The future of the past is not here today.

The future of the past is not here today.

And that's partly caused by bad marketing.

The Elon Musks, Googles and science fiction movies have promised us flying cars, human-like robots and space tourism. But up until today, many of those predictions still don’t exist. On the contrary, we’re just being led on. There are thousands of reports on 5G, but when will it finally be here? Even worse, we are being overwhelmed with doomsday messages about privacy, electric cars bursting into flames and TikTok addicts.

Before the future has even arrived, we’re already tired of it. Future fatigue is on the rise. Futigue!

There are quite some reasons for that. Even though many hypes have passed and uncountable investments have been made, real innovation needs time. The possibilities are endless, but turning those opportunities into reality has become much more complex. There simply is a world of difference between “Hey Google, play a song” and “Hey Google, how can I improve my health?”. Another barrier for innovation is the slowness of the current infrastructure and the regulating framework. Take the eternal battle between Uber and the Belgian government for example. This clash resulted in an obligated fifteen-minute waiting time for the Uber customer. Fortunately, the politicians soon realised the absurdity of their own proposal.

But marketers should take a look in the mirror as well. We play the game of hype a little too often ourselves. We give a stage to charlatans who organise fake festivals, we overhype products or we make the wrong choices when it comes to marketing. Take 5G for example. Because there were no other major revolutions available at the time, marketers couldn't help themselves and start advertising a technology years before it would even be accessible to all. Over the past years, this ultra-fast network has been announced so often, with lots of bells and whistles the average consumer completely lost interest. That's a shame, because 5G is so much more than just a quick way of downloading your funny cat movies, it’s an essential element to improve matters as robotic surgery or space travel.

Or take BMW for instance. The company launched its autonomous cars through a “fun” horror movie filled with zombies looking for drivers.

Yes, they did, even though the vast majority of self-driving cars is still associated with danger. So maybe fear was not exactly the right choice for this commercial. Want some more? A start-up launched new snacks made from algae. The poster had the slogan “No food” and a broadly smiling lady with some greens stuck between her teeth. Doesn't seem very tasty to us. Another case is the Mobiscore, an index that shows how good real-estate scores in terms of mobility. Recent studies have shown Flemish people still don’t have a clue what the index stands for, except that they can fail the test.

Luckily, it’s not all doom and gloom. Impossible Food has managed to sell its vegetal burger to more meat lovers than vegetarians. Smart marketing positioning innovation as a challenge, even as a mission impossible, turns out to work. But there is still room for improvement. Marketing is effective when it’s able to truly inspire people, just as JFK did back in the days with his speech on the moon landing. Even if inspiring people meant they had to wait another 9 years (and billions of taxpayers’ money) to see the results.

Marketing should think long-term. If Marvel is able to plan 20 movies ahead to show millions of people an “alternate reality”, why can’t marketeers plan one year ahead to get people excited the future.

Of course, it’s easier said than done. But it all starts with the right mindset. Marketing should find new ways to build momentum for the innovations that will shape the future.

Embrace wonder and imagination. With the right talent, true honesty and the right expertise, a campaign for an innovative future might be just as successful as a campaign for yet another new smartphone with a slightly improved camera.

The future deserves better marketing.
Marketing that makes us long for what is yet to come.

Dennis Claus.