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Brand Storytelling and the Consumer Experience Are Set to Undergo a Transformation

Recent news headlines indicate that we are rapidly hurtling toward a 5G world. Though talk around 5G has dominated public discourse for a while now, the last few years have seen a marked uptick in research, development, viability testing and limited-scale deployments. From the United States and the United Kingdom to the UAE, Saudi Arabia, India and Australia, innovation in 5G by technology companies, service providers and national governments alike continues apace and according to Deloitte, 2019 will be the year that wide-area wireless 5G networks will arrive in scale.

With unprecedented speeds, bandwidth, the capacity for far more connections than is possible with current 4G technology, and lower latency – a boon for digital natives – than ever before, the advent of 5G technology promises to usher in a new era of information-sharing, with applications from connected vehicles to healthcare and smart factories. From a consumer perspective, 5G has enormous potential, in a way that 4G never did. Coupled with the Internet of Things (IoT), consumers will soon be able to immerse themselves in a richer media and entertainment ecosystem.

So what does this mean for brands and visual narratives? Today, video and music streaming rule supreme, and virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are steadily gaining traction. Most people can surely relate to the agony of content buffering, even if it takes a couple of seconds. We can now breathe a sigh of relief knowing that 5G will pre-empt this. It represents the next paradigm shift in connectivity and sharing – which opens the door to endless opportunities for brand marketing.

At a time when video constitutes the most popular form of content, fuelling audience engagement and word of mouth, brands will have the ability to create and market richer forms of visual content to tap into their target demographics, as a result of 5G. Both long-form and short-form video content will become more prevalent, and 4K-quality videos more commonplace, easily viewable by an on-the-go, mobile-centric citizenry. Streaming will be virtually instantaneous and when you throw in VR into the mix, video content will assume a more immersive and interactive nature. 5G will provide the high-speed internet connections needed to facilitate the real-time rendering of videos and virtualisation of environments, undercutting the need for cumbersome VR hardware, pushing processing power to the Cloud, and allowing more portable form factors to come to the fore. The physical sensation of nausea – a consequence of high-latency – will also be eliminated for users. Just imagine the sheer reach of brand and awareness campaigns when these visual experiences no longer need to be tethered to a stationary mall activation booth, but can instead be accessed by anyone with a 5G-enabled device.

It is worth noting that 46 per cent of retailers are planning to deploy either AR or VR solutions for their customers by 2020, according to Gartner. With the rapid, almost unencumbered exchange of data and information in real-time, coupled with the capacity to support far more connections within the same geographic area, 5G will accelerate the uptake of VR and AR consumption among the masses, giving retailers and brands more of an impetus to adopt VR and AR-centric functionalities, such as the simulation of goods and services. In the future, with 5G infrastructure in place, AR overlays to enhance the customer experience could become far more mainstream than we think.

Data collection and analysis is also set to undergo a transformation. How? We know that data is the bread and butter of any marketer. When fully actualised, 5G technology will form a linchpin of IoT, wherein multiple devices will interact with each other, via a highly interconnected, city-wide ecosystem. According to a recent Gartner study, organisations expect 5G networks to be mainly used for IoT communications and video. With a plethora of devices and 5G-enabled smartphones operating simultaneously and ‘talking’ to one another, the resulting deluge of invaluable data will be a blessing for brand marketers, enabling them to mine insights, create compelling content and target their audiences in exactly the right place.

A commonly perpetuated misconception these days is that 5G is simply an upgrade from 4G. This is not true. Being the next leap forward in mobile connectivity, brand marketers will be able to leverage a vibrant mix of content and storytelling techniques, backed up by an extensive and growing repository of data. Though we are yet to see full-fledged 5G networks and compatible smartphones materialise on a large scale, the future looks exciting indeed for brands and creative professionals alike. As Seth Godin once said, “People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories and magic”. Who knows, perhaps the future will see viral 4K and VR-based campaigns dominate the prestigious Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in greater numbers – and we will have 5G to thank for that.

Adnan Bashir,
Senior Corporate Communications Manager

(This article was originally published in Forbes, and can be accessed here)