As marketers it is our challenge to be creative, investigative, and diligent in our search for how to best connect with our customers. This article takes a different approach, but tells the same compelling story that The Page Group presents to its customers daily. In the search for a better experience it is all about identifying the consumer, understanding their needs, finding their connecting points, and delivering on their expectations. This article hits it on the head thru a compelling story, and helps clear the air on the complex world of marketing today.
Out Of This World: Vizualizing the fifth dimension – A Marketer’s ‘Interstellar’ Journey
Space exploration seems to be back in vogue with spacecraft Philae landing on a distant comet and the Christopher Nolan-directed movie “Interstellar” landing in theaters–both events occurring within a few days of each other.
- As marketers, we deal with our own five-dimensional version of reality.
- The wormhole equivalent in marketing is the loyalty loop.
- Just like an interstellar journey, the journey from one level of digital maturity to another is exciting as well as confusing for marketers.
As a physics graduate who had a keen interest in Einstein’s theory of relativity as a student, I was looking forward to seeing “Interstellar“ ever since the movie’s first reviews hit the wires. Every reviewer had pointed out how Nolan used concepts of space, time, gravity, and relativity to spin an impressive tale about humans and the universe we inhabit. And, yes, everyone said it was a complicated story to understand. True to his reputation, Nolan narrated a story involving complex concepts to amaze the viewers about the sheer complexity of the universe.
Personally, I am a big fan of Nolan’s ability to use the cinematic medium to tell a mind-bending, usually nonlinear story, but this article is not about the goodness, accuracy, or inaccuracy of the movie. This article is about the similarities in the life of the movie’s protagonist, Joseph Cooper (played by Matthew McConaughey) and the life of a marketer. Let’s explore the shared complexities that Cooper faced as he embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime interstellar mission and that marketers face every day in this digital world.
(Spoiler alert: I’m about to reference specific movie scenes and situations.)
• Five-dimensional reality: During the movie, Cooper is presented with a five-dimensional version of reality. This is one of the movie’s most complicated concepts because we are trained to perceive only three dimensions: length, width, and height. We can even stretch our imagination to include the fourth dimension of time and still visualize it, with some effort. For example, take a 3D camera and shoot a burst of photos of a football flying through a goal post. Then arrange those photos one after another in the sequence in which they were shot; there you go, you have the three-dimensional ball coupled with its movement through the fourth dimension of time in front of you.
Honestly, visualizing the fifth dimension will make our heads hurt. As marketers, however, we deal with our own five-dimensional version of reality, which comprises:
- First dimension: Who is the visitor? Is he an existing or potential customer? What signals is he giving as he interacts with our brand? The answers to these questions form the basis of the first and, in some aspects, the most important dimension for marketers.
- Second dimention: What is the visitor doing? Is the visitor looking for new products, accessories for products, or customer service for a product already bought?
- Third dimension: Where is the visitor? Is he visitor engaging with our brand in our store, on our Web site, on our mobile app, or on our social channel?
- Fourth dimension: What is the visitor trying to achieve? This is essentially the visitor’s customer journey across channels.
- Fifth dimension: Where is the visitor is his life cycle? This refers to customer lifetime value and changing needs as the customer progresses through time.
Just as it is very difficult to imagine a five-dimensional version of reality, it is very difficult for marketers to constantly visualize and focus on these five dimensions simultaneously to deliver engaging brand experiences. But those that do reap disproportionate rewards.
• Wormhole: In the movie, a wormhole is a shortcut between two points in space that drastically reduces the time it takes for the astronauts to go from one point in the universe to another. Cooper enters a wormhole that he thought was placed by some higher form of being to traverse vast interstellar distances within a relatively short amount of time.
The wormhole equivalent in marketing is the loyalty loop. The loyalty loop reduces the time taken to traverse the customer decision journey from consideration to evaluation to purchase to experience to advocate, taking the customer directly from point of consideration to the point of purchase. In the universe of a marketer, this wormhole is not created by another higher being. It is created by providing a truly differentiated and engaging customer experience across the entire journey that gives the person the confidence to short-circuit that same journey for future purchases.
• Gravitational time dilation: In the movie, Cooper ages relatively slower than the people on Earth when he visits a planet with extremely high gravitational force. This comes straight from the theory of Einstein, who postulated that the stronger the gravitational pull, the slower the passage of time. In other words, the closer one is to the source of gravity, the slower one ages compared to others who are farther away from the source.
In marketing terms, the equivalent of gravity is brand affinity: The stronger the continuous engagement of the brand, the stronger the brand affinity and, consequently, the slower the aging of the relationship between the customer and the brand. In the celestial world, the time dilation is affected by large celestial bodies. In a marketer’s world, this time dilation needs to be affected by the marketers themselves by leveraging brand-to-customer engagement channels, as well as customer-to-customer engagement channels.
• Black holes: A black hole is a region in the universe where gravity prevents anything from escaping, including celestial bodies and light. In the movie, Cooper finds an alternative view of the universe by traversing through a black hole. As per the theory, at the center of the black hole lies a gravitational singularity–a region that has infinite density and, in one sense, contains everything that has ever come into very close proximity of the black hole.
In marketing, that point of gravitational singularity is the single source of truth regarding the customer–the one place that contains all details about the interactions whenever a customer comes in contact with the brand. Alas, like an actual black hole, many times marketing efforts to create that golden customer profile leads to multiyear, multimillion-dollar customer data warehouse black holes from which marketing gets nothing or so little that it renders the initiative unfit. In the movie, Cooper had no other option but to enter the black hole. Smart marketers, however, try to avoid them altogether.
Just like the characters in “Interstellar,” marketers live in a digital world that is equally, if not more, complex. And just like the interstellar journey in the movie, the journey from one level of digital maturity to another is exciting as well as confusing for marketers.
So the next time someone gushes about the complex storyline of “Interstellar,” you can reply: “Welcome to my world!”