Marketing trends are driven by consumer trends.  That’s folks like you and me.  Are you enjoying AI? Good for you! In 2024 we’ll also see the rise of the Anti-AIs.

First a current example of the state of sales.

I was at the shiny new T2 at Bangalore Airport recently with my teen daughter and went to the duty free shop. I gave her a budget to pick a perfume for her father, and she duly found one slightly under that. Unfortunately a salesperson showed up and kept saying that the bigger, more expensive bottle was “better”. At no point was there any discussion around her preferences or shopping goals or about any aspect of these products other than price. I kept wondering how much better the experience would have been if I had an AI shopping assistant that could have just searched all the products in the airport and matched my preferences.

AI – 1, Human 0.

And with that we kick off the annual trends issue.

Marketing Trend #1: AI, make my life easy

I know we’re just 30 years away from having to get up to change TV channels, going to a bank to get cash, and using a handwritten postcard to communicate. But already I’d like AI to take care of my bills, groceries, travel bookings, cab hailing, appointments handling without my having to lift a finger. COVID pushed us down the path of looking for comfort, AI is going to be key to delivering that.

2024 is going to be the year that AI will be a differentiator between the winners and also-rans. It’s like Y2K all over again- the heady boom of something new. (And I mean the year 2000, not the fashion trend!)

Marketing Trend #2: Luxury at Scale and Cheap

Uber’s original proposition was that everyone could now have a private driver. While the reality is a bit less luxurious than what I imagined, it does deliver on the value prop. With tech, services that were previously only for the well-to-do whether it is wealth or calendar or travel or home concierge are available to many more. This can transform lives when it is applied to healthcare for example. Robotic barista? Overkill. Robotic surgery, wow.

How can you use AI to make your service or product more luxurious for less?
If you don’t do it, someone else will.

Marketing Trend #3: Homogenisation of India and Rise of Niche Products

Waiters at a restaurant in Madurai, Tamil Nadu did not understand sufficient Tamil to take a meal order. Customers are expected to pick up sufficient Hindi to do so. A lot of communication across India these days is in English and Hindi. School uniforms in rural Karnataka are now salwar – kameez with a vest – not a dupatta. A big movement towards practicality for girls, but also a shift away from earlier dress norms. Homogenisation is good for mass manufacturers and it’s interesting that this is running in parallel with the ability to do micro-targeting and custom packaging.

Are you seeing this?

There is a parallel trend of wanting to adhere to ethnic moorings in terms of clothing and food, too. Not only do I see more posts about saris but I also see more posts about men wearing ethnic clothes to office – something that used to be reserved for festivals. And technology enables personalisation in the extreme of content, products, service and delivery.

Marketing Trend #4: Insight over Content, Trust over Insight

AI can revolutionize surgery. But it can also churn out millions of words of blah content at the drop of a prompt. It can make truthy sounding videos in less than 10 minutes – check this one I made that trumpets the glories of AI. It wrote it all by itself!  While marketers salivate over how easy it is to create content, the hapless customer is bombarded.

Areas like health, fitness, nutrition and beauty are already vulnerable to scientific-sounding claims that hook customers. With AI the volume and quality of this content is multiplied exponentially. Our need for information will persist -but we will need mechanisms to distill actual new learnings from the blather, and a ’trust-mark” that we can count on to say that the info is not misleading.

I predict that this will create a need for human intervention – I’d rather get the opinion of a trusted individual or ANY human than sift through the masses of marketing messages. Sadly, the past 10 years has seen most businesses reduce the human interface, and those who are left standing – like my duty-free sales rep – are not in a position to offer insight.

Marketing Trend #5: Rise of the Inner Self

There’s always been the question of “what will we do when machines do everything”. There have been “idle rich” throughout history – many of the poets, philosophers, scientists and reformers come from their ranks. You can truly research and explore when you have the time – and sufficient food – to do so.

Many will also have the time to focus on their inner selves through therapy and counselling. There is far more awareness about mental health in the past 30 years than in the past. I’m already seeing engineers and MBAs requalifying as psychologists, and it is an area with a huge shortage of trained personnel.

As learning, thanks to technology, is asynchronous, more people can enjoy continuous learning. My daughter and I are thoroughly enjoying a Harvard Law “certificate” program on Justice – completely free. Every day we learn about a new philosophy or concept through case studies. I’ve been dabbling in some psychology courses too. As the number of online courses proliferate, my preference for known brands whether it is Harvard Law (corporate) or Bessel van der Kolk (personal) rises.

Bonus Marketing Trend: The Anti-AI

Back in 2018, 200 issues ago, the Luddites got a mention in my newsletter. Five years later there will be many more who will agree with them that automation takes jobs. But even amongst those who see the merits – or at least inevitability – of AI, there are sceptics who mistrust it. Who might remember that the same corporations who use AI are those who – like Ford – determined that a human life was not worth a $11 part replacement. (See, Harvard Law is awesome!). Whose life will the device save in a conflict? Oh, wait, what if Elon Musk trolls my tweet by switching off internet coverage over my building? At a lower level, do I trust the algorithms or marketing messages? There will be the rise of the modern hippie, attempting to live life off the AI-grid. Visualize cute villages where we eat local, talk to people IRL, and know the families of all the people we do business with.

This has been a year of self-discovery for me. I wish you all a serene 2024.

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