We’ve become addicted to blinking dots

Igor Pauletič / / Marketing Automation

People often criticize FrodX and similar companies for forcing technology on marketers and retailers. They say that marketing needs creativity, not technology.

As pioneers in the region, we implemented the first few marketing automation systems in 2012 and helped companies on the path of transformation from outbound to inbound marketing. At the time, I was convinced that the marketing automation systems then available represented all the technology needed to monitor individual customers’ purchase readiness, dynamically adapt content according to purchase readiness and interest areas, and above all to communicate proactively with it. Ask me about that now.

E-mail traffic jam

In the meantime, email as a communication channel has become jammed. Pretty much every company that took the plunge into digital marketing started to use it as a means of promotion. As the legal representative of a company with a publicly listed email address, I started receiving so many marketing email messages that I had to unsubscribe from at least two practically every day. The GDPR has now somewhat lessened the onslaught and perhaps returned some life to this channel. But . . .

The pigeon post, mail, fax, email . . .

My fourteen-year-old daughter doesn’t use email. Nor does my eleven-year-old son. They both have Gmail, but they don’t use it. Except to register accounts on other communication systems. They say email just isn’t for them. That you receive all kinds of stuff you don’t really want, much of it from people you don’t know. That you can’t arrange anything by email because everything takes so long. For them, email is something like faxes are for me.

For today’s kids, email is something like faxes are for their parents. Click To Tweet

The more I watch my kids, the better I understand why the speed and directness of instant communication is a reflection of the life we live today. And why fewer and fewer people take the time for anything. Fewer and fewer people are willing to dig deeper and seek out anything beyond the most obvious. Whatever is immediate and in our context feels close to us and, unfortunately (or luckily), also entirely sufficient. If we also add responsiveness to this formula, which is more like conversation than sending or exchanging messages, it becomes pretty clear why we’re becoming addicted to blinking dots. When I send an SMS, I always wait those few moments to see if an answer is already being typed. Just like on Facebook Messenger. The dots make me happy. I like to see them. Much more than waiting for an answer sent by email, fax, a letter . . .


I’m reassured that I’m not the only one who’s addicted to blinking dots by the information about responsiveness on Messenger that Facebook puts on every Facebook page. Clearly, responsiveness counts on Facebook, too. And I know that hardly any decisions at Facebook are accidental; more or less everything they do is based on research and user data.

So, if blinking dots calm people down because they symbolize responsiveness, or conversation, rather than information exchange, the next important job for marketing professionals is how to develop customer engagement through these communication channels. The challenge would be to incorporate the logic behind communicating content that outlines the Customer Journey, which we imagine very linearly, in a conversation that makes sense within each customer’s context. A machine without human understanding and reactions will be hard-pressed to cope with an impatient, dot-seeking customer.

People addicted to blinking dots have unknowingly sparked a new technological impetus with their behavior. Click To Tweet

With their behavior, people addicted to blinking dots have unknowingly sparked a new technological impetus. Intelligent chatbots (digital assistants) that are able to offer sensible instant answers will need to know how to imitate a living human, think like people think, and learn from experience. This, in turn, gives new impetus to data processing and pattern recognition. It requires the professionals that are developing customer engagement systems to acquire new skills.

Igor’s dreaming again

If it seems that there isn’t much difference between “event-based marketing” and the traditional marketing automaton required by inbound marketing, that may just be the view from a distance. Linking the messaging context to the customer’s relevant events can’t be prescribed in a fixed, linear way, because the combination of each individual’s variables determines a different context. We can only hope for a meaningful conversation if someone has already been in a similar situation before us and we have successfully satisfied that person. The machine will have to have “experience,” or templates for how similar situations have been handled. This is the price of automation in the instant world. Marketing will pay this price by bringing in data professionals and introducing artificial intelligence in automated marketing communication systems. In a few years we’ll see that marketing will become addicted to AI, if we want to impact individuals with our communication. Unfortunately, or maybe luckily.

I know that most of you don’t agree with that at the moment, and that you’re convinced that I’m dreaming, just like I was dreaming about marketing automation systems in 2012. But think one more time about how you feel when you see blinking dots. When the answers make sense and you aren’t able to tell when you’re talking to a bot and when to a person, you’ll remember what I wrote here. Good luck.