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By Alan Coleman on 7 Mar 2018

OK Google, What will marketing look like on the 5G internet?"

I’m just home from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona where I learnt all about the implications of 5G which is expected to roll out in 2020. Here are my musings so far.

5G is expected to be 100 times faster than 4G. To predict the future implications, let’s take a look at the past.

Evolution of the Gs

2G brought us voice and text over the mobile phone. 3G brought us speedy internet access which meant we had all the information in the world rapidly available on our person. 4G allowed for video streaming turbocharging social networks and E-Commerce. The predictions around 5G are that as a result of the proliferation of the internet of things we will live in smart homes, travel in smart transport, work in smart offices or smart shops and live in smart cities as our lives are optimised by 5G enabled smart technology. So what exactly is smart?

What is Smart?

Smart is internet connected and smart is AI enabled. Because we will be living in a solar system of connected devices we will constantly be receiving data from and transmitting data to our devices. Data is oxygen for AI. This dramatically increased data collection coupled with dramatically increased processing powers will turbo-charge our AI to get to know us intimately and start to assist us in our lives by tracking our daily activity and guiding us through our optimised lives.

“Alexa I want to lose 1 stone before my holiday, optimise my eating and excercise.”

Battle of the Internet Giants

Google and Apple were the big winners of the 3G iteration. Facebook and Amazon were the big winners of the 4G iteration, so which of the internet giant looks primed to conquer the 5G iteration of the internet? To me, Google and Amazon have the jump on the competition. 

Who’s winning the race to provide the IoT hardware for 5G? The Google Home and the Amazon Echo appear to be way out in front. When it comes to software, again Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa are way out in front with both operating systems able to function in any device with a speaker, a mic and an internet connection!

On the AI front, which could be the critical success factor in smart living, Google has a significant strategic advantage. While Amazon owns fantastic data on peoples’ shopping behaviour, Google is the go-between for of all humanity’s interactions with all the information in the world.

Google’s stated mission is “to organise the world's information….” but I believe their secret mission is “to monitor all the world’s interactions with all the world's information and become the world leader in machine learning AI off of it”. Monitoring interactions between people and data is how machine learning works.

The world’s largest search engine has an unassailable big data advantage when it comes to machine learning backed AI and this should see them escape the competition.

“OK Google, calculate my carbon footprint and optimise my travel to reduce it.”

What does 5G mean for marketers?

The first four "Gs" of the internet were all about media and communications. 5G is different. In 5G the centre of gravity of the internet becomes smart living. More than ever before the internet becomes embedded in our day to day lives.

The 5G internet is not something we look at during the in-between moments of our lives, the 5G internet is the thing that drives the day-to-day of our lives. It's important people understand 3G and 4G were principally about media; changes to news media, the birth of social media, the meteoric rise of online video media, search is essentially a gateway to more media. This media-focused phase of the internet's evolution presented an avalanche of new paid media (ie advertising) opportunities for marketers.

5G is about "things", not media and there are very limited advertising opportunities in things. People will not tolerate ads being served from the hardware they paid for. The contract we have with the digital media platforms is you give us free access to your media platform and we agree to be exposed to ads. There are very limited opportunities for companies to spout clunky commercial messages out of people’s purchased smart home devices.

So instead of investing in advertising, smart marketers will be developing tech that sits natively within people’s ecosystem of devices. This tech will be highly specialised, brand-relevant personal assistants for smart living. So while the opportunity from advertising will be limited, the marketing opportunity will only be limited by your imagination.

“Alexa, calculate the loan to value of my house and go find me a better interest rate on my mortgage”

You'll Need Skills

What the app is to the smartphone, the “skill” is to the smart device. Brands can develop “skills” which their audience can then download to their smart devices and call upon at will.

"Alexa, open the Jamie Oliver skill and tell me the chicken and chorizo recipe"

Apparently, brands can architect a “skill” once and then reskin it for Amazon Echo or Google Home or even convert it into a Facebook chatbot. Check out Nestle’s GoodNes as an example.

"OK Google, notify me when flu searches near me increase and recommend preventative measures"

Marketing mixes will swing from predominantly paid media (over 80% is spent on advertising right now) to much more interesting and useful forms of marketing. Marc Andreesen’s prophecy “all companies will need to become software companies” looks more accurate now than ever.

The brands closest to being the first winners in the IOT are those who have development capabilities and who’ve been thinking content marketing. Ie how do we create content that is useful to our audience and brand coherent.

“OK Google, analyse my spending and show me options on how I can save €250 per month.”

In the media-focused internet, content marketing’s war cry was “brands need to think like publishers”. In the IoT-focused internet,  content marketing war cry will be “brands need to think like specialist virtual assistants”, asking "how can I help you in new and amazing ways in a brand coherent manner today".

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