I don’t normally do predictions and prognostications about the future, because even the most informed and engaged “futurists” are at least half wrong on a terrific day. If you go back and review their predictions with 10 years of hindsight, usually they were either dead wrong – not good for career development as a futurist – or the predictions now, in hindsight, seem rather vague or are broad enough to be interpreted in a number of ways, one of which might be construed as having some to fruition. Either way, such prognostication is best left to carny acts at the State Fair rather than being used as a business decision-making tool. However, as the new year looms, I feel compelled to at least point out some observances that seem to be gaining positive momentum and seem fairly sensible in the broader context of marketing. So, here’s five things to keep an eye on:
- Data Gathering V.S. Privacy – Eventually privacy will win, but not next year. There is so much data out there available now on everyone, from a huge variety of sources, all self-proclaimed, that marketers can access it without having to invade anything more sophisticated than a social media page. That level of data availability will continue to increase, and the volume and type of data available will ramp up next year, as more software is launched, more apps are developed, and the digital sharing movement continues to grow in the new connected environment. Marketers will have to continue to run to try and reach the top of the curve and not get too far behind in the actual viable use of that data to produce results.
2. The Clouds Gather – Storage on site at corporate buildings will continue to drop weight like Jenny Craig moved in next door, as storage needs are more easily accommodated in the Cloud. Data centers and other aggregating technologies will continue to supplant hard on-site storage for firms under a billion in annual sales. Now cyber security exercises will have to beef up accordingly to provide the security and trust the could requires to continue acceptance and growth.
3. Old Will Become New Again – In a sense, marketing is like fashion, if something sticks around long enough it will circle back around and become popular again. Like hemlines or trouser cuffs, marketing tactics can be reborn as if it was discovered anew by the next generation of marketers. The speed of growth of content marketing will accelerate – at least until the end of this decade – but content marketing has been used since before the turn of the century – the last century! Ask John Deere, Betty Crocker, Jell-O and P&G, who used content marketing to sell products and stay top of mind, establish market dominance and cement their brands in the minds of buyers in a certain context, with great success. The biggest change is the speed of the distribution of that content. Modern digital marketers can get a “read” on the popularity and engagement level of their content before it converts to a sale, which allows for some adjustment and fine tuning that the old-school folks didn’t have available to them.
4. The Message Becomes The Medium – FREE! Big agencies will put in a greater level of effort on earned media and on visibility message marketing, as opposed to just paid advertising. The success of Donald Trumps nascent presidential campaign, driving him from neutral name recognition to leading the GOP field by a significant margin in under a year, after spending a paltry $1.8 million, shows how effective this approach can be. While agencies’ bread and butter will continue to be paid media, both traditional and digital, the earned and PR practices will take a larger role in the messaging scheme, will gain power and recognition for top brands that “get it” about how information travels in today’s connected world.
5. Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’ – Going Mobile Becomes “Normal” – As the number of mobile searches continues to climb, and broadband becomes even more ubiquitous, and the number of smart devices proliferates, having a strong mobile component to your corporate web presence will become not just essential but standard. If your site doesn’t perform on a 5″ touch screen, you’ll be relegated to the digital dustbin quicker than your girlfriend’s MySpace account.
2016 will be dubbed the year Content peaked, as the field gets crowded, the hackers learn to generate more targeted content in a mass contact way without human intervention. Computer as author is everyone’s fear, there’s enough published by humans already to circle the globe multiple times a day. We don’t need more, we need better – better engagement, better targeting, better relevance, better quality.