Follow the eyeballs. It’s a fundamental strategy in publishing, and now it’s reshaping the future of smartphones and marketing.
The reason? A tremendous showdown between Google Now and Apple Siri. The technorati are pondering which tech giant makes the best digital assistant, and it’s time marketers sat up and paid attention.
Sure, it’s pretty arcane stuff. And that’s the problem! We’re talking about the boring, but necessary, details of life here; calendar reminders, travel tips, weather updates, messaging notifications, and so on.
There’s obviously an app for everything – and that’s the problem. We’ve got millions of apps to choose from, but most of them are entirely useless, and end up rotting away on the second or third pages of our app screen.
None of this has escaped Google or Apple’s attention. They know we’ve got the attention span of a small animal, and fickle eyeballs to boot. We flick endlessly between apps, scan messages for a millisecond, and do our best to ignore a sea of notifications.
The solution? Less apps, and more digital assistance. That was Google’s pitch at its I/O event, an echo of Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference where it showed off updates to Siri.
Both companies are talking about an integrated world where we spend less time skipping between apps, and more time communing with our virtual assistants. Apple wants us to love Siri, and Google wants us to get back to the web where it can serve up a truckload more ads. Officially, it’s not talking about running ads inside Google Now…. yet.
Digital ball gazing
So what does all this mean for marketers? We already know the headline act: eyeballs are shifting away from apps… but where will they land? Here’s a few assumptions:
Content will be more important than ever. A digital assistant-centric view of the world means we’ll care less about app design and more about utility
Personally-relevant, timely content wins as digital assistants become the new content aggregators
Digital marketing will have yet another identity crisis. I’m looking at you banner ads, Google Ads and SEM.
Meanwhile, the ironic thing about Google Now is that it’s actually a search app – it needs to be opened before it will do its thing.
Apple has some serious restructuring to do. Although she was kind of cool – our interest in Siri has dwindled, and the company is deeply invested in the App Store. Apple may be faced with the dilemma of choosing its favourite child.
Finally, a parting thought on the eyeballs. Like a well-crafted magazine or digital publication, Google and Apple will attract our eyeballs away from apps if they make good on the underlying promise of digital assistants; forget the gimmicks – make my life easier, and you’ll earn my trust.
How do marketing messages mesh fit into this yet to be fully formed universe? Hard to say.
But it will be most likely back to basics – and a focus on authenticity of service or message.
To pick up on a great quote I heard the other day: “authenticity is the new black because it’s so hard to find.”
Therein lies the (eyeball) rub.
Mark Jones is chief storyteller + CEO at Filtered Media, a leading brand storytelling agency. Subscribe to The Pioneers, Filtered Media’s newsletter for digital pioneers.
This story was originally published on Which-50. Mark Jones is a guest columnist for the publication.