Closing the Gap Between Humanity & Technology: Takeaways From the PR Council’s Critical Issues Forum

September  26,  2017 / By Sara Butcher

We recently had a chance to attend the PR Council’s Critical Issues Forum where senior-level marketers and PR professionals discussed the emergence of 5G technology and its impact on consumer behavior.

From trends in messaging to the transformation of brands keeping pace with the ultimate “connected consumer,” many marketers face the same challenges and ask the same questions about how the essence of 5G technology will drive continued evolution in our industry.


Three takeaways from the forum include the rise of platform dominance, marketing via messaging and appealing to the iGen.



Rohit Agarwal, Vice President of Digital Products, CNN, Stephanie Prager, Director, US Agency Development, Twitter and Brett Lofgren, President North America and Global CRO, NewsWhip discuss whether platform dominance is in our near future. (Credit: PR Council)

Platform Dominance


Social media platforms competing with network television for programming is becoming the norm. Facebook inking million dollar deals with media companies and video creators testing Facebook Live was their first live stream test. Now that social media platforms understand the best way to reach audiences, the next step will be proving to programmers that they are better suited for reaching their targeted audiences on social platforms like Facebook and Twitter, or OTT (over-the-top) services such as Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu. As reported by eMarketer, this change has already started to take shape.


TV’s share of total media ad spending in the US will drop to 34.9%, and is expected to fall below 30% by 2021. Traditional TV advertising is slowing even more than expected, as viewers switch their time and attention to the growing list of live streaming and over-the-top [OTT] platforms.


As media properties continue to adjust to ad spend being invested in online programming, it’ll be interesting to see how media properties balance the need for revenue with providing better user experiences.


Brands and Text Messaging


One of the biggest challenges brands face today is keeping up with the speed of technology and change. During the panel “If Instant Is the New Soon, is Messaging the New Everything?” Christian Brucculieri, the CEO of Snaps, and Bonin Bough, the author of Txt Me, enlightened the audience on the next big step for brands: invading the messaging app. The shift from calling to texting has been swift, and messaging functions are now the one consistent thread connecting all social platforms. Consumers no longer want to wait on hold with their cable company, for example — in this instant gratification-based culture, texting is the most convenient way to break through to people.


This opens the door for brands to inch into a space that for so long has been a personal realm. Why should a consumer endure a tedious customer service phone conversation when they can text a question and receive an efficient answer within seconds? Traditional brands are already taking advantage of SMS bots, like Capital One’s Eno, which allows customers to receive updates on their bank account without having to tap out of iMessage. Other brands like Seamless, airlines like Delta and JetBlue and hotel chains like the Hilton have also recognized the value of communicating by text, whether sharing the status of your delivery, updates on flight times or real-time concierge service literally at your fingertips.


Messaging doesn’t make sense for everyone, though. It particularly lends itself to customer service brands, where convenience and efficiency are king. More traditional companies like apparel brand Aeropostale or grocery chain Fairway have used messaging apps to update customers about sales unprompted, failing to understand the delicate nature of connecting with customers via text while not “invading” their lives. At the end of the day, personalization is key, and brands need to make sure to position their existence via text to make consumers’ lives easier.


Christian Brucculieri, CEO of Snaps, and Bonin Bough, author of Txt Me, enlightened the audience on the next big step for brands. (Credit: PR Council)



Marketing to the iGen


While many brands are just getting the hang of marketing to Millennials, the next generation, Gen Z is already keen on advertising and making purchasing decisions. How do marketers tap into the first 5G generation and understand the differences between this group of consumers versus previous generations?


Dr. Jean M. Twenge,  Author, iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood and  Professor of Psychology, San Diego State University, says this particular age group is more open to advertising in comparison to Millennials but less inclined to buy big name brands.


And these kid brothers and sisters of the Millennial generation will soon make up almost half of all consumers.  According to Forbes, by 2020, Generation Z  will account for an astounding 40% of all consumers.


The way to attract this “plugged-in” generation is to connect with them via mobile. This group tends to make purchase decisions based on trends they have an affinity for on social platforms like Snapchat and Instagram.  So the key to keeping this audience engaged is to make sure your messaging is short, simple, and smart.


The emergence of 5G technology has significantly changed the way brand marketers communicate and engage consumers. Consumers are connected everywhere and to everything. And while the arc of this trend is not exactly predictable, marketers should stay tuned in by offering immediate connections to this savvy audience.

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