The marketing research analyst Gartner recently identified something that it calls the hype cycle. This is the rise-and-fall social response pattern that manifests after new tech innovations hit the market, starting with the introduction of the new tool—the “Trigger”—and moving quickly upward to the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” before plummeting to the “Trough of Disillusionment,” etc. If this sounds familiar, it should. The central claim here is that it takes a while for new ideas to find equilibrium, to become truly effective, widespread, and useful, and that the introduction of radical new tools tends to follow a certain high-low pattern with regard to their impact on society.

Reading the piece is pretty interesting, and I recommend you check it out. There are more examples of this kind of phenomenon today than anyone could count. It brings to mind things like Google Glass—remember those? There was a day when many thought we would all be wearing cool-but-clunky computer-cameras on our faces. It never happened, of course. But the tech didn’t just go away, it reconstituted in a much smarter package with a better story that speaks to a particular audience. Versions of this, such as Intel’s Vaunt, still failed. But that’s ok. Smart glass tech is traveling along its own hype cycle, and maybe one day it will finally find its profitable middle path.

But can we know for sure what will succeed and what won’t? Technology is always changing, wildly, unpredictably, disruptively—it’s the nature of the beast. As marketers, we want to find the best and most informed ways to use developments in tech effectively without falling victim to all the hype. It’s not clear that we can—but that doesn’t mean we can’t try.

This is important because if the late 20th century was any indication, the 21st century is going to be an era of intensive innovation and technological advancement on a scale so disorienting that we may all get swooped up in the hysteria. So how do we get a solid snapshot of what the future might hold for marketers? What will branding actually look like in 2035 or 2050?

Here just a few developments and concepts (some mind-blowing, some already available to buy) to keep your eye on if you’re in the marketing world.

Sonic Branding

Brand logos, as it turns out, need not contain words, colors or even pictures. Just sound is all you need. That was Mastercard’s opinion, anyway, and it could turn out to be a pretty smart move. Using a sonic logo—a company insignia composed entirely of sound—they’re tapping into other human senses as a fresh and intriguing way to elevate brand awareness and influence perceptions of the brand. The combination of both a audio and visual (in the form of TV commercials, which will use traditional visual branding) cues is also a great way to make advertising more memorable. Perhaps, in the future, we’ll have more of these sound-only logos in a world of high functioning AI and voice recognition, which seems like a future world that will have less and less need for text or visuals anyway.

Visual search technology is becoming a big deal. In the coming months or years we will see interactive visual search tools that may easily shift the landscape for marketers. For e-commerce retailers, in particular, this presents an enormous opportunity. The emergence of visual search could shape search habits and marketers will need to adapt to that reality. Have you given any thought to how you can improve VSEO (visual search engine optimization) yet? A major plus with this is being able to personalize the shopping experience during a key point on the consumer BuyWay. Perhaps one day we will have zero need for text searches altogether and the switch to visual and sonic searches will be totalizing. One thing that won’t change, no matter how you search for it online, is the need for solid, engaging, and authentic brand story.

AI and Customer Experience

The possibilities of artificial intelligence have gone well beyond expectation, and the effect that this will (and should) have on customer experience is significant. Voice-recognition, image- or facial-recognition systems, and things like digital payments are, quite simply, our collective future. There is serious potential for image-based digital payment, order verification, product searching—but more importantly amazing was to optimize customer experience and make shoppers remember your brand. With automation keeping its place at the forefront of tech, AI integration allows marketers to test new features and charm shoppers into being repeat customers.

Multitouch Attribution

In my view, multitouch is less about technology and more about change management. The current or traditional organizational systems of advertising, media buying, and attribution of success are too fragmented. Platforms and new technology may have advanced to enable attribution, but processes, performance measurement, incentives, governance, culture, and people in general are just not ready for the transformation afforded by this technology. Optimizing conversion paths is a fantastic goal that every brand should pursue, but the marketing industry is going to have to get better at analyzing and utilizing high quality data in a hurry before anything comes of the inherent power of multitouch attribution.

Live Video

The use of live video will continue to grow in the coming years, to a point where old-hat text advertising may become obsolete. Setting YouTube aside for the moment, the viewership for live broadcasts on Facebook has quadrupled in just one year and one out of five videos on Facebook is now live. Even polticians are (smartly) getting in on this game, with Senate candidates like Beto O’Rourke livestreaming nearly his entire campaign. The tool allows a look behind the curtain, as it were, giving eager customers insight into and even intimate experiences with company events, product launches, and webinars. This gives a great boost to customer experience and allows brands to expand their array of touchpoints, reshaping the BuyWay and guaranteeing strong consumer feedback and analyzable data along the way.

The Data Privacy Surge

This isn’t a tech development—it’s more like my warning to you as a colleague and compatriot of the industry. We won’t have access to free data forever. Marketers today are having to reconfigure how they develop and deliver content to an audience of consumers very weary of privacy issues. Although the GDPR (which guarantees data protection and privacy to all EU citizens) has not yet made it over the pond, it is not inconceivable that it will happen, and much sooner than you may think. So if you can’t imagine a life or a brand without Google Analytics, you may want to start thinking ahead of the curve now. As companies experience more and more breaches, more of them will be held accountable by consumers. Those companies who come out on the side of their consumer base, who already took consumer data protection seriously or who found ways to use data in a non-creepy way, will look particularly good in the public eye. Despite the usefulness of consumer data to marketers, shoppers are increasingly hyper aware of how that data used. What’s the solution? Brands will have to appeal to audiences in more authentic ways using story, strategy, and systems, and stop annoying people by over-relying on their personal info. Is your brand prepared for that?

Anything Else?

Well, quite a lot, actually:

Quantum computing. Turns out bending time itself can increase computing speed a billionfold.

Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs). AI computers will soon be able to create their own content.

The 5G network. All that sci-fi stuff from TV—holograms, interactive VR—it’s all about to happen, folks.

Smart glasses by North. Hey, maybe these new-generation specs will finally sell.

Artificial embryos. Do artificial embryos produce … artificial people?

Instantaneous language translation. These voice-activated earbuds are already available.

And there’s plenty more where that came from!

Every day now there’s some new development or incredible new tool out there. What kind of impact will all this amazing stuff have on our world and on our line of work? It’s difficult—but not impossible—to say. But as I wrote about last week, the time to start thinking about all this is now.

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