Wholesell Changes

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Combine the one-on-one marketing trend with the blurring lines between advertising and promotion and news and entertainment, and we'll have a completely different media landscape by 2015. TV shows, for example, will be able to run product placements that are geared toward individuals. So while you may see a character on your favorite TV sitcom wearing an Eddie Bauer logo, your neighbor will see him wearing a Gap logo because that's the brand your neighbor prefers. Even more, we'll be able to order every product we see. "Consumers will be able to determine what information they want at any time on any product or service and will instantly be able to communicate," Lowe predicts.

Interactive marketing will open up new opportunities for entrepreneurs to get in front of consumers, but progress doesn't come without a price. Entrepreneurs will have to find innovative ways to reach consumers immersed in a world of one-on-one marketing. If a consumer's favorite brand of ice cream knows that she always buys Neapolitan and can target her with value-added deals based on that information, there's going to be less incentive for her to try the competition. "It will be harder to enter markets, harder to get people to switch brands," Lowe says.

Perhaps the biggest challenge ahead for businesses, however, will be treading that fine line between helping consumers and annoying them. How much one-on-one personalized marketing consumers will tolerate remains to be seen. After all, one person's convenient special offer is another person's annoying invasion of privacy.

Will consumers feel too manipulated by individualized promotions and rebelliously tune marketers out? No one knows where the line will be drawn, and companies will learn by trial and error over the next five to 15 years. "The danger marketers will face is in over-targeting people," Osler says, adding that there will be a shift toward using technology to find those 20 percent of customers who are generating 80 percent of the business. "Small-business owners can reward those who use their product or service the most."

So what will an integrated promotional marketing campaign look like in 25 years? While it's hard to predict given that technology evolves daily, it's a sure bet that entrepreneurs will gather super-sophisticated data about their customers to personalize up-selling and loyalty-building opportunities in a wireless world. Branding will be a lot more interactive. Lowe envisions a world where everyone will wear an all-in-one device akin to the Dick Tracy wristwatch that connects them to everything all at once. It'll be 100 percent interactivity, all the time. Promotional marketing certainly has come a long way, baby. Now it will be fascinating to see where it goes.

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Chris Penttila is Entrepreneur's "Staff Smarts" columnist.

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Chris Penttila is a Washington, DC-based freelance journalist who covers workplace issues on her blog, Workplacediva.blogspot.com.

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This article was originally published in the May 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Wholesell Changes.

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