Time to rewrite the digital marketing playbook?

Web 3.0 is already here, and marketers obviously can’t afford to ignore it. Brands are always on the lookout for connecting with their consumers. And they wouldn’t mind exploring and experimenting with new platforms in order to continue engaging with them. They are also aware Gen Z and millennials adopt new technologies earlier. So sooner they are there in the Web 3.0 ecosystem, the better they win their hearts.

Having said that, it is easier said than done. Web 3.0 has just arrived and is in a very nascent stage of its evolution. How will it shape in the coming years? No one knows it now for sure.

It might seem impossible to see what the future holds, but to look forward, we need to look back to review how the world of brand and marketing has been shaped because of the technological transformation enabled and powered by Web 1.0 and Web 2.0.

The advent of the Internet and Web 1

It was the first stage of the World Wide Web evolution and the era of the static website. It started in the early 1990s and remained till the beginning of the next century.

Till this time, TV, Radio, and Print media were the traditional advertising channels. Because these spaces were far expensive, it was exclusively used and dominated by the big brands. Towards the mid-1990s, when the first static websites were launched, the banner ads made their way, marking the beginning of the revolutionary digital marketing journey. These were very basic (the banner ads were a gateway to another static page having information on the advertisers’ products and solutions). One can only imagine the hard time the sales executives must have gone through convincing the brands and their marketing teams to spend even a minimal budget on these ads!

The first web banner appeared on the Internet in October 1994. It was an advertisement for AT&T in 1994, and people clicked on it like crazy. Since the mid-1990s, banner advertising has been an integral part of most websites.

Web 2.0 and the digital marketing revolution

Web2 (started in the early 2000s and continuing) was and continues to be far more exciting. The introduction of technologies like Javascript and PHP brought a whole lot of dynamism. User-generated content and social networking ushered in a new online collaboration and production era. Consumers rely primarily on digital tools to conduct product research. Mobile overtook the desktop as the most popular device for consuming content.

Data became the new gold as marketers could make intelligent and accurate decisions based on consumers’ behavior patterns. As a result, data and its analysis took the centerstage. The adoption of business intelligence and analytics skyrocketed. These advancements have undoubtedly increased the number of opportunities for marketers to use big data to gain a competitive advantage.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO),  Pay-per-Click (PPC),  Social Media Marketing. Content Marketing, Email Marketing, Mobile Marketing, Marketing Analytics, and Affiliate Marketing evolved as standard digital marketing tools for the brands.

Web 3: Go for early adoption or Wait and watch?

Getting in there early, actively shaping the next evolution of the internet, and positioning the brand for maximum reach – it would be interesting to see how quickly marketers respond to this.

Before speculating, let us understand what is Web 3?

Intelligence is at the heart of Web 3.0, which focuses on interactions between people, websites and websites, and websites and people. Web 2.0 was more frontend-focused, Web 3.0 will emphasize the internet’s backend: improved connectivity, accessibility, and ubiquity. It is more open, fair, and empowering for individual users than Web2 could ever be. It solves the problems we face in Web2 – of security of personal data.

Blockchain is a critical component of Web 3.0. Its goal is to increase decentralization, with the ultimate goal of creating a decentralized internet. It will provide a far more personalized browsing experience for all of us.

Charles Silver in an article in The Forbes Magazine wrote:

The rise of technologies such as distributed ledgers and storage on blockchain will allow for data decentralization and create a transparent and secure environment, overtaking Web 2.0’s centralization, surveillance, and exploitative advertising. Decentralized infrastructure and application platforms will displace centralized tech giants, and individuals will be able to rightfully own their data.

Indeed, one of the most significant implications of decentralization and blockchain technology is in the area of data ownership and compensation. As we move toward Web 3.0 and the technologies that support it mature and become scalable, I believe the web will reflect its original intent.

And what does it mean for the marketers?

Web 3.0 might take some time to become mainstream; nonetheless, it will eventually change everything and disrupt your brand and industry. This means there has to be a paradigm shift in the way brands connect and engage with the consumers and a need to relook and rework the strategy and processes to readjust to the evolving landscape. Marketers will have no option but to follow up on Web 3.0 trends continuously. It is a time to learn, unlearn, and relearn.

We also need to remember that digital advertising spending worldwide – which includes desktop and laptop computers and mobile devices – stood at an estimated 400 billion U.S. dollars in 2021. This figure is forecast to constantly increase in the coming years, reaching 646 billion U.S. dollars by 2024.

Since the new internet is expected to offer a more personalized and tailored surfing experience, a more intelligent and more human-like search assistant, and other decentralized benefits, it is hoped that it will create a more fair web. Each user will take control of their data and enhance the overall experience through various innovations. These practices will build more genuine relationships with the customers and build partnerships that benefit everyone involved. It’s time for brands to stop thinking of customers as numbers in their database and start thinking of them as people looking for the same thing they are.

In Web 2.0 based marketing, we have lost sight of the most important benefit that advertising provides to the market: connecting brands and offers to consumers directly. Advertising as we know it has shifted to a focus on data collection rather than delivering value to consumers. As a result, data collectors have become dominating players in the industry. Web 3.0 might bring a complete transformation as we’re now seeing a global macro-movement toward consumer privacy protection.

In web 3.0, the web experience will not be restricted to the desktop or laptop screen. We would instead be surrounded by it. This will give the brands to offer users rich and interactive advertising opportunities. The brands can dive into a whole new world full of innovation in advertising and marketing, where they will deliver more targeted ads to consumers. This will create more engagement than before. Large Web 2.0 companies, like Meta and Ubisoft, are creating virtual worlds powered in part by Web 3.0.

Apart from this immersive experience, there are many other values that Metaverse presents that could be of interest to marketers. They are always active, exist in a real-time, self-contained, and fully functioning universe powered by user-generated content. The brands can engage with the existing communities. You may launch your next phone in a Metaverse or organize an annual fest on a platform like Decentraland and connect with your customers with a brand new experience.

Non-fungible tokens will also play a huge role in reshaping the gaming industry by allowing players to become the immutable owners of the items they accrue. Recently Nike has brought RTFKT to manufacture digital sneakers. RTFKT sells digital items as non-fungible tokens. P&G has also taken its first step into the Metaverse with BeautySphere. As per the press release, the innovative digital experience combines immersive storytelling, thought-provoking Livestream panel discussions, and gamification that brings the real-world impact of Responsible Beauty to life. Creating decentralized apps or backing your Service Level Agreements with smart contracts backed by blockchain could be a good strategy for B2B brands for creating a trust for their customers.

Credit: Bitcoinnews.com

The opportunities are endless. Web 3.0 will offer newer ways to engage with consumers, increasingly challenging to reach through traditional marketing channels in a more meaningful way.

So, will Web 2.0 digital marketing become obsolete?

Absolutely not. The new technology will complement rather than completely replace Web 2.0. In other words, blockchain-based social networks, transactions, and enterprises can and will expand and thrive in the coming years. However, entirely shutting down Facebook, Twitter, or Google is unlikely.

That means brands have to continue investing in the current platforms while exploring new trends. Either the digital marketing budget is divided, or brands spend more with more channels. Undoubtedly, much investment is needed for capacity building to understand and keep track of the evolving landscape. Web 3.0 is more real-time and fast-paced, so the response has to be spontaneous and quick. A full-year strategy and campaign planning might not be a good idea anymore.

Time to rewrite the playbook

Marketers are the voice and advocate of the customers. More than anyone else in the organization, they must know the customers better. All these are only possible if you follow your customers, and the best way is to adopt the technologies where they are. Maybe it’s time to unlearn the playbook that you might have written over the last decade. And why not? After all, you have to lead the strategies and innovation to make the brand more meaningful for your customers.

Sevashree Mohapatra
A strategic Corporate Communication leader and technology enthusiast, I have more than 20 years of experience in content, corporate communication, and Strategy. Having worked in major media houses and MNCs like Hindustan Times, Ogilvy, ArcelorMittal, and Suez, I have helped brands to create value for their customers.