Marketing and the 2010 Horizon Report

January 16, 2010

Posted in Higher Ed, Marketing, and Technology.

If you haven’t checked out the Horizon Report in the past, it’s an annual publication that highlights key technologies expected to affect higher education in the next five years. This year’s report was published on January 14 and has some real gems, as usual.

What’s On the Horizon

The near-term technologies include mobile computing and open content.

The mid-term technologies (oddly noted as the “second adoption horizon”) are electronic books and simple augmented reality.

The far-term horizon includes gesture-based computing and visual data analysis.

Go get the full report >

Why Should You Care?

From a marketing communications perspective, these technologies will affect the future of our industry in a number of ways:

1. They will open and close avenues of communication.

Both mobile and augmented reality have been hot topics in the marketing world for several years. Mobile is already a big deal for many of us, working to provide mobile-friendly tools. What we haven’t necessarily done is find ways to communicate through mobile devices. We are hesitant (and rightfully so) to abuse SMS for marketing purposes. But there are opt-in SMS channels that higher ed has been slow to adopt except for use in crisis communications and in certain classroom applications.

Augmented Reality (AR) is another opportunity for blending communications messaging with real-world experiences. Like most tools in this Cluetrain world, AR will need to provide value and not just be an advertisement. Already, there are excellent ideas being pursued – including a an augmented reality campus tour application for the iPhone.

2. They will change the way we are perceived by our audiences.

The latest and greatest technology is a differentiator for a relatively short period of time, as early adopters get credit for being on the leading edge. These schools get more press and are often perceived as thought-leaders.

Next, there are the second-adopters who improve and perfect the technology. This is harder to do, but it’s potentially safer than trying to dive into every new thing. The iPod wasn’t the first MP3 player, and the iPhone wasn’t the first smart phone – but they certainly did them well enough to win some major market share. After all, there’s no medal for being first to market.

Finally, there are those who fail to keep up at all. This is a far more critical differentiator: not staying current. If students start to expect something, it’s folly to ignore those demands and expect to stay competitive. No school wants its students and parents to think it’s behind the times.

3. The model is changing.

As the report notes, “Open content has now come to the point that it is rapidly driving change in both the materials we use and the process of education.” (p. 13) Where students once paid a hefty price for access to information, free, open content is forcing schools to shift their value proposition toward education and experience. The higher ed business model is changing.

Communications will have a tremendous role in keeping schools in business by recruiting top students, faculty, and staff. They will have to take advantage of every tool in the toolbox.

What’s on your horizon?

Your own school and situation will be unique. Your size, budget, and priorities may direct you in one direction or another. That’s ok. But you should also be drawing up your own horizon report, asking yourself what you’ll be working on in one, three, or five years. Are you prepared?