Will the Covid disruption spur content innovation?

Published Oct. 12, 2021, 5:45 a.m. by Denise Wall

Spurred on by the Covid-19 shock, human society is witnessing what many are calling an accelerated 4th industrial revolution. Content marketers will also have to innovate to meet the challenge of a new global transformation.

The global Covid-19 pandemic has various experts talking about the acceleration of the 4th industrial revolution (4IR), in part fuelled by the role of the internet and social media in particular. The term 4IR was coined by the founder and executive chair of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, back in 2016, when he also described the blurring of the boundaries between our physical, digital, and biological worlds in his thesis. According to data revolution expert Sanjeev Khagram, this process was turbo-charged in early 2020 when leaders introduced a near-global lockdown as a public health measure.

We've since seen new technologies and innovations advance from experimental to mainstream status, purely due to the upheaval caused by the health crisis. Think of the unprecedented rate of development of mRNA vaccines and the widespread use of 3D printing to mass produce face shields, for example. It’s probably safe to say that almost every aspect of our lives will be affected by a surge in tech innovation: medicine, education, energy and environmental systems, ecommerce and financial systems are all poised for a radical makeover in the years ahead.

New technologies, new expectations

What will the quantum leap -- no longer a mere figure of speech -- mean for content marketers? Perhaps one of the most important elements of 4IR for marketers is that the proliferation of technological advancements – blockchain, nanotech, 3-D printing and robotics – will change the expectations that customers have of brands. This will likely be the biggest driver for change when it comes to the messages, channels, and technologies that marketers use to reach target audiences.

At the same time, some of the key drivers of the speed of the 4IR also lie at the heart of innovation in marketing communications: AI and big data, virtual and augmented reality, and the Internet of Things (IoT) will all have an impact on what we communicate and how we do so. For example, more data, especially personal data will drive the growing personalisation of content, while AI will make it easier to harvest data on how audiences engage with brands. At the same time, marketers will have to ensure they implement robust systems to safeguard individual data, in keeping with expectations that they can be trusted to securely gather, store, and use personal information. All of these factors will ultimately mean having future-proof skills sets that can serve marcomms teams in our evolving environment.

But while marketers will have to rise to the challenge of harnessing technology to ensure they remain relevant in our evolving digital/physical/experiential mashup, some basic principles will remain the same. Creating consistent and compelling messages for target audiences and focusing on the customer experience will still be at the heart of the business, as will consolidating marketing resources to ensure more bang for the buck. While some aspects of marketing communications will evolve in exciting ways we could never have imagined, others will hardly seem to have changed at all.