If you’ve never heard the term “’The Internet of Things’, you’d better look it up.  You see, it is IoT that is blurring the lines between our physical world and the digital world even as you read this.  As the video I link to points out, the planet is growing a central nervous system, which is IoT.  Said more correctly, ‘our world’, the world of digitally connected people has grown a central nervous system and the digitally connected are now a grid which grows broader and smarter every day.

As IoT or ‘the grid’ grows, the real world you walk around it and the digital one you carry around with you will stop being two places and instead meld into one.

Brands and marketers have a tremendous opportunity to become vastly more important and relevant as IoT interconnectivity begins to grow.


If the Mayan’s are wrong about the world ending in a few months, then set your alarm for the next big happening to be  the Internet of Things.  Just keep in mind you won’t see it actually occur.  There will be no big iPhone 5 hoopla, however you might see it found in the background of a tv commercial or YouTube video.  IoT will continue to slowly expand until its ambient (connecting most things in the most useful way, as defined by the user).  Every day, IoT spreads a little further as brands, devices and technology become socially enabled and people interlink their online social assets and the bandwidth backbone becomes more powerful and ubiquitous.

Why is this important and specifically, why as a marketer should you care?  Simple, the webification of your world means that you can get exactly what you need, when you need it and be able to verify its value.  Customers will rely more on the network than on you, the brand or marketer.  Chances are you are already seeing this today.  Knowing this reality, the question is, what can you do about it?

All of these interconnected nodes create a vast, digital structure, virtually every piece of information that can be measured in some way will.  As the grid expands, real privacy for anyone using modern devices will become dead as we know it.  While this might seem bad, it’s not necessarily.  It’s just different.

Marketers and brands today, like you and the company you probably work for, track customer movements, preferences and activities when they log onto the grid.  The websites your customers visit and the sites they surf are all tracked and provide you with all sorts of activity metrics.  Their preferences and profiles provide an insight into what they are ‘likely to be interested in’ or ‘what they might like’ based on behavioral targeting but today, sometimes they log off the grid and other times, we they still on it but the pieces of the grid that provide a more cohesive level of intelligence about that consumer aren’t connected…yet.  So you guess about what they want and need.  You use your activity metrics to get as close as you can.

Once these puzzle pieces start to connect, the grid’s neural network will fill in and grow at a blinding speed, building intelligence into systems, linking ideas, people and resources.  Life will evolve.

Here’s an example. Imagine that you have a severe allergy to nuts and your wife is diabetic.  One evening you are out shopping and notice a new restaurant.  You call up an app on your phone that pulls Yelp recommendation information in, see that it’s menu fits your dietary requirements so you make a reservation using Open Table. Sitting at the table, your wife’s phone and yours notify you that there are two items on the menu that use peanut oil and pine nuts in their ingredients that aren’t clear on the printed menu, nor is the new waiter up to speed entirely but the online menu calls this out, as do a number of the recommendations from people like you and your wife.  IoT technology connects the dots and triggers an alert.

The next day you are in a supermarket and you pick up a carton of eggs but are alerted that the eggs in your hand haven’t been well received by several of your friends plus the farm uses hormones in their chickens you want to avoid.   Your shopping list automatically checks off the other eggs you select and also offers you a coupon for the bacon package next to it.  IoT knows you like thick cut bacon and prefer to use coupons on only certain items.

In the not too distant future, we will be on our way to being this connected.  It’s here that the power of social marketing will take place.  Brands that are aligned with the social needs of their customers and move from being the ‘brand hero’ position to one in which the brand becomes part of the story or experience (instead of the story itself) will be the big winners.  If I am Roche Diagnostics that provides the warning at dinner or Kroger that helps me with the eggs and bacon, if done the right way, they will own that customer’s loyalty.  Knowing where and how to help the consumer with the right information, content, resource or tool as they move through the myriad of decision journey’s they deal with as part of their life is the ultimate goal.  The issue isn’t really the ever expanding nature of IoT, its really that brands don’t want to give up the command and control model.

Today, the building blocks are being laid for this change; IoT is coming whether you want it to or not.  For a brand to be a trusted part of a consumer’s life when the grid really starts to interconnect in the next few years, it must have made the investment in understanding and using social business analytics, developing a robust digital content development and curation process, socially enabled and interconnected assets, user reputation management as well as, instilled  culture of collaboration beginning now.  Today.

The Internet of Things will change the rules of marketing forever, more so than web 1.0, 2.0 or even the social web.  IoT will favor those who’ve invested in interconnected, enterprise wide social engagement programs, content supply chains and social business analytics today.

Are you ready?  Are you sure?

Steve Hershberger

Steve Hershberger