OPINION: MARKETING SOCIETY - Are we about to hit an unknown change barrier?

We have just lived through a decade that has seen more technical

change - and more change of any kind - than any previous two decades

added together.



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

development.



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

collective fuse?



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

Odyssey.



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.

For more information e-mail: annual.conference@marketing-society.org.uk



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