Traditionally, print and marketing production success has been achieved by expanding efficiency and improving the speed at which content is released to the market. But the tide of history is pulling the world toward “data” to create success. Regardless of the products or services offered, firms that collect, measure, track and analyze data are able to leverage those inputs in a multichannel world.
The future of cross-media, cross-channel or digital marketing depends not on who can come up with the best technologies and a snazzy pitch for a product or service, but on who understands data in order to use new media efficiently, start a two-way conversation with prospects, measure results and effectively respond. The future of all production will come down to what a customer specifies and orders at an individual level, with each unit being custom-produced.
Not only will data continually drive fundamental changes to the content that’s created for a particular audience and device, but also the methods and types of production used will dramatically change. Complex products can always be assembled in a factory, but the methods for producing parts will shift from a specialized supply chain per group of related industries to general manufacturers who possess the correct equipment to fabricate parts. This is more than three-dimensional printing and there is no doubt that the on-demand production on a unit-by-unit basis is the future.
Have doubts? Here is a quick summary of some of the rapid changes in technology over the past 60 years or so.
- In 1947, a mere one-third of rural areas in the United States had municipal or cooperative electrical power. Twenty-two years later, NASA put a man on the moon.
- In 1969, the entire computing power of the space program was less than that of a typical smart phone.
- Those of us old enough to remember will recall the now ludicrous-sounding debate over whether a computer would ever be used beyond niche consumer sales and the subsequent debate about whether there could ever be one in every home. And then, as if the trend was not already clear enough, whether Internet access would ever be universal. Today, virtually every household has a cell phone and most phones sold have Internet capability and require a data plan.
Let us reconsider the question of whether or not the future of production, from print to virtually any manufactured good, is not going to shift from large to small scale. It is not only conceivable, but has become almost a foregone conclusion that production will occur on demand and at a time and place of the consumer’s choosing. That might be at home, at a commercial printer or in a showroom reminiscent of the old Service Merchandise retail stores.
This then, leads us back to data.