If you’ve come here looking for the latest thinking on virtual reality, drones and autonomous driving—you’ve come to the wrong place. Marketers are an interesting bunch—we pride ourselves on “being in the know”, with some good reason… Part of our jobs are to stay one step ahead of the game so we are better prepared for the changes that inevitably effect the business of our industry. But in the pursuit of staying ahead of future trends—we often overlook massive shifts that need to be operationalized over the next five years, if not decade. In the pursuit of keeping our eye on the ball—I’ve identified six near term trends influencing the business of marketing:
From Media Channels To Media Ecosystem
Blame Digital. Just when we were getting used to shifting efforts and dollars to reflect not only print, television, radio and the internet—the internet itself has fragmented into a million tiny little pieces which blur the lines between paid, owned, earned and even social when it comes to dollar spend—and that’s not even getting into how it all get’s measured. Case in point—in the past year, MTV has seen it’s traditional television viewership of the Video Music Awards decline 34%. However if you look closely at the numbers, digital views including Facebook Live Streaming increased 70%. The problem here? MTV has yet to monetize the ever fragmented and complex digital media ecosystem and still relies on traditional TV advertisers to make money.
This makes the jobs of the media creators, buyers, sellers and strategists, well—complicated. Marketers are reluctant to embrace this complexity in their need to reach the largest and most targeted audiences they can. But in the near term—this complexity must be dealt with by diving deeper into digital and re-defining how, where and when dollars are spent within the complete media ecosystem vs. the easiest parts of it to put spend against.
From Text That Tells To Visuals That Show
The entire Web is being re-built for visual and video content. Before you dismiss this as “obvious”—we must take into account that the previous and dominant version of the Internet became mainstream with the advent of Google’s search engine and search was and to some extent still is a game of text, meta tags, keywords and text based organic content popularity. Now let’s look at demographics: Boomers, and GenX grew up on traditional literacy in the written word. Millennials and GenZ are growing up on what I call “visual literacy” which is accentuated by platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube which are video and visual dominated as opposed to text driven.
It is this visual literacy combined with the changing face of how we not only search for but receive content which is changing before our very eyes. marketers have spent years perfecting their Keywords and then finding ways to get text based links to their written content shared on social media but increasingly it’s video that gets shared directly through a multitude of apps that is becoming the dominant social currency. Brands have yet to master modern forms of video and visual storytelling as even the rules are changing in this space. Snapchat for example favors short, compelling vertical video formats which tend to perform well. For marketers—many who built their craft on taglines or standard 30 second television commercials—these forms of video content (not ads) are foreign and still largely untapped. Marketers will need to re-think video, visual storytelling and the production of these things from the ground up in this new world if they are to remain relevant.
From Mobile Last To Mobile First
We take for granted that Facebook is one of the most popular apps in the world and most of us access it from our mobile devices. But in the early days of Facebook—there was a time that they found themselves on the defense when it came to mobile and believe it or not—they actually didn’t get it. In less than a year—they transformed themselves into a “mobile first” company from the top down and had some of the most talented developers in the world at their disposal to see this transformation through. Unfortunately, even the world’s biggest and most resourceful brands and agencies do not have these resources nor the imperative to re-invent their organizations to think, act, and operate within the same context as their mobile consumers, customers and employees.
Thanks to Google, marketers have good reason to prioritize mobile development as their way forward since Google actually dings Websites that they deem are not responsive or functional in the mobile environment. But the shift to mobile is much more than making our Websites mobile friendly. It means we need to intimately understand how our audiences want to consume, create, share and interact with our brands. It’s one of the leading reasons we’ve seen customers shift to expressing their dissatisfaction about a brand experience or service publicly—they have a megaphone in their pocket at all times. We’ve done a disservice to our industry by treating mobile as a “duh”—it requires a complete transformation in many ways due to its impact on our daily behaviors. Facebook had it right—brands and agencies should do the same.
From Reliance On Media Companies To Being Your Own Media Company
“Publishing Is The New Marketing”. Sounds good—easier said than done. But the reality is that thanks to social media—most marketers are already in the business of publishing whether they know it or not. Got a brand presence on Facebook or YouTube? Congratulations, you’re in the content business. The problem however is that most content isn’t very good and so marketers find themselves solving the wrong problem.
It’s not about creating content as much as it is about cultivating targeted and high quality audiences who want to hear from you again and again.
In the pursuit of cultivating quality audiences who not only are willing to consume a brand’s content but want to share and potentially co-create with the brand, marketers must understand how to engage with audiences not only during their “tentpole” campaigns but daily, weekly. monthly and quarterly. This is where the dynamics of marketing and publishing mix and brands are still scrambling to figure out how to do this.
From Ad-Hoc Influencer Engagement To Integrated Influence Marketing
When CBS 60 Minutes does a feature on Influencer Marketing—you know it’s not fleeting trend anymore. However this space as familiar as it seems is new territory for marketers. Unlike traditional celebrities—most of these cultural influencers such as social media stars and Youtubers are creators who have built their OWN audiences using their OWN channels. So to protect their reputations with their audience—their preference is to collaborate and co-create with brands as opposed to endorse and act as spokespeople the way traditional celebrities have always done.
In addition—most brands are currently treating these kinds of partnerships as one-offs or ad-hoc engagements vs. re-thinking how they interface not only with cultural influencers but ALL influencers who often play off each other when it comes to reaching mass audiences often times through our peers. It will take years for marketers to fully evolve and build the process to support this in a much more integrated and scalable fashion beyond one off campaigns and programs. This entire space is still in its infancy.
From Brand Value Proposition To Brand Values
Lock yourself in a room with the most seasoned and senior marketing executives and they will nod their heads when presented with research that reflects the purchase habits of millennials, especially one key shift—millennials are often influenced not only by the products, services and “value proposition” of the brands they buy from—they are also curious and care about how the brand acts, how it participates and what it “stands for” in a societal context. If they feel like the brand is aligned with some or all of their own personal values—these influence behaviors from purchase through to loyalty. My Employer (Edelman) produced research that most consumers are “involved” with brands but are open to “commitment”. And in many cases, being committed goes beyond traditional value proposition attributes such as quality, convenience and price.
The premise seems deceptively simple. Many brands understand this and in response have gone out of their way to show how they are “going green” or “doing good”—often through corporate channels that are responsible for these kinds of messages. But this shift goes beyond messages and block and tackle corporate communications. Marketers have mastered the art and science of building brands in the hearts and minds of consumers by balancing their emotional and rational needs. Products had to show they would actually work but the most successful brands went further and endeared themselves to consumers through appealing to their emotions (Think Nike—Just Do It)
Thanks largely to millennials—this is no longer enough. Marketers need to re-examine their value proposition and ask themselves if their brand’s “values” are clearly articulated and if their actions, marketing and every touchpoint with a consumer and customer backs this up. It goes beyond satisfying rational and emotional needs but adding the third dimension of “societal” but above all else—all three dimensions need to be true to the brand and supported by proof points. This becomes not only the job of the chief communications officer and CEO but the CEO, CMO and CEO working in tandem. Few brands have been able to successfully “stand for something” because it takes a village to pull this off right and in line with the brand values. But whether it’s #Optoutside or #LikeAGirl—when done authentically, it resonates.
If you’ve gotten this far, than you’re probably thinking that none of the above is new to you. And that’s the point—it isn’t. But the marketing industry has yet to fully make the needed shifts in most or nearly all of the above trends based on my observations and in working directly with clients. These trends each bring with them great opportunities but require companies whether brands or agencies to evolve priorities, re-evaluate staff and agency mix and place bets in areas that are still developing or require extra effort to measure. They may not be as sexy as virtual reality or cars which drive themselves—but in the next five or so years, it is how well we operationalize against these trends that may benefit marketers most in the near future.