Six marketing trends to watch (Column)

January 20, 2014  |  Thomas Kenny  |  Comments

Thomas Kenny is a strategic planner at Leo Burnett in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter @ThomasKenny

It’s an exciting time to be working in advertising. Consumer expectations for brand experiences have never been higher and the tools at our disposal to deliver those experiences have never been more diverse. It is a period of rapid change and constant evolution unlike any the industry has ever experienced.

January is as good a time as any to take stock of emerging industry trends and attempt to shed some light on where we should be focusing our efforts in 2014. Below is a list of six trends that I believe will shape the advertising industry in the next 12 months.

Bringing Back Film

From Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” to Volvo’s “Epic Split” to Dodge’s Ron Burgundy shorts, all it takes is a quick scan of the best ads from 2013 to realize that many of them were beautifully executed films. Despite all the new tools of the trade available to advertisers, one of the most traditional media is still amongst the most effective. People still like to sit back and be told a great story. It’s also worth noting, almost none of the top brand films from 2013 ever appeared on television.

Social Goes Lightweight

In the early days of social, it was heralded as a sea change in how brands interact with consumers. In some ways it has delivered on this promise but in many others it hasn’t. Countless brands attempt in-depth, interactive social programs that require consumers to jump through hoop after hoop in pursuit of mostly dubious rewards. The truth is, as much as we like to think otherwise, most people just aren’t that interested. In 2014 we’ll see a dramatic scaling back of what we ask of consumers in social. In most cases it won’t be much more than two or three seconds of their time and maybe a “like” if we’re lucky.

Sequential Messaging

As the ability to identify and track consumers across devices becomes more sophisticated, we will see an increase in brand experiences that follow you from one place to the next. The best of these experiences will make use of the information already collected and continue the narrative with contextually relevant information. The potential for sequential messaging is amplified even more when you begin to incorporate the wealth of information living in each of our mobile devices – location, search history, social graph, calendar, etc. This year we’ll see advertisers starting to connect some of these dots.

Mobile First (Yes, Again)

“Mobile first” has been showing up on these Trends to Watch lists for years now but given its importance, it’s worth including it here again. Furthermore, despite all the lip service given to mobile, there are still many advertisers treating it as an afterthought. With this in mind, let us be clear: in 2013 the average US adult spent two hours and 21 minutes a day on their mobile device, up almost an hour from the year before. This is the real deal. For advertisers this means no more sites that aren’t optimized for mobile, no more desktop only experiences (ahem, Facebook apps and custom YouTube channels), and more content that looks just as good on a much smaller screen (see points one, two and three).

Making Yourself Useful

In 2014, all brand experiences will need to do one of two things: tell a great story or make the consumer’s life easier. With every idea we come up with in the next 12 months we should ask ourselves whether it accomplishes one of these two things. If it doesn’t, then it’s not worth pursuing. In 2014 we will see brands begin to embrace a more consumer centric approach to brand experiences by finding the intersection of communications objectives and solving consumer problems.

Standing for Something

Having a human purpose has become key to brand differentiation. There are more products out there than ever before and the functional benefits that would have once set many of them apart are now cost of entry. Having a brand purpose that extends beyond function can create an emotional connection to your brand that will set you apart. Furthermore, as content marketing becomes the norm, having a brand that stands for more than just the product opens the door to much more interesting content with the potential for creating meaningful consumer connections.

As an added bonus…

Here are four terms we should stop using in 2014…

Big Data – Analytics can be hugely helpful but the gospel of big data has obscured the fact that advertising will always be more art than science.
Second Screen – Yes, my mobile device is next to me while I’m watching TV. No, I will not be using it to Shazam your TV spot.
Digital Strategy – Your strategy is your strategy regardless of where it comes to life. The ‘how’ will change but the ‘why’ stays the same.
Native Advertising – Advertising tailored to the context in which it appears isn’t new. All good advertising is native advertising.

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