We have just lived through a decade that has seen more technical
change - and more change of any kind - than any previous two decades
For most of us, it is a mega-problem just to keep up, not only with the
number of innovations, but also with the sheer speed of their
One quick look back over our shoulder reminds us that in 1990/91 the
internet was nowhere, the home establishment of personal computers was
extremely low, about a quarter of the company names on today's FTSE 100
list did not yet exist, we still watched rugby internationals on
terrestrial TV, and mobile phones were in their infancy. The future was
not yet Orange.
So much has changed in so short a time. But we ain't seen nothing yet.
For years, the aircraft designers strove to reach the speed of sound
but, once through the sound barrier, they were off and Saturn V touched
MACH 32 before it burned out.
If MACH 1 is the speed of sound, how can we define the present speed of
technochange? TECH 1 perhaps? If so, we can look forward within another
decade to change rates of TECH 10 or more, because the pace accelerates
exponentially. Surely it can only be a matter of time before we come to
the limit of our capacity to take it all in, and blow some massive
If it is a full-time job trying to keep up, how on earth can anyone
actually get a jump ahead? Who can say what will be the state of
industry by 2010?
Will all brands be 'own label', with manufacturing run by a handful of
global multiple retailers? Will the information technologists make all
the marketing decisions, leaving marketers to atrophy and disappear -
the dinosaurs of the late 20th century? Will information have become the
world's biggest industrial sector? Will computers be on free issue, on
the old Gillette principle that 'if they don't have the razors, they
won't buy the blades'?
As for our consumers, will they have education, career training,
employment, entertainment and shopping, all madly interactive, and all
delivered throughout the house on demand, controlled by the ultimate in
converged home networks? (If no one ever leaves the house, bang goes our
national transport problem.)
Futurology is already taken seriously in a growing number of thoughtful
places. In our own field, The Marketing Society is devoting its entire
annual conference this year to the theme 2001-2010: A Marketing
It claims it is sending nine top business leaders off in a time capsule
to the year 2010, returning to report to conference on the changes they
have found. Unless, of course, by then the world has learned how to make
haste a little more slowly and digestibly - in which case the time
travellers may decide not to come back. I wonder if they have a spare
seat in that capsule?
- The Marketing Society Annual Conference, 2001-2010: A Marketing
Odyssey, is being held at the Grosvenor House, London on November 21.
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