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Asia stands to win from a wave of marketing disruption

The world of tech startups is a vast one globally today and continues to grow exponentially. Just as Moore’s law told us that technological capabilities and speeds would double every two years, it seems the same principle can now be applied to tech start-ups. The time taken to incubate, trial and deliver new technologies and platforms to market is reducing all the time. In fact, the Harvard Business Review reckons “today’s startups are growing about twice as fast as those founded a decade ago.”

Moving faster is an enormous opportunity for the Asian region, where we have seen a significant rise in start-ups in recent years: services like Grab and TradeGecko in Singapore. Many have been snapped up by bigger players, like Google’s acquisition of work chat provider, Pie, for example. But it’s just the tip of the iceberg and much of the change will come through marketing.

Amongst the startups attending TechCrunch Disrupt London (5-6 December), presenting on the main stage and demoing in the “startup alley”, many are working on Artificial Intelligence (AI), bringing AI algorithms and functionality into increasingly diverse mobile apps, continuing to change and disrupt the mobile experience.

The use of AI and machine-learning in marketing has been discussed widely in the industry – from how to market to machine ‘gatekeepers’ (like Cortana, Siri or Alexa) that could provide consumers with relevant brand messages and offers when asked, to the algorithms that power the automated buying and selling of inventory. Through more sophisticated analysis of the huge data streams coursing through advertising technology platforms, machine-learning allows advertisers to be more strategic in their approaches. It allows them to understand what’s working better through greater analysis of trends and insights on attribution platforms and allow much greater freedom to test creatives and adapt them to what works for the most important audiences. AI will also allow the consumer to have more control of what brands can connect with them, when and how.

As we see marketers begin to experiment with new ways of using technologies like this (think recent forays into chatbots), they can benefit hugely from being aware of and engaging with new startups that are emerging, and using their 10 per cent of “Next” planning (referring to the “70: Now, 20: New and 10: Next” marketing innovation model) to prepare for the inevitable shift in consumer behaviours. By looking now at what will become mainstream in the medium-to-long term, marketers can plan for the shift in strategy needed to keep up with the rapid pace of change that has given many in the marketing industry sleepless nights since the onset of digital advertising.

It’s an opportunity for Asian start-ups. Many of the world’s self-proclaimed marketing gurus live outside the region, but a third of the world’s consumers live within it. Innovative Asian start-ups can win big-time if they can embrace the AI potential and disrupt the advertising and marketing industries. That’s before we see new VR and AR become mainstream. Another opportunity for the greatest minds in the region to explore the potential.

Alex Khan

Alex Khan is the Managing Director APAC at Smaato.