A recent work assignment had me googling terms like “future of marketing.”

A few links later, I was thoroughly down the Internet rabbit hole when I ran across this post from the Harvard Business Review Blog. In it, Gerd Leonhard, who is known as one of the leading media-futurists in the world, laid out some predictions for the future of marketing.

The biggest takeaways:

  • “Marketing” as a business term may be quickly morphing into something entirely different.
  • People will expect more personalization.
  • Marketing to humans, by humans, will remain paramount in the digital age for one very important reason.

Buh-bye, Marketing Department

Leonhard says that marketing departments will meld into social departments, as the impetus to buy becomes more and more socially related. Customers will only align themselves with companies they feel share their values.

He also predicts that by 2020, all advertising will have turned into “content” (blog posts, videos, podcasts, e-books, etc.). Customers will leverage their personal information to deeply engage with brands and receive personalized offers. Brands’ No. 1 priority will be to “delight” their customers. But if the company makes a wrong move and breaches the trust of the consumer, the relationship will be over.

What that means to you: Focus your efforts in content marketing to build engagement with your potential clients.

Local and Hyperlocal Will Reign

People will expect more targeted offers based on their locations. The caveat: Privacy issues will need to be sorted out first, as customers become wary of safety concerns with sharing personal information.

What that means to you: Develop personalized offers. Ensure customers that privacy is your utmost concern – and then deliver on that promise. If you don’t, they’ll take their business elsewhere.

Digital Won’t Preclude Emotion

No matter how much companies automate and strategize around the mounds of data they collect, brands will still have to “humanize” the buying process to reach people on an emotional level.

What that means to you: Continue to put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Empathize. Speak to people in an authentic way.

Getting Personal is the Priority

The bottom line is this: The future of marketing is about building relationships. The mechanisms by which we do that may look different, but the idea of connecting with people remains the same.