1. It’s all about the experience
Yes, we’ve been talking about it for a while now, but 2016 is surely set to be the year that marketing departments start to move from silos of advertising, online comms, high street retail, towards joined up experiences that are part of the sales cycle and an extension of customer service. The term omnichannel may be a buzzword, but it marks a real shift: customers expect brands to provide an integrated experience, regardless of device or channel. Of course, brand identities that transition beautifully between the physical and digital worlds to achieve this are vital.
At a time when customers are already overloaded with information, great customer experience has become the baseline. As online and real life interactions merge, the digital-physical blur is the key to transforming how people experience brands. The old multi-channel way of thinking, where the customer progressed in a predictable linear way from advertising, to online, to purchase in store, doesn’t work anymore (if indeed it ever did). Increasingly brands will engage with customers online access a wide range of touch points, tracking the buyer’s journey and measuring loyalty.
2. Will ad-blockers kill banners?
With ad-blocking now available on mobile, there’s a real threat to the business model that has supported the web for over twenty years. In 2015, ad-blocking went mainstream with reports suggesting that 41 percent of 18-21-year-olds are running the software. Predictions for 2016 are that £50bn could be blocked by the end of the year.*
What does this mean for online advertisers? While a few sites behind paywalls like the FT and The Times remain unaffected, most are looking at a significant loss of revenue. Making a living from online content has been tough. The New York Times, for example, has more than 50% of its audience on mobile and yet this generates less than 10% of its revenue.
With high quality content expensive to produce, most people acknowledge that it’s the ads that pay for the content. But the cost will skyrocket if mobile advertisers don’t adapt quickly. And if they don’t, the only publishers making any money will be the ad-blockers.
3. Content is (still) king
Yes, everyone has been saying this for a while, but 2016 will see quality content become even more important. Telling stories has always been part of marketing, traditionally with television, radio and print ads. The problem for advertisers is that it’s getting harder and harder for traditional advertisers to be seen (see ad-blockers above).
TV is watched on PVRs and time-shifted with the ads skipped. Films are streamed via Apple TV, Amazon Prime or Netflix (all ad-free) and now ad-blockers are blocking banner ads on both desktop and mobile.
Content marketing on-the-other-hand is the art of communicating without the hard sell. At its heart is the belief that if brands deliver consistent, ongoing and valuable information, people will reward them with their business.
4. Moving image moves to the top of the pile
By 2016, video will account for nearly 70% of all consumer internet traffic* so it’s no surprise that more and more brands are seeing the benefit of moving image.
Under 25s look to YouTube for education and entertainment, instead of conventional channels like TV. Online video has increasingly become the primary means for people to satisfy their information and entertainment needs. Brands that fail to include video in their online marketing strategies will do so at their peril.
YouTube, Vine, Snapchat, gifs are being consumed at an ever faster rate. Streaming video, of course, is the natural next step with platforms like Periscope and Blab putting live interactive video into the fingertips of any smartphone user. 2016 will see video continue to outshine other media and streaming come into its own.
5. Big data comes into its own
It seems that barely a day goes by when we’re not told how big data platforms and technologies will solve all of our marketing problems. The ever increasing quantity of data creates significant business opportunities and many think 2016 will be the year that we see marketing spend becoming more data driven and more precise – leveraging insights from big data.
New forms of data analytics are emerging that infuse brand campaigns with more accurate analysis about how they can engage with their market. Instead of just collecting data, this new data informed brand marketing approach is built on circular data analysis, which involves understanding shopper behaviour, customer activity and brand preferences. For every ‘like’ or retweet from a potential customer to a brand’s Facebook or Twitter page, the data analytics system uses complex metrics to understand the customer’s patterns of preferences for digital products and services.
6. Putting a face to the name
Consumers are turned off by faceless corporations. Large corporate brands are losing out to those with a more human face. Compare Coca-Cola, Ford, Samsung, with businesses owned by Mark Zuckerberg, Paul Smith, Jamie Oliver and Dr Dre.
Increasingly connecting with a brand means identifying with the vision of the driving force behind it. Brands are looking for the people behind the company to put themselves forward and amplify that human connection.
7. The personal touch
High-end brands have for years provided a personalised brand experience. Think personal shoppers at luxury department stores, or the dizzying array of options offered when specifying a new car. Mass personalisation is set to take off in 2016. A recent report by Deloitte “Made to Order”, states that “in the era of all things digital, consumers have higher expectations: they want their interactions with businesses and the products and services they buy from them to be personalised.”
Brands already getting this right include Amazon, who since 2004 have been using customer data to create a personalised home page, the ”Your Amazon” experience. Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke. with…” campaign has been a big hit since 2011 and this Christmas Marmite and Nutella have launched pop-up personalisation stores.
The world is moving. In 2016 each of us will be exposed to five times the amount of information than we were thirty years ago. To connect with their consumers, brands need to flex and adapt to the challenges of this perpetually changing landscape.
It’s an exciting time for a branding agency.