In the latest Terminator movie (Terminator: Genisys), Arnold Schwarzenegger turns out to be the good guy. Well, the good machine. He has been reprogrammed to protect Sarah Connor from other machines that come from the future to prevent her from having a son who will stop the machines existing in the first place.
Confused? So am I. That’s the thing about technology; it can be difficult to get to grips with, even without the paradox of time travel.
Some marketers are struggling with it. Modern technologies add a whole new dimension to their work, driven by data and machines. But marketing automation, in particular, isn’t sinister like SkyNet. In fact, just like the new Arnie, it’s here to make our lives easier. And that’s just how all marketers need to think about the merging of marketing and technology.
The latest eConsultancy “State of Digital Marketing in Australia and New Zealand” report, commissioned by Marketo, shows how marketers thoroughly understand the need for technology. 68% percent of company respondents said it helped maximize the potential of digital channels. For that reason, 62% say they have increased their investment in marketing technology this year, with CRM software and marketing automation ranking at the top of the must-have list over the next few years.
The Future Is Yours to Change
Bringing us back to Terminator: Genisys, the machines of the future realize the rebels have gone back in time to stop them from being created. This sends a best-of-breed T-800 killing machine back to kill them before they get the chance. The movie is riddled with references to alternate futures, all determined by actions at one point in time.
While marketing automation systems don’t allow you to alter the past, they are brilliant when it comes to driving different outcomes in the future. When a prospective customer performs one action, such as viewing your website, a marketing automation platform can ensure you relate to and engage with that customer differently from that point on. It helps you send them what’s interesting and compelling to them, whether that’s emails with links to thought-provoking content, targeting them with relevant ads on other sites to attract them, or, perhaps, indicating that it’s time to call them and offer a lunch meeting.
The principle sounds straightforward (and much less confusing than the film), but it becomes complex (in a good way) when you apply it to a varied range of customers, all behaving in different ways, through different channels, at different points in time. It’s a necessary complexity that makes your life, as a marketer, easier. Marketing automation systems are the machines that drive the capability, providing alternate futures for each person based on their behavior today.
But, these systems still need human intervention to help determine the process. Just as well, really, because we know what happens when machines are left to think for themselves (dun, dun, dun…). This has created the demand for a different type of marketer—someone with a very logical mind who is able to understand processes, with very deep analytical skills, deciphering data to understand which activities are achieving the best return. And mixed with all of that are the traditional skills a marketer needs, including a strong creative flair and a fundamental grasp on messaging.
That’s a lot to ask from one person. In “Terminator,” the machines manage to blend themselves with humans, so they can think more like we do. We face the same issue—marketers need to understand the way machines think, so they can make sure they respond appropriately to the buyers journey, on a personal and individual level.
Okay, in the movie the outcome is stopping the eventual overthrow of mankind, whereas marketing automation systems are more about maximizing the return on marketing investment. But the principle is the same. In each case, it’s about the fact that how we act today can create an alternate future timeline.
In the eConsultancy report, 37% of respondents said the level of digital knowledge in their business was good. And to roll with the changing times, this percentage will predictably increase as more marketers get ready for “a brave new world” where machines consistently help them to determine the way they converse with their customers. It helps that the vast majority (96%) of senior marketing leaders surveyed agree that a good understanding of technology is critical for the future of marketing. And so, as more companies experience it and fully understand its merits, marketing automation will become the overwhelming norm.
Marketers understand the need for change and those who spend the time building the skills and getting on board with modern technologies will, just like Arnie, never become obsolete.
What other things can you relate marketing automation to? I’d love to hear your creative take in the comments section below!
When you tell the average American that the United States funded, armed, and trained the groups of “freedom fighters” that eventually became al Qaeda, most will think that it’s a conspiracy theory. The reality is that it’s been acknowledged by the government but only loosely covered in mainstream media.
The Islamic State is a slightly different scenario. Yes, the group came initially from al Qaeda, but the world governments led by the United States took it a step further by creating the destabilized atmosphere in the Middle East through regime changes that have failed miserably across the board. The triumphant Arab Spring has turned out to be a debacle on nearly all fronts with the emerging governments turning out to be worse than the government they overthrew. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin, a man that we despise for both his goals and methods of achieving them, spoke the unpopular truth recently when he blamed the US policy of regime change for the current refugee crisis affecting the Middle East and Europe.
The reason of bringing this up is not to point fingers nor is it in any way a show of support for Putin. A broken watch is correct twice a day. The point is to find a solution to the Islamic State problem and that requires the type of thinking that most governments can’t seem to understand. In order to do this, we have to be willing to learn from the mistakes that have plagued United States and European policies regarding the Middle East for the past forty years. Then, we have to assess the current scenario and lay down a plan with the understanding that we are fighting a battle of good versus evil rather than the old mentality that we’re fighting on the geopolitical stage.
The topic of this article could easily be expanded into a book, but that’s for someone else to do. Here’ we will have to use broad strokes to paint the picture and hope that enough people comprehend and share it. These times are beyond perilous. The danger level is much higher for the whole world than most people are willing to admit even if they do recognize what’s happening. That should scare us all.
Let’s start with a brief history of why we are here in the first place.
The Enemy of My Enemy…
When Putin said that the United States created the migrant crisis with our actions, he was partially correct. The side of the story that he leaves out is that it can all be traced back to the initial need to halt the USSR’s attempted entry into the Middle East. It was imperative that the Soviets not be allowed to fortify themselves within Afghanistan, giving them a forward position that would have allowed further expansion and potential control of the oil rich lands that they coveted.
One can easily argue that if they had been allowed to expand into the Middle East, that the USSR would still be around today and would be the true superpower of the world.
The building of al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations of today goes back to the successful efforts made to eject the USSR from Afghanistan. The famous clipping of an heroic Osama bin Laden leading his army to peace and freedom from the Soviets demonstrates how quickly things can change.
It was always in the back of our minds that this could escalate into something more dangerous than it was but the decision was made that the Soviet Union was the great enemy that needed to be stopped. They were likely correct. Unfortunately, it was through arming the enemy of our enemy that we established the foundation for al Qaeda and eventually the Islamic State.
The situation has been made worse because we tried to do two things based upon incorrect assumptions. First, we toppled or assisted in toppling the dictatorships in the Middle East that seemed bad at the time but that were actually maintaining much of the former stability in the region. From Saddam Hussein to the Arab Spring, we manipulated situations to bring the bad guys down but we didn’t do nearly enough to bring stability after creating the chaos that ensued. We did this because of a presumption that was acceptable by our government, supportable by the people, and righteous on the surface. Unfortunately, it was flawed.
This second incorrect assumption is the thought that Democracy would solve all of the problems. Instead, it created more because it wasn’t established properly.
Prosperity Must Precede Democracy
Those of us who have always lived in a working democratic form of government have a hard time understanding the mindset of those who have grown up in dictatorships, theocratic regimes, or any form of government that does not give much of a voice to the people. As foreign as it may sound to us, totalitarian rule can be absolutely acceptable to the citizens of a country living under it if that’s all they know.
They don’t have a natural desire for empowerment. Their hardships are day-to-day, often meal-to-meal. There’s no confusion about politics and the standards of western society don’t apply to their belief systems.
The mistake we made was believing that people should have Democracy to solve their problems. The reality is that a people that is used to being ruled only has an outsider glimpse of what Democracy can do and therefore they don’t understand how to make it work for them. If they’re used to being ruled, they will allow themselves to be ruled even if they have the power of the vote.
Democracy is a concept that must be brought into play over time. The people must be trained to understand how the new system will work before the system is introduced. We didn’t do that. We helped them pull the rug from under their government and then we gave them a vote. When things didn’t change or got worse as a result, the current situation of instability, further uprisings, and vulnerability to forces such as the Islamic State became foregone conclusions.
If you destroy a government, a country will fall apart without sustained efforts to educate the people. In order to educate the people, you need to bring them prosperity. We made them work for their prosperity and it didn’t happen. In Iraq, for example, we felt like we were in there for so long and that we’d done everything we could to help them. The reality is that a working Democracy is more than just a change in government style. It’s a complete change in mindset. The “long time” that the United States spent in Iraq helping to rebuild it was way too short. It takes at a bare minimum a generation to make it happen.
We shouldn’t have invaded Iraq in the first place, but we did. The only way to have made it work was to stay in, get the international community to help out, and truly build up the nation to the point of self-sustainability. In other words, we needed to be in there for at least another decade. By leaving, we opened the door for the Islamic State.
There’s another issue that hasn’t truly been in play yet in regards to the Islamic State, but it will. Israel is conspicuous as not being a direct target of the Islamic State. They aren’t ignoring the Jewish state because they have bigger fish to fry as some are suggesting. They are ignoring Israel for two very important and diabolical reasons.
The Israel Factor
The United States and Israel are the Islamic State’s coup de grâce. Unlike other entities that want to take out Israel and then take out the United States, the Islamic State is much more clever than that. They plan on attacking both at once, but only after everything is in its proper place.
We’ll get back to that in a moment. First, we have to assume based upon what we’ve learned about the Islamic State over the last year that unlike any other recent terrorist organization, they know how to read the geopolitical landscape. The last thing they want to do is be perceived as a true threat to Israel at this time because they see that the world is already in the process of isolating them. Even the United States, Israel’s long-time ally, is showing very clear signs that we are going to be turning away from them.
Combine that with the United Nations strangely siding with Hamas at every turn when it comes to conflict and it is easy to see why the Islamic State does not want to do anything that can promote sympathy for Israel’s plight. As long as they don’t pose a threat, they can sit back and watch the rest of the world open the doors to them.
Then, there’s the United States. This is where it gets tricky.
Thinking Like the Enemy
While many Americans are starting to wake up to the reality that the Islamic State poses a threat to us, we are still relatively blind to how that could possibly manifest. They’re still thousands of miles away and other than a few “lone wolf” attacks that haven’t done a whole lot, they don’t seem to be getting any traction here.
This perception is based upon our lack of understanding of how the Islamic State thinks. To understand the cunning, almost supernaturally inspired strategies that they’re employing, we simply need to look at Syria.
It’s no coincidence that they pushed into Syria. That wasn’t a move made for the capturing of land as we are being led to believe. That wouldn’t make any sense. The fighting that’s already taking place in the Syrian civil war means that a land grab would have been much easier down the line as forces on both sides of the war weakened each other. Today, they’re having to fight for land. If they just let the war take more of a toll, the Islamic State would have had a much easier fight. With their need to solidify and advance efforts in Iraq, it might seem like a tactical mistake to spread themselves thin.
The reality is that they need access to Europe more than they need land in Syria. To do this, they needed to “herd the sheep” in Syria towards Europe so they could mix in and enter en masse. Right now, there are thousands of Islamic State sympathizers who are either current or future agents. Their goal is to establish a foothold, build proxies, recruit, and spread out through Europe to the other countries in general and the United States in particular.
Denying this would be as naive as calling them the junior varsity team. They have repeatedly demonstrated that they aren’t like al Qaeda or any standard Islamic terrorist organization. Their sophistication is lightyears ahead of anything that Osama bin Laden put together. They have the funds through ongoing revenue streams that are “mysteriously” huge and they have a deep understanding of what to do and what not to do in order to achieve their goals.
The Islamic State has the advantage of seeing how the United States reacted to 9/11. They saw that the world of capitalism didn’t crumble. They saw that it was used as a license to establish a strong presence in the Middle East. They saw Osama bin Laden killed, growing al Qaeda cells obliterated, and the emergence of a new weapon to fight them: drones.
Most importantly, they saw that Americans were shocked but that they quickly galvanized around the cause and grew stronger as a result, even if only for a short time. The Islamic State won’t make the same mistakes.
Terrorism will be redefined by this complex organization once they have all of the pieces in place. First and foremost, they will try to establish a chain of events. They aren’t looking for an attack. They’re looking for a sustained series of terrorist acts that can make Americans constantly question their safety. 9/11 did this for a short time, but eventually we started feeling more and more secure. They don’t want that to ever happen. To do this, they need to establish homegrown terrorists, “sleepers’ if you will, who will do nothing until the orders are given.
Second, they will select targets that have a real effect on life in America. The Twin Towers were symbolic of capitalism and their destruction was a statement intended to embolden supporters. The Islamic State will not perform symbolic attacks. Their attacks will have direct effects on the citizens and the government. Infrastructure, military bases, food sources, and hospitals are just a few of the things on their list.
Third, they will operate through confusion. One of the United States’ biggest vulnerabilities is the vastness of the land. Confusion can be brought about in many forms. Large-scale fires set across the nation would be easily accomplished by a dozen properly placed and coordinated agents. Hackers can take down methods of communication. False messages can be broadcast and shared to millions of people. These are all things that aren’t simply hypothetical. There are signs that tests have already been run on all three of these fronts and there are likely other chaos igniters that are also being worked.
Lastly and probably the most terrifying is that they will act once they have a major weapon in place to take out a massive amount of people. Whether it’s President Obama’s big fear of a nuclear bomb in New York City, a dirty bomb, a biological weapon attack, or something that we haven’t seen before, the use of real weapons of mass destruction will be in play with the Islamic State. To understand this, we have to understand their position and the position of those who already have the weapons.
The only thing that has prevented nuclear war for decades is the concept of mutual assured destruction. The Islamic State isn’t a country and operates outside the realm of destruction. They aren’t a limb that can be surgically removed. They’re a virus that is spreading around the world making a counterattack ineffective.
Nuclear enemies of the United States such as Russia, China, North Korea, and eventually Iran have too much to lose by attacking. However, if they can be assured that they absolutely will not be implicated in a nuclear attack through something like a suitcase bomb placed properly by the Islamic State, they may be willing to help. It’s a bold accusation, but the Islamic State is not a simple-minded, poor terrorist group. They are complex, sophisticated, and well-funded.
None of this is intended to scare anyone, as hard as that is to believe. It’s a call for diligence. It’s a rallying cry for the President and the people to understand the real threat that the Islamic State poses. Drone strikes won’t work. Relying on Iraq, Syria, or the countries of the Middle East to go in there and take out the Islamic State is foolish. We have to stop thinking about what they might be doing and start thinking like them.
This is the most powerful threat to American and world security since the Cold War. The difference is that during the Cold War, the enemy had a face and a country. The Islamic State is operating in the shadows, making them more dangerous than the Soviet Union ever was.