Towards the end of last year, I was invited as a panelist at the Global Work Tech Scenarios 2050 South Africa conference. At first, I was nervous to share my thoughts because I wasn’t sure how they would be received, and I wasn’t sure how my background in marketing and communications would fit into the context of the future of science and technology.

Quite often the tendency is that we see science as a mutually exclusive subject that does not directly affect our daily lives – well, at least that’s what I thought. However, the more I have been in this field, the more I understand how different waves in science and technology shape the cultural experience of society, for example, the way society communicates, buys and accesses information has changed because of the digital age.

Attending this conference further opened my eyes to this and as a result required me to think about the possibilities of the future and the role of marketing and communications in this regard.

In preparation for the panel discussion, we were sent a document entitled Global future work/technology scenarios 2050. Using a futures research method, the case study carefully examines the potential scenarios that could emerge by 2050 as a result of global technological progress. In addition, the case study examines the impact of these advances on politics, economics, and culture. Of the three scenarios presented to us, the third is called: If people were free – self-realization economics resonated with me the most.

A culture of self-awareness, creativity and purpose

According to this particular upcoming study, new technologies in the form of artificial intelligence will change the face of the job market as we know it today. By 2050, approximately 4 billion people will be seeking self-employment. This means that new technologies do not necessarily support formal employment, but they can create an enabling environment for the development of alternative forms of employment.

The study predicts that with this economic shift, the share of people employed by corporations will decrease and the number of self-employed will increase. The research also shows that individual power will begin to rise relative to state and corporate power.

This economic shift, which is the result of the technological revolution, will also have a direct impact on world culture. Thanks to the increase in individual power, society will begin to accept the concept of self-realization of the economy. Essentially, this means that people will begin to decide for themselves how to use their time, reflect on questions about their life’s purpose, and find ways to express their purpose through work.

As a result, a culture of self-awareness, creativity and purpose will culminate, and it may also change the way people relate to brands. In a society where people are self-aware and driven by the need to express themselves, one must ask themselves how this will affect the way corporate companies market their brand and communicate their brand to the public.

Declining corporate power

The company has benefited from the existence of public relations, marketing and communications for many years. This is because this field of research specializes in studying the behavior of consumers or a certain target audience, understanding their needs and desires, using various methods to mass transfer a certain service or product to a group of people for profit.

In fact, Edward Bernays, considered the “father of public relations” and known as the nephew of Sigmund Freud, founded the foundation of public relations on the study of crowd psychology, which is the broad study of how human behavior is influenced by large crowds.

Over the years, this approach has worked like a charm because the economic system of capitalism has created in society a culture of competitiveness, consumerism and the need to achieve material success in order to gain social acceptance. Thus, corporate companies through public relations, marketing and communications have been able to gain the loyalty of various publics by taking advantage of this.

However, if future studies predict a self-realized economy by 2050, we will see a decrease in corporate power and an increase in individual power. If the agenda in society is to explore personal creativity, self-awareness and goal achievement, rather than seeking material success to gain social recognition, it may mean that marketing and communications may have to start looking for a different approach to bring brands to the public.

Changing consumer market

So I suspect that as opposed to a mass communication approach that groups people based on what they have – for example using the Living Standards Measurement (LSM) method to understand a specific target audience, a more personalized approach may need to be taken.

This means that brands may have to invest more time in scanning their target market’s environment, taking the time to understand what influences them, what they want, what they need, their deepest desires and fears. The changing consumer market will require brands to be able to participate as active members of the community and skillfully interpret their beliefs and value systems, not just their physiological needs.

In the past, brands moved away from simply marketing and communicating a product to push it to market. This approach worked for years because the consumer culture at the time was more about what a particular product/service could do for me. However, this approach to the modern consumer seems disconnected.

With the digital age allowing us to easily access information, there is already a gradual increase in consumers who are more knowledgeable and interested in the policies that govern how a brand operates. As a result, consumers confidently reject a brand that does not reflect their beliefs or value system.

By 2050, this type of consumerist, uncompromising and self-aware is predicted to increase exponentially. Brands that refuse to watch and listen will remain disconnected from the reality of their target audience and will be preaching to the unconverted.

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