The only constant is change

Editor Emily Wexler says the question isn't "what does the future hold?" It's "will you be ready for it?"

September CoverThis story appears in the September 2014 issue of strategy. 

One day, we’ll no longer carry phones. Their capabilities will be built into our clothing, or perhaps even our brains. One day, the idea of a wallet full of cash and coins will feel antiquated. In some ways, it already does. One day, we won’t use paper. For anything. (So if you’re enjoying this issue in print, relish it now.) One day, the idea of car accidents will seem strange and sad because vehicles will drive themselves. These are things that I (and many others) have little doubt will actually happen. How long will it take? That’s the unknown.

These aren’t new predictions, people have made them for years. The difference is they used to seem like far-off notions, and now it’s conceivable they could take full effect within the next decade. The internet of things has moved from a hot idea to actual products we can buy. It’s only a matter of time until everything is connected and we no longer need to carry around a little computer in our pockets. Just think about the thousands of forward-thinking people developing innovative ideas every day. Wearables, flying drones, predictive tech – the future is here, and marketers are exploring how they can get in on the action. For more on robots and beyond, read up here.

And big brands are realizing they need to be ahead of all this innovation and rapid change. That’s why companies like Unilever are launching programs like The Unilever Foundry, which works with startups and individuals on innovative tech projects, providing mentorship and funding, with the possibility of longer term strategic partnerships (see our story on incubation culture).

This issue marks strategy‘s 25th birthday, and boy has the industry changed. Every Thursday for the past few months we’ve been doing our own version of #TBT (Throwback Thursday, for those not into Instagram) through our daily online newsletter, counting down the most memorable moments and headlines from the past 25 years. Going through old issues (which were in newsprint until the switchover to a glossy mag in 2004) shows just how far marketing has come (and just how far the hairstyles of industry heavyweights have come).

This month is also my anniversary, marking my sixth year working at strategy. When I came on board in 2008, we had an old website we updated once a month, no social media presence, and when we wrote about new campaigns in print, we didn’t have to worry that they had already been splashed across a zillion blogs. The entire way this industry is covered has been completely upended, and that’s just the last six years.

Now we’re on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, we publish new stories on our mobile-optimized site daily and immediately, and our approach to print coverage has shifted to accommodate how news now gets covered. While our end goal remains the same – to be the most trusted source of marketing news and in-depth analysis – so much else has changed.

As you read through all the ideas in this month’s issue, remember that the only constant is change, so the question is not, “What will the industry look like in another 25 years?” The question is, “Will you be ready for it?”