Online marketing is full of creativity and innovation. Though with adoption of fast-maturing channels like social media, video marketing and search, along with new techniques like the programmatic buying of display ads, being innovative in an industry which comprises some of the most creative minds of our generation is no mean feat.

Sure, there is always the option of sitting back and letting a competitor generate the ‘next big thing’ in online customer acquisition. People all too easily confuse innovation with invention and therefore miss the logic behind renewing or changing an idea to make something more efficient.

On the other hand there is definitely something in pipping an arch-rival to the post. Early adoption of new marketing technology and techniques can allow a brand to become acquainted with an idea before the industry has even awoken to its advantages. Then, as the rest of the crowd start to get to grips with a very basic, stripped-down version of this concept, the forefathers are more than happy to work on the next natural step of its evolution.

In many ways marketing innovation is driven by a need to get in front of an audience and do so in a highly creative way. Lateral thinking is what keeps the industry’s engine well-oiled, and Sri Sharma, founder and CEO of paid search group Net Media Planet, knows plenty about using creativity to good effect.

Nike Just Do It

Talking at Performance Marketing Insights: Europe, Sharma explained that one of his business’ biggest challenges is capturing an audience’s attention considering their lack of available time. Of course, with smartphones in their hands and tablets on their laps, it is easy to think of the modern-day consumer as a highly connected individual. Part of this is true, but what brands are most interested in is how receptive their users are to the messages they send out, mobile devices and all.  

When looking for examples of brands which are having to think outside of the box to capture their audience’s attention, Sharma points to Nike and its ability to track the movements of their customers in real time.

“If you take a look Nike, everyone is running Nike Fuel with their shoes. Not only is it their fastest-selling product of all time, it actually gives incredible insights into the real-time behaviour of consumers.”

“On a real-time basis they understand what customers are doing. So, for example, people who are running, when they’re running, where they’re running, what terrain it is and what temperature their body’s at when they’re running.”

Sharma says this is not only changing Nike’s product strategy but also its marketing message. Through Fuel technology the company discovered that runners in the US are running at a temperature higher than the one it anticipated, which subsequently impacted everything from the material of its new products to the company’s overall marketing strategy.

This tracking of consumer data is allowing Nike to cater for its customers on levels it had barely dreamed of, and this is the main reward behind thinking creatively for maximum marketing impact.

The sky’s the limit

Another company that has placed faith in tracking technology to target consumers is Skybox. Using sensors and the smallest high-definition cameras in the world, Skybox’s satellite technology is able to track a person’s every step, right from those conducted in their own homes to the ones that take them ever-closer to the shopping centre.

After its $500 million purchase by the search giant in June 2014, the company touted itself as a saviour in providing internet access and disaster relief. Yet Sharma believes Skybox’s technology could easily be viewed as the future in marketing, allowing Google pinpoint individuals on a daily basis and use the information to power search campaigns.

Though rather than acting as an annoyance, this ensures that customers are always given what they want, and seldom have to look too hard in order to find it.

Whether such models really are the future of marketing is up for debate, particularly among small businesses with no financial means to get ahead in areas like user tracking. However, what these highly creative and almost scary ideas do portray is a world of possibilities, where connectivity is paramount and customers are always well-catered for. Does a marketing utopia wait in the wings? Only time will tell.