask your opinion after watching it. Your answers will be used in its next recommendation.

The Net, as we know it today, is going to change dramatically. Sites will still receive hits, but it probably will not be from “real people” surfing the Net. It will be from infomediaries searching and collecting information for their masters.

Internet traffic of the future will be dominated by infomediaries searching for data. There is a vision that the Internet will become people dead, with it working only as one large data field.

Was George Orwell’s story about the total control of the human being, 1984, 18 years too early? Perhaps.

A more user friendly vision of the Internet is a medium that empowers consumers and gives consumers the power to say “stop.”

The Internet of the future will help us reduce the number things we do over and over again. Those repetitive actions will slowly disappear and be managed by our infomediary.

So is this the color version of the Internet? Yes, but remember that the development of television did not stop after it began broadcasting in color.

Would you have been able to predict the World Wide Web five years ago? Well, that is how old it is.

You thought this article was about the future — it isn’t.

The fridge already exists and so does the microwave. The electronic shopping note has just been introduced in the US, and so has the Palm Pilot with access to the Internet. The mobile phone is available in Sweden and so is the television talking to the Net.

The only thing we are missing, before the story is complete, is making all devices talk to one another. It is only a matter of time before we truly can say, “One home. Several devices. One voice.”

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