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Dove Direct Print & Marketing Blog - “Technology Versus The Human Touch”

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Welcome to the Dove Direct Print and Marketing Blog. Today’s post, “Technology Versus The Human Touch” provides a glimpse into concerns marketers revealed at Salesforce’s annual Dreamforce conference. The conference focused on the ability of technology to offer a better way to make marketers lives more trouble free, with particular emphasis on customer experience improvements, as well as, offering better connectivity between staff and customer interactions. When we think of marketing via the human touch, we are actually embracing the latest marketing buzzword, “Personalization” including all of the marketing aspects of both the traditional and digital worlds.

To begin with, the Dreamforce conference which took place in San Francisco was attended by 10,171,000 folks, of which 171,000 were in attendance live and another ten million that joined via the online event.

Human Interaction Enhanced by Technology

Front and center at the Dreamforce event was the debate about whether or not technology supersedes the human experience, or does it replace it. The marketing community, along with brands have long been pursuing the technological aspect of marketing, often referred to as “Martech.” That said, it has been reported that most folks in attendance believed that technology assists human interaction as opposed to replacing it.

The CEO of the iconic brand, Shinola, Tom Lewand, was reportedly deemed the first person to give prominence to the idea that physical touch plays a commanding role regarding successful outcomes of Shinola’s business, and further, that the sales driver was not achieved by technology alone. Further, Mr. Lewand’s statement, “Nothing, including technology, should replace personal interaction. Not only is technology not a sales driver, technology follows everything else”. Therefore, one could conclude that Mr. Lewand’s perception is that technology unambiguously supports other business facets, while not necessarily driving the human interaction portion.

In support of Lewand’s perception was the keynote sessions opening speaker, Stephanie Linnartz, the global chief commercial officer of Marriott International whose statement included this double entendre “technology coupled with a warm smile is a double win,” suggesting that in Linnartz perception, human interaction will remain a core piece of the business. However, on the other hand, Linnartz was also in agreement that technology enhances the customer experience, and I quote her, “The challenges are big right now and start at acquisition. We have millions of customer interactions every day. We believe the human experience will always be the heart of hospitality, but technology can certainly enhance it.”

Keep in mind that the current customer experience is tied to personalization. Elevated customer experiences can be seen across both the digital aspects and traditional ones. For example, one could make the argument that while print has long been considered a traditional medium, today’s print technology is digital based. Variable data printing, aka VDP, delivers direct mail and individually customized mail collateral all based on database acquisition. Therefore, is print really traditional? Technically, print is actually both; a digital convergence that delivers traditional products, by which tactile human interaction is achieved.

The Sustainability Revolution

Former US Vice President Al Gore, a leading environmentalist, also spoke at the keynote session to which he stated, the ‘sustainability revolution’ is the “biggest business opportunity ever." Mr. Gore went on to suggest why he was interested in the Dreamforce conference, and most notably quipped, “I’m here to recruit the Salesforce ecosystem to be a part of the solution to the climate crisis. The sustainability revolution has the magnitude of the industrial revolution, with the speed of the digital revolution.”

Every brand is looking for avenues and strategies to build a sustainable business model, which is a significant challenge. Jane Moran, Unilever’s chief customer officer stated that sustainability is at the heart of Unilever’s strategy. According to Ms. Moran, “To do this we need to adapt very quickly. We have 170,000 employees in 200 countries, over 400 brands, so you have to be able to scale quickly.” Inside of Unilever’s sustainable strategy lies the need to consider the environmental impact, that being mostly how to reduce it, and moreover the need to improve the social impact simultaneously. In Unilever’s case, the organization is moving away from a project-based mentality to a platform method, where tech is employed to empower people across the various departments. Supporting Moran’s views on sustainability, Peter ter Kulve, Unilever’s chief digital and growth officer stated, “If you can marry your values and beliefs to that of the organization you work for, you will be more successful and happier. Everyone wins.”

The Trust Factor

We have published a number of posts over the last couple of years suggesting that the trust factor is rising among the American public. As truth and the perception of what is true has stirred up a controversial debate in the political world, folks are in search of "truth" now more than ever. And this adventure to locate and hold onto truth has and will continue to carry over into brands, marketing, products and services, and of course the human experience.

Not lost on the trustworthiness factor of the day, trust was the preeminent value heralded by a substantial number of brand representatives that spoke at the Dreamforce conference. And to that end, Jon Suarez-Davis, Salesforce’s VP and chief strategy officer suggested that the timing of being involved in marketing technology today is fantastic, due to the fact that, “we consider trust to be our number one value”. Insofar as trust having been elevated to a higher, more important attribute, it should come as no surprise that GDPR regulations have risen to the pinnacle reasoning behind organizations ability to handle vast amounts of data in a trusted infrastructure.

Jon Suarez-Davis goes on to state, “Fundamentally, regulations like GDPR are handing control back to the consumer. Brands are built on a basis of trust.” In short, Suarez Davis added, “take a long hard look at how they’re managing data. Many companies don’t have native capabilities to handle data as they should, so GDPR is a wake-up call to the industry.”  Further, if brands and marketers believe they can operate in a trust-free environment, that previous notion is akin to placing one’s head in a guillotine, just waiting to get chopped off. Dropbox’s senior vice-president of engineering, product and design, Quentin Clark, made that point crystal clear with his statement, “without trust, [brands] have no right to innovate”.

The Seamless Experience

What we can take away from the excerpts of these high level management players is that the next steps in marketing will be supported and managed in the techno-bubble world that we live in. Customers are expecting a seamless, trusted, eco-friendly environment where they can support brands that take their desires and hope seriously, combined with heightened data security protocol, such as implementing the GDPR regulatory data security measures.

The Net-Net

The debate between technology and the human touch factor will no doubt evolve as human behavior continues to be shaped by technological intrusions into all our lives. That said, it is apparent from the leading iconic brands in attendance at the Dreamforce conference that technology will always play a supporting role in assisting the human experience but it will not drive it.  For the time being, that is the direction of the marketing debate, although we could one day be awakened by a technology bombshell that places human interaction on the back burner.  Stay informed and stay human!  Thanks for reading Technology Versus The Human Touch!

Let’s have a conversation about direct mail strategies, printing, print software, transactional documents, variable digital printing, brand equity and unified marketing collateral during our next Open House. We invite you to join us on Thursday, October 25th, 2018, for an hour or two, anytime between 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. Let us show you how to improve your document processes to optimize your workflow, reduce your costs, and maximize your organization’s printing, letter shop and mailing capabilities. Dove Direct does have an official USPS certified bureau located within our offices that will save you time and money. And, if you bring us your files, we will create a demo file for you. For more information call Carla Eubanks at 404-629-0122 or email Carla at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Dove Direct, your Atlanta based print and mail solutions provider offers organizations end-to-end data, printing and mailing solutions: Data Management, Variable Digital Printing, LetterShop and Fulfillment, Fully Automated MLOCR Presort Bureau, Marketing and Production Management Support and Secure Data Life Cycle Management.

If you don't want to wait for the Open House, you can reach Dove Direct today by calling 404-629-0122 or use the contact form for Dove Direct.

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Leland Hicks is the CTO of MatterMax Media, a digital marketing agency that provides business strategy, web design, social media management and training.  He can be reached at lahicks@mattermaxmedia.com