There have been a lot of exciting conversations over the past few months in the advertising and marketing world on a range of new technologies that are revolutionizing how we connect with consumers. The Apple Watch, beacons, virtual reality platforms -- the buzz keeps growing as the technology keeps improving. But with every new opportunity come the same age-old questions: "Why does it matter to my brand?" "Should I be investing resources in this?," and "Where is this all ultimately heading?"
I don't have a crystal ball, so I can't answer these questions definitively. But I've built a career and a company in the digital space, and it's my job to stay in front of these technologies and provide strategic direction for my clients. So here are four budding trends that I would love to see blossom over the next few years.
1. Vision-Infused Marketing
For far too long, there's been a divide between brand originators and their marketing teams.
In my business circle, I can say confidently that an overwhelming majority of the working meetings I sit in do not include a founder or originating creative voice to round out the discussion. In the marketing and advertising industry, we use words like "authenticity" all the time, yet the founding visionaries of a brand are typically left out of the conversation - usually on purpose. I believe this tendency is paved with good intentions, as founders are forced to delegate to their teams instead of staying fully involved.
But for consumers, it's not enough.
They want to get closer to the "life force" of their favorite brands, and this desire will only get stronger in the future. They need a connection to that originating vision -- not an advertiser's filtered view of it. And, as any advertising and marketing strategist would attest, they would much rather talk with the person that had the guts to craft the original idea than just the team that inherited it. The core vision is what makes a brand successful. Yet, as time passes, founders are often nowhere to be seen. It's an increasingly common issue as many organizations have a revolving door of CMOs who don't have the support of and engagement from visionary leadership. But I believe that the brands that succeed in the next few years will be the ones who not only value their founders' ongoing involvement but command it.
2. Increased Precision in Cross-Device Customization
As we evolve to a truly cross-platform world, so must brand stories.
For example, I read The New York Times via their mobile app in the morning, monitor their feeds on Twitter, jump to their desktop site in the afternoon, and read on my iPad over the weekend. For advertisers trying to talk to their audience, my behavior will soon become the norm.
There is such an enormous opportunity sitting with publishers who have an engaged audience across multiple platforms with one central login that makes a true cross-device brand story possible. Think about how your creative -- messaging, sequencing, call-to-action -- can evolve based on their device, location, time of day, and past behavior on that site. Yes, we can do some of this now but nowhere near what's actually possible.
As the evolution continues, marketers will refine these experiences in new and exciting ways that are both respectful of consumer privacy and maximize the available technology. We'll see a rise in personalized messaging from brands across publisher platforms. And I predict that we'll see a significant increase in customization on social platforms where a majority of publisher content is currently consumed.
The main headwind I see is that the current status quo makes it difficult for publishers and advertisers to agree on a pricing model -- they're caught between people and impressions. But I believe market forces will push this conversation forward to make progress sooner rather than later.
3. Storytelling Investment Skyrockets
If you thought the media landscape was fragmented today, you have a real surprise coming for you in the future.
Sure, we're excited about all the new distribution platforms. But there's one much larger trend beyond distribution -- and that's content creation. We're at the starting line of a race among brand publishers to create native content for all of these devices that truly engages audiences in new ways.
If you aren't prepared, now is the time to sit up and pay attention. It's going to be a very bumpy road for many brands as the rapid expansion of distribution demands equal expansion of content creation. It will cause a radical shift in how marketing budgets are allocated between production and media. Now is the moment to brush up on your usage rights for content, your production budgets, your agency relationships and their preparedness to take on this changing landscape.
4. Being Human
This year's SXSW conference made it clear that the next five years will be full of a new range of enhancements to our everyday life beyond just the screen.
Apple Watch plans to revolutionize our relationship with our health. Beacons promise to make the in-store shopping experience one we will never forget. The "Internet of Things" has no shortage of infiltration power at every touchpoint in our lives. But just because technology can enhance our lives doesn't mean it will. That power lies in the hands of the people behind the brands. As marketers, our core strategic question needs to be: How can we improve the lives of our customers with compassion and care? Not, how can we increase the data we glean from our customers' lives?
In the next few years, the winners won't be the ones with the deepest pockets or the most technological resources. The winners will be the ones who invest in people resources -- people who understand how technology can be applied to create real, enduring value in our everyday lives. This is the time when handshakes trump click rates, and the most successful brands will invest in an organizational structure that links smart technology with "human" customer service.