Stop us if you’ve heard this before: the age of on-demand marketing is coming. Although it’s been touted for years, and some could argue it’s already here, McKinsey & Companyhas visualized the real Golden Age, and it’s right around the corner.

In the article “The coming era of ‘on-demand’ marketing,” the consulting group says that marketing is heading toward being on-demand, “responsive to the consumer’s desire for marketing that cuts through the noise with pinpoint delivery.”

Get Ready

McKinsey indicates that this building wave is being fueled by several developments, such as ubiquitous product information made available through search technologies, social media that encourages consumers to compare experiences, and “do whenever” mobile devices.

Plus, on-demand products and services are becoming commonplace, from video-on-demand to airline services called up on a smartphone as desired.

But, McKinsey says, “we’re just getting started.” Get ready for the new drivers -- greater mobile connectivity, the Internet of Things feeding information from otherwise inert objects, and the growing wave of Big Data analytics. We’re also now transitioning to such new modes of interaction as searching by image, voice or gesture, or augmented reality through such devices as Google glasses.

McKinsey says that these capabilities breed expectations, so there will be an increase in consumer demand for anytime, anywhere interaction, a desire to use new kinds of information like physical activity monitoring, an expectation of data that is targeted and personalized to the user, and an expectation of ease-of-use with all interactions.

Embedded Everything

This will result in brand experiences that are “more intense and defining,” which McKinsey research says is the driver behind most of the decision-making that goes into purchasing.

So, what does the future hold? McKinsey crystal balls the environment in 2020: consumer experience embedded into everything, where a hypothetical buyer, Diane, expects to find out about using a headset on sale in a physical store by tapping it with her phone.

This results in her smartphone prompting her to photograph herself and see how she’d look with the possible purchase. That begins a sequence of marketing/purchasing opportunities, such as sharing a picture of her purchase, getting benefits for each friend who similarly taps the headset, scoring a discount for entering a specific club that senses she’s wearing the headset, and so on.

Learning Opportunities


From McKinsey's "The coming era of 'on-demand' marketing"

This new environment, the article says, requires companies to rethink the role of the marketing organization, establishing new levels of customer relationship management throughout virtual and physical environments that are heavily embedded with next generations of intelligence, sensors, personalization and unified data analysis.

The Inter-Verse

The article raises a variety of intriguing scenarios of this intensely integrated world. My only complaint is the description of this as “a coming era of on-demand marketing.” Although it’s harder to describe in a short phrase, it would more accurately be pegged as the current era, but on steroids.

We’re already in this integrated world, although its penetration, density and intensity are still several levels from what it can be. Barnes & Noble’s integration between its online and bricks-and-mortar shelves, smartphones that issue location-based information as one walks, Google Now giving unrequested dish recommendations for the restaurant in which we’re sitting. These are all the first stages of the Golden Age.

This Inter-Verse is already here, and the vision proposed in the article seems to differ in degree, not in kind. One more thing: we need a new word that encompasses the marketing-with-purchasing dynamic. McKinsey calls this “on-demand marketing,” but purchasing decisions are so tightly interwined that some other compound term, yet unknown, feels more appropriate.

In other words, it’s not the advertising or word-of-mouth that got you into the restaurant,and it’s not the menu, the meal, the dessert tray enticing you to pick your sweet, the discount coupon for your next meal or you paying the check afterward. It’s all one continuous, intertwined, never-ending meal, where one taste or dish selection automatically leads to other options and future benefits, and the food knows more about you than your best friend.