With more than 25 years of experience in technology and marketing, Reed Wright is no stranger to the fast-paced changes that take place in the industry. Before his current position as Senior Vice President of Marketing Platforms, Merkle, Wright was Head of Technical Services at Axis41. We sat down to get his thoughts on today’s technology and where it’s headed.*
JUST ABOUT EVERY BRAND IS FOCUSED ON HOW THEY CAN IMPROVE THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY. TELL ME ABOUT A BRAND THAT YOU THINK HAS HIT IT OUT OF THE PARK.
WRIGHT: RevZilla (a motorcycle apparel company) did something very disruptive not too long ago. Everyone else was trying to look like Amazon, but these guys figured out that that’s not necessarily what customers want. They did it a different way by leaving short, detailed video reviews of every single product on their site—literally tens of thousands of video reviews, and it changed the whole dynamic. They’re in a very niche market, but they blew up.
Now, other industries are copying that same formula. Reviews have become critical to buying anything. We’ve come to this point where we won’t buy something unless it has 4.5 stars. A company used to be able to make a bad product for 10 years. Nowadays, if a product comes out and has problems, it’s not going to last. It’s changed for the better. It benefits society because we get better products out of it.
HOW DO YOU THINK TECHNOLOGY WILL CHANGE IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?
WRIGHT: Technology finds a way to make things easier and more convenient. Look at all the little things you do throughout your day. In time, technology will find a way to make each of them easier and more convenient.
For example, look at websites. When they first came out, it was a faster and more convenient way to distribute content than printed material. Well it turns out, websites were kind of hard to make, so someone came up with the blog. Then that was too much work, and someone came up with Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and SnapChat—which are all things that make it quicker, faster, and easier to communicate.
Another great example—just look at electric cars. In the end, everyone will convert to electric cars not because of pollution and the problems with fossil fuels, but for the convenience. They’ll convert so they won’t have to go to the gas station two or three times a month. They’ll convert so they won’t have to wait at the repair shop or pay for an oil change.
WHAT ABOUT MARKETING? WHAT CHALLENGES THAT EXIST TODAY WILL BE MADE EASIER AND MORE CONVENIENT IN THE FUTURE?
WRIGHT: Today, marketers can detect what you may be interested in and automatically deliver relevant ads. We complain all the time that we don’t like that, but in reality, we do. If you go somewhere online and they don’t serve up information that you want, you get annoyed, right?
I’D ARGUE PEOPLE LIKE IT TO A DEGREE. WHEN YOU MENTION OLIVE GARDEN IN A TEXT AND THE NEXT DAY YOU’RE GETTING BANNER ADS FOR ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT-PASTA, IT’S CREEPY.
WRIGHT: But what you’re describing is a problem. And technology will find a way to solve that problem. It’s a problem for you because it annoys you. It’s a problem for Olive Garden because they don’t want to pay for an impression that you’re not interested in or that creates a negative response. People want ads; they just don’t want the ones that don’t make any sense.
And by the way, your kids and the generation younger than you won’t find it off-putting. Your generation (millennials) can tend to resist personalization, while younger generations will demand it. They will not want brands to interact with them unless those brands know who they are.
Today, everyone is racing to ensure the ads you see are ads you want or need to see. Olive Garden doesn’t want to waste their time on you, and you don’t want to see their ad. Yet I’m willing to bet there are thousands of other people within 30 miles of the Olive Garden down the street that do. And that’s who Olive Garden wants to engage with and eventually will.
Right now at Merkle, we are attacking that problem. Knowing when a consumer wants an ad and sending it at the right moment is the holy grail of marketing. Once that’s solved everybody wins—including you.
*This interview has been edited for clarity and length.