Shiny objects syndrome has its benefits

The obsession with new technology often leads brands astray, but there are a few ways to minimize the risks of and maximize the benefits of experimentation

The advertising industry has shiny objects syndrome. The obsession with the new often takes precedence over any other consideration, and sometimes that leads to executions that are pretty out there. Still, there is something to be said for a brand that is first to leverage a new technology. VR, AI and chatbots are likely top of the mind these days, as they should be. But here are a few ways you can minimize the risks and maximize the benefits of experimentation.

Be clear and honest about your intentions. Throughout my career I have observed pride and ego as two key factors that destroy innovation. Oftentimes when an idea is our own we hold onto it for dear life and stop at nothing to see it come to fruition. This mentality can be blinding to the realities of which ideas are good for business and which ideas are simply good for one’s career. For this reason it is critical to be honest with yourself when working on something that is seemingly experimental. Perhaps one objective for creating virtual chicken nuggets is for the press value; there is nothing inherently wrong with that, provided you own that position from the onset.

Leverage leading indicators. At the end of last year, I read a piece about conversational commerce and was immediately smitten by the potential of making mobile commerce more personal and analogous to the traditional retail experience, thanks in part to the growing consumer messaging apps trend. These new in-messenger experiences, largely powered by chatbots that allow for automated conversations with consumers, are all the rage. In an instant, the topic flooded the tech and marketing trades. Some dismissed chatbots as a "flash in the pan," while others looked deeper to see a larger trend towards greater machine automation and intelligence. Though the full realization of the technology may be years away, there is no doubt that AI will play a significant role in our future lives and subsequently in the future of marketing and advertising. Always look deeper at the larger tend.

Find the competitive advantage. We can all remember the craze of Second Life that took the industry by storm in the early 2000s. There were certainly many misses for some brands that jumped in head first to capitalize on this cultural phenomenon. But for others who used it as a testing ground, they went on to do great things on social platforms. Fast forward to the present day and virtual reality is the shiny thing du jour surrounded by its skeptics and proponents. As the technology continues to gain momentum, brands chasing the shine of VR need to think more about its underlying value and how it can enhance experiences beyond the desired wow factor. We are still in the gold rush phase, where doing anything in VR is the priority and doing something meaningful is taking a back seat. To succeed, marketers need to uncover the competitive advantage that can be harnessed beyond mere publicity value. When you find it, the ROI of VR should be plentiful.

The lifetime value of shiny. Not every new technology is an advance. The most innovative marketers are those who take the risk to try out the new shiny object and evaluate the results. Sometimes that requires months and even years with nascent technologies. If you are working on selling in the next big thing, position the potential investment as the start to something, not an end.  

The antidote to acute shiny objects syndrome is realism.

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