Is your business ready to face the onslaught of robots?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is upon us. The World Economic Forum associates the 4IR with breakthroughs in emerging fields that include robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), nanotechnology, biotechnology, quantum computing, fifth generation wireless technologies, the internet of things, fully autonomous vehicles, 3D printing and many more innovations.

How it was back then

The preindustrial revolution was largely agrarian and rural.

The first industrial revolution happened during the 18th to 19th centuries when the steam engine was developed and the iron and textile industries began to use modern production methods.

The second industrial revolution happened just before World War I when disruptive technological advances like the telephone, light bulb, phonograph and the internal combustion engine were developed. Because of these inventions, industries emerged like steel, oil and electricity. Moreover, with electric power came the capacity to mass produce consumer goods.

The third industrial revolution, also called the digital revolution, began in the 1980s and was a witness to the advancement of technology from mechanical devices and analog to digital technology. Advancements around this period included the personal computer, internet and ICT (information and communications technology).

Two major challenges

Among the functional areas of the 4IR, the internet and AI have the most immediate and pervasive, ubiquitous impact in the Philippine marketing environment.

The internet is one of the most robust functional areas in the 4IR environment. According to internetworldstats.com, internet penetration as of June 2018 in the Philippines is estimated at 63 percent. The primary online activity among Filipinos is engaging in social media. Not surprisingly, in a digital report, both Internet World Stats and We Are Social, a UK-based firm, count 62 million Facebook users in the Philippines.

Ironically, Filipinos are extremely patient and resilient when it comes to internet usage. Here, internet speed is way below the global average. Ookla, a US-based global company specializing in fixed broadband and mobile network testing applications, data and analysis puts the Philippine’s average fixed internet speed at 15.2 megabits per second, way below the global average of 40 Mbps. Moreover, the Philippine internet speed clocks in only at 13.5 Mbps while global average is 21.3 Mbps.

The median age of internet users here is 24 years old. Users of social media are between the ages 18 and 34 years old. Top online activities included social media, 47 percent; video search, upload and download, 19 percent; online and mobile games, 15 percent; location-based search, 13 percent; and online shopping, 29 percent.

While online shopping is slowly becoming a favorite, data privacy and online security risk are foremost on the minds of Filipinos consumers. Only trust in a brand can overcome this barrier.

Another challenge is AI, a term coined by computer scientist John McCarthy in 1956. AI is about the science and engineering of making intelligent machines. AI and machine learning depend on algorithms, a step-by-step series of instructions that needs to be completed to obtain a particular result or meet a defined objective.

Today, there are unscrupulous or naïve brands that engage in social media advertising and marketing aided by agencies that power campaigns with fake accounts, false engagements, bots and spam. The sad thing is, because most of these followers are nonorganic and are shell or fake accounts, they are not likely to drive true revenues.

How can Philippine businesses rise above the 4IR challenges?

Gauge your performance as a brand. Many businesses think they are a brand after having survived in the business environment for many years or decades. Many are surprised to find out they remain a commodity, easily replaced or substituted by lower priced products in the same category or substitute categories.

A real brand, though, has a cult-like loyal following. Only a true brand has a substantial top of mind or high recall score in its category.

For consumers, true brands have differentiated images. Never mind if a certain brand has nearly the same or parity benefits as its category competitors. What matters is what consumers know of the brand whenever its name is mentioned. Only a positive image and clearly differentiated message can cut through the clutter.

Despite the challenges of the marketing environment triggered by new tariff regulations, labor laws, more competition, etc., strong brands remain unfazed due to the rising number of converted consumers to the brand.

Technology merely enables strong brands. The passing of the economic baton from the baby boomers and generation X to the millennials (or generation Y) and the generation Z has caused major changes and new opportunities and ways of buying.

Generation Y and Z, two generational cohorts, both digital natives and internet-savvy, with social media becoming pervasive in their lifetimes, buy their trusted, easily recalled, familiar, habitually used brands online in stores they likewise trust. Thus, investments in branding become more important when reaching out to these consumer markets especially when some of them begin to feel that visiting retail stores has become time consuming.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution presents new marketing challenges along with new opportunities more so when a product or service is a recognized brand. —CONTRIBUTED

The writer is an alumna of both Oxford University’s SAID Graduate School of Business Strategic Leadership and Strategic Marketing Executive Education and Stanford Graduate School of Business Strategic Marketing Executive Education. De Asis is also an alumna of the Ateneo Graduate School of Business and a PhD graduate of the De La Salle Graduate School, Taft Campus. De Asis is presently the chief brand strategist of MKS Marketing Consulting, a KBP and Management Association Philippines-accredited member. Reach the author at karenvdeasis@gmail.com.

 

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