With Mariah Carey clattering through our coffee shops, this can only mean two things for marketers. First, it’s time to start clearing space in your calendar for all those Christmas drinks. And second, the tidal wave of 2016 trend listicles is roaring into view. Sadly, many of these lists will have more in common with sci-fi films than your marketing plans for the coming year.
We here at AnalogFolk have attempted to swerve this prognosticating pot hole, and instead outline seven trends you need to be thinking about heading into the new year.
1. Renewed social discovery
We’ve gone full circle. When brands first arrived on Facebook and organic reach was high, we spent a huge amount of time and effort on community engagement and interaction. However, as paid media options have grown, and organic reach has shrunk, we’re at risk of only viewing social as a way to pump out content as content.
With more and more services being delivered through digital, rather than face to face, brands need to work even harder to maintain their humanity. From training customer service teams to being more proactive and helpful, to investing in chat bots that allow customers to easily get their questions answered. 2016 will see brands not just use social, but behave more socially.
2. The rise and rise of the influencer
With the rise of live streaming social platforms like Periscope complementing growth of Snapchat, new opportunities are opening up for brands to gain more exposure and reach at events than ever before.
So whether you are sponsoring or running an event, here are two tips to consider. Tip one, only work with influencers who already boast an active online following. Their audiences will ensure you are far less reliant on third party media brands for coverage.
The second, is to focus your creativity on developing surprising experiences at these events that naturally lend themselves to the creation of video and imagery that makes your influencers look cool.
MTV’s VMA awards this year were an explosion of new sharing apps. With 12m watching on Snapchat, compared to 5m on TV. And Mashable using Periscoped Kanye West skits to build interest before the awards.
3. Algorithmic efficiency
Everyone has got used to the idea that brands have websites (or a Tumblr). The same will soon be true of algorithms, as companies learn to turn their dusty data into a brand asset.
The idea of Big Data has been trampling through the industry for several years now, promising the earth but proving incredibly hard to pin down. With this idea of using data to create specific products, brands can start to be far more focused about how to get value out of data.
Even if you don’t create your own algorithm in 2016, it’s time to start the journey. By finding a data science partner, you can audit the data you own and identify the available third party data. Combining these two data sets you can then use your business priorities and brand values to choose what proprietary data products you will focus on developing.
It could be a tool that plugs into Facebook’s media buying algorithm to improve media spend efficiency. Or perhaps a product recommendation service that aids retail staff in helping consumers find the perfect product every time.
4. Owned platform dominance
With every update of Google’s search algorithm further honing in on rewarding great content, your best long-term SEO strategy will be a great content strategy.
One vital part of this equation that often gets overlooked is providing a great hub for this content to live on. 2016 will see a wave of brands reinvesting in their website to optimise it for content. And if this is you, consider the three pillars of a content optimised site:
Displaying your content in the way that makes it easy to engage with
A Content Management System (CMS) that makes it easy to publish and to seed your content gems
Organising the architecture of your site to make it easy for users to find what they’re interested in
5. Serendipitous advertising
If you’ve been sitting in the same presentations as I have this year, 2015 has been the year that programmatic buying went mainstream. But the creative world has been slow to follow.
In 2016 we all need to be thinking about what programmatic creative might look like. Fundamentally, it will require us to deliver far more flexible, modular creative with communications not being a single, polished entity. Instead it will need to be a formula, with 10s or even 100s of variations, providing fuel for programmatic engines.
It will help us move beyond the world of retargeting, where ominous cable knit jumpers stalk us across the internet for weeks. And instead sees us use all our behavioural clues available to serve up ads that are ‘just what the customer wanted’. It’s time to engineer serendipity.
6. Simplified curated consumption
There is so much stuff out there in the world today. Videos to watch, sandwiches to buy, coffees to choose, trainers to personalise. And while people love to personalise items brands need to use this sparingly and focus heavily on curation and simplification.
Many brands have succeeded specifically because they’ve embraced simplicity, rather than choice. In 2016, whether you’re building a digital experience or finalising your product range, focus on making it as easy as possible to choose your brand. Because in the end, customers don’t want a huge range, they just want the right product for them. It’s time to make friends with those User Experience teams at your digital agency.
7. Mobile everything
The industry has rightly been talking and thinking about mobile in our strategic planning for years. 2016 is the year mobile becomes embedded in our day to day processes.
For one thing, you should start reviewing all your digital work on smartphones, from websites to content. Things may look gorgeous on a 27" Mac monitor or the big screen in your conference room. But what will it look like in the real world on users' phones? It may require a bit more huddling together in meetings, but it will result in much more effective work.
Finally, to prove we really can see the future, here are two other things you can count on next year: Justin Bieber will become the new Taylor Swift (OK for people in their 20s to like unironically) and everyone will finally agree that Goji berries aren’t worth it.