Backcasting – Predicting the Future of Marketing

I recently had the pleasure of attending a Silicon Valley marketing innovation event called “EVOKE.” During this meeting, we had a facilitated session on a strategy technique called “backcasting.” In this exercise, we were asked to envision our lives and environment in the future and then rewind to look at the things we had learned on our journey to this future state. The goal was to think about key things we observed in marketing innovation as we looked back over the last 10 years, from a position of being in the future.

Information today is already becoming ubiquitous and personalized. Innovations like Google glasses, technologies enabling contextual information from connected devices, cars that pilot and configure themselves for the occupant or occupants, and vehicle heads-up displays are all changing the way we behave and, I believe, will dictate the future direction of marketing.

As I look back from my hypothetical future state:

1. Convenience is a given.

The race for convenience takes on new dimensions. Augmented reality offsets the need to try things on at stores. More and more manufacturers sell directly to consumers, once their brands are established and brick and mortar retailers have disappeared. Drop shipments happen within 12 hours in major urban markets and 24 hours in more rural settings. There are still small boutiques in restaurant enclaves, but the big merchants are gone. What does all of this mean for digital marketers?  Digital combined with connected devices will turn marketing into analytical gymnastics <Tweet This> to the point where everything is driven by analytics and science.

2. We become lifelong learners.

There was a time when we learned information by either searching for it or going to a destination to learn, either physically or online. “Inline” learning begins to take hold in 2020. Information is available contextually, either as we engage in activity in our lives or via augmented reality. Opportunities to learn come to us seamlessly through our glasses, our heads-up displays in our cars, as we are performing a task, or when we want to learn about the Roman Empire in augmented reality. What did I learn as a marketer as these new technologies took hold? Relevance is the new capital of commerce. The information that makes this possible is the currency of the market.

3. Loyalty is experiential.

Points, recognition and rewards are perceived as manipulative as people come to value relevant and high-value experiences over all else. In the absence of this, they immediately go elsewhere. Tolerance for irrelevant information virtually disappears. Marketers and businesses learn to keep it simple, on target, and contextually relevant, or they will fall to the wayside. At odds with this will be the requirement to develop more granularly relevant messaging and creative.

4. Information is ubiquitous.

There was a time that search was king. Search shifted for a while to contextual search. But as personal information takes hold, it’s no longer necessary to search. Information we need is anticipated and provided based upon our preferences, behaviors and needs. Companies make offers and present opportunities by seamlessly integrating into the stream of information that is presented to us ubiquitously.

5. We get help when we need it.

Predictive models detect frustration or sense that someone is not getting the most from a product or service. Rather than waiting for a customer to abandon a product/service or get frustrated, help comes automatically to assist the customer as they are using the product or service. No one goes to a help site, support site, or needs to call someone at a call center. All this comes to the user from automated tools. This level of care becomes a standard. As people want more from a product or service, this becomes the basis for upsell and, in some cases, cross-sell.

To summarize, contextual relevance will become increasingly critical in the future. In this state, digital marketers will need to understand and leverage personal insights and customer data , as well as marketing automation and predictive models to dovetail ubiquitous information seamlessly into life’s experiences. While there will still be a need to develop compelling creative experiences, the constraints on how these experiences are deployed will depend heavily on detailed personal data and analytics. The days of Mad Men advertising and brand building will give way to a new type of individually relevant content experience.

Have comments or questions? Contact Mike Norris ( to discuss backcasting and other take-aways from the last Evoke meeting.

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