Beyond Mobile: A Vision of Mentalnet Marketing

[February 16, 2010]

As a barometer of technology’s impact on everyday life, the triumphant progress of mobile telephony is already an epoch-demarking phenomenon. Forty-four years ago, this was the stuff of fantasy. We’d only just stopped chuckling over Don Adam’s “shoe phone” when William Shatner first said “Kirk to Enterprise” into an improbably thin handheld device.

Anyone who also remembers Dick Tracy’s 2-way wrist radio, or Robert Vaughn and David McCallum’s “cigarette-pack” transmitters, knows just how long American culture yearned for a convenient portable phone.

Naturally, when the communication millennium arrived and mobile devices started reproducing like rabbits, it wasn’t long before they became another medium for consumer engagement. Texting a number to a number—to vote on This or get a free That—is now as routine as brushing your teeth. Besides, there’s also a Mobile Marketing Association overseeing the medium, laying down guidelines and pushing this approach as the wave of the future.

The Next Generation.
But in a reversal of fortune strangely reminiscent of a sci-fi time-travel subplot, mobile marketing’s evolution may be cut short by the very hardware developments it precipitated. After all, as smart phones become the standard, and continue to blur the distinction between TV, PSP and AT&T, it’s doubtful we’ll ever need to text so-and-so to such-and-such again.

As today’s high-end becomes tomorrow’s ho-hum, your audience will have hand-held access to the same Facebook app or whatever you originally built for a “computer.” In fact, with the advent of cloud computing, as many have already noted, the word “computer” is sure to become as obsolete as the word “manuscript” ought to have done 20 years ago.

Cortex Messaging.
But now that I think of it, at the pace electronics and bio-engineering is developing, I wonder if we’d do better to plan farther ahead—and start developing the first generation of Direct to Cortex campaigns. For if the shoe phone was a joke, chances are the “brain phone” may not be.

Such a device would change not just the definition of marketing, but of humanity. Just imagine it: The transformative power of a human brain connecting directly to digital space would be staggering. As it is, we’ve already seen how connecting “the old fashioned way” is affecting our children—as rehab centers for video-game addiction spring up in South Korea and around the world.

Synapse Me No Questions. 
Of the many things that these emerging technologies suggest, the most relevant to this forum is the idea of transparency.

If, in the decades ahead, marketing itself survives, its phoniest ploys will have nowhere to hide. In a world of infinite cross-reference and instantaneous retrieval, the god of sales will take up permanent residence in the details of everyday life. Whatever doesn’t ring true will make a racket loud enough to drown out even an orchestra of Terms-&-Conditions-laden benefits.

Today, in this digital stone age we now call home, the clamor for accountability already requires us to think more deeply before speaking to consumers. In light of that, it’s time we prepared ourselves for the “mentalnet” to come. Because when the final barrier to communication comes down and we understand each other instantaneously, the only kind of deception left will be self-deception.


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Mark Laporta

Writer, Creative Consultant
New York, NY




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