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Industry 4.0: what's this revolution’s impact on marketing?

The advent of the steam engine in the 18th century brought the first industrial revolution. It sparked the opposition of many workers and eventually gave rise to the Luddites – a movement to destroy the machines that were taking away people’s jobs. Despite that, the modernisation of industry went ahead. It was driven by the desire of companies and states to increase labour’s efficiency and productivity. Today we’re witnessing what is already a fourth industrial revolution. Its main attribute is an all-embracing digitalisation that will alter many aspects of how business works. Marketing, too.

The key’s not just producing fast, but also immediate promotion

Imagine a modern factory where new products are created automatically through the instant assessment of consumer behaviour and market needs. It turns out that these days just making a new product isn’t enough. You also have to let the world know about it, break through the information noise thrown up by competitors. So the factory’s marketing department gets to work.

In fact, it’s often less efficient and productive than the manufacturing unit, since it still relies on old ways of doing things. Its staff can spend a whole year preparing to present a new product at a traditional trade show: they buy costly space at the site, order a stand that is no less expensive, and spend another heap of money on needs linked to taking part in the exhibition. Meanwhile, nobody knows what the return on this investment will be. They might not even care, since they think participating in that trade show is in itself a positive thing which doesn’t need to be rationally justified.

Paradoxically, that is exactly how many of the world’s companies still operate. Both large ones and small ones.

Now imagine how the work of this same marketing department would change if the professionals it employs were to follow the path of innovation and prepare for the type of exhibition that, in sync with the fast pace of modern production, lets you present a new product almost the very same day to target audiences wherever you want. Everywhere in the world. Simultaneously.

Modern marketing professionals can manage this at first seemingly impossible aspiration within just a few weeks. They ask the head of production in advance to explain the new product and lay out its main new features on camera. Taking that information, and adding the right accents, the factory’s marketing team presents it in a snap at a virtual exhibition platform, and spreads word about their company’s digital exhibit using social networks and email.

Doing things this way, a marketing department makes more effective use of its own and others’ time and money – which for sure are among the most vital business resources.c

The best thing is the virtual exhibition doesn’t end after just a few days. The stand remains active on the internet for a full year, so those seeking the products or services you present will find them when it’s handy for them. That means customers’ contact with the company will continue even after the marketing department’s working hours.

Users of digital technologies are more profitable

It may be, of course, that not everyone will like the virtual trade show alternative. Some managers will still want to present what they produce at traditional exhibitions: they’ll spend months preparing for them, print up brochures, book flights and reserve hotels. We wish them the best of luck!

But true business leaders, who readily accept and believe in innovation, will be sensible. They won’t disregard the opportunities offered by technological solutions that enable companies to reduce costs, react more quickly to market changes and boost their competitive advantage.

Meanwhile, those in doubt about joining virtual exhibitions can ask themselves if they’re satisfied with the traditional trade shows in which they’ve participated until now, and if the money they’ve invested in those events has paid off.

If after answering these questions it’s still not clear whether you should include the new exhibition format in your company’s marketing plan, the conclusions of a 2015 study by the business consulting firm Accenture will dispel all remaining doubts. The study found that companies which readily adopt and implement digital technologies in their work earn more profits. That’s of course what every business wants! Isn’t it?


You can reject technologies, oppose them and argue with great conviction that nothing will change the laws of marketing (even if they’ve already changed). But… we probably all know how resistance to the first industrial revolution ended.

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