It’s a tradition. Just before New Year’s Eve, the marketing universe looks inward for predictions about the upcoming year. And, of course, our particular universe has no shortage of people who are willing to opine.
Well, we thought it would be useful to review everyone’s predictions for marketing in 2014, and it turns out that more than a few were spot on (or close enough that we’ll count it). Here are 25 predictions about marketing in 2014 that nailed it.
1. We Aren’t Going to Wear Our Tech Just Yet
“As a concept, it may well hit some kind of stride next year, but, in truth, we’re a long way from mainstream acceptance. For brands to capitalize on this trend, their products need to seamlessly integrate into our lives in way that meets a direct need.”
Despite David Sedaris’ praise of FitBit health trackers, it seems most of us aren’t yet ready to shell out big money for a computer we can wear around, as most clearly evidenced by delays in Apple’s big iWatch announcement.
2. We Will See More Regulations Around Native Advertising
“I predict more regulations to come down around native advertising and its balance between being informative or deceptive to consumers.”
A month later, the UK Internet Advertising Bureau announced it was holding a workshop to create industry best practices and guidelines for native advertising.
3. Companies Will Leverage Employee Outreach
“Creating a successful employee advocacy program has its challenges, but the evolution of both social business as well as employee advocacy platforms should move this program forward in many companies in 2014.”
4. Customers Will More Closely Guard Their Own Privacy
Andrew Speyer, VP and managing director at Wing, told CMO.com in December that revelations about how much we’re all being spied on would prompt some pushback from consumers to safeguard their data privacy.
“We seem to be at a tipping point with [privacy] issues, with the great acceptance that the price of digital communications is some intrusion on privacy being replaced by a more cynical, or at least aware, attitude toward what is actually happening. Tools and providers that allow people to feel more protected and insulated from prying eyes of any kind will get traction.”
Interestingly, the biggest move here wasn’t from customers themselves but from the European Union Court of Justice, which upheld the Right to be Forgotten principle in a May ruling against Google. Google has since begun to comply, but this will be a contentious issue for the foreseeable future.
5. Sponsored Content Becomes Even More Important for Brands
“Consider the investment in sponsored content to drive greater visibility to your business among interested audiences that may or may not be familiar with your company’s offerings to date. If you look at many key searches in the search engines, you’ll begin to notice that many of the first page results are from articles from industry publications.”
As Joe Lazauskas at Contently noted in July, “sponsored content is booming,” but that doesn’t mean brands have yet won over the trust of readers.
6. Social Storytelling Will Come of Age
“To focus on building relationships, rather than driving transactions. And to unlock the true power of social media, which is to inspire customers to build the business with them, based on shared values and a common goal.”
Tesla Motors embraced this one at the beginning of 2014, hiring Hamish McKenzie, former reporter at PandoDaily, to become the company’s lead storyteller. Later that month, Tesla organized a coast-to-coast rally that got quite a lot of publicity and kept readers updated via Facebook, Twitter and other social outlets.
7. Social Content Will Continue to Focus on Visuals
“We know that posts that contain images or videos outperform those without when it comes to likes, shares, comments, and retweets. Failing to incorporate image-based media into your social media content strategy will mean losing out on huge amounts of potential engagement!”
The visuals-heavy April redesign of Twitter confirmed Garst’s prediction four months later.
8. Interactive Content Will Overtake Static Content
“2013 was the year of Top 10 lists. To get users to engage to the same degree in 2014 and subsequent years, publishers will need to make it increasingly engaging, and one effective way to do that is to make your content interactive.”
Buzzfeed knocked this one out of the park by emphasizing quizzes in the first half of 2014. Since January, 9 of the top 10 most-shared Buzzfeed posts were quizzes, according to BuzzSumo. Each quiz had at least 1.5 million shares.
9. We Will See More Content Partnerships
“I am not talking about ‘native ads’ that consumers ignore, but true content partnerships where brands and publishers will co-create sponsored content for both the publisher and brand websites and the social web (paid, owned, and earned).”
In June, real estate company Coldwell Banker took the plunge by partnering with Buzzfeed to illustrate some of the emotional and light-hearted experiences of becoming a homeowner.
10. We Will Optimize for Social Search
“SEO and SERP will continue to be one of the most valuable currencies in your content. However, what search engine you’re optimizing for, and how you get found, will change in the new year. Social sharing is already gaining in importance through Google’s Hummingbird algorithms. Look for continued emphasis on social sharing in Google.”
In a July Whiteboard Friday post, Moz’s Rand Fiskin actually took this idea a little further: “SEO is neuropsychology. SEO is conversion rate optimization. SEO is social media. SEO is user experience and design. SEO is branding. SEO is analytics. SEO is product. SEO is advertising. SEO is public relations. The fill-in-the-blank is SEO if that blank is anything that affects any input directly or indirectly.”
11. Thoughtful, Well-Researched Long Form Content Will Prevail
“It will perform better in search, more actively share and attract traffic from a community that seeks relevancy and actionable information. Businesses will take content production seriously by investing in experienced or especially talented professionals that can connect the dots in a respective industry like no other. ”
In March, BuzzSumo’s Steve Rayson published a roundup of seven studies that conclude long form content performs better socially and in search engines.
12. We Will Get More Multi-Lingual
“More customers are translating more content into more languages all the time. It is no longer acceptable to reach international markets with an English-only strategy.”
Just check out Univision’s numbers in the US for World Cup viewers to get an idea for how this demand is growing.
13. Expect More Content Marketing Videos in 2014
“With videos becoming cheaper to produce and platforms such as Veed.me opening up access to affordable creative talent, even small businesses can produce high quality videos.”
Bittan was at least partially correct. Within days of her prediction, Facebook announced that videos in News Feeds would autoplay.
14. Instagram Becomes The Hottest Social Network For Brands
Aaron Stout, managing director at W2O Group told Marketing Land that as younger users are moving away from Facebook and Twitter, Instagram was positioned to take a big share of social media attention, especially when brands need to reach a younger audience or employers need to reach out to younger job candidates.
“[W]ith 65% of people being visual learners, social sites that focus on photo and short video sharing are going to win in the long run.”
One, um, brand in particular has clearly embraced Instagram as a strategy to reach younger users: The White House. President Obama’s Instagram account has 360,000-plus followers, and any time he gets caught taking a selfie, it makes the news. Stout’s prediction gets a “partially correct” verdict, but it appears that it will eventually prove 100% correct.
15. Companies Will Invest in UX
“Leverage analytics and customer insight to really get under the skin of the audience, build in measurability and event trigger mechanisms, as well as consider the context of consumption. Together this will optimise potential user journey paths and ultimately the long term effectiveness and evolution of your content.”
One industry where this has been evident is air travel, where friction for the end users has forever just been presumed. But Virgin America’s new booking site and printed tickets have earned Sir Richard Branson’s company rave reviews. European low-cost leader Ryanair tried its own hand at a user-friendly redesign in the spring, but as the Financial Times reports, the company ended up sacrificing years of SEO gains in the process.
16. Email Still Won’t Be Sexy
“It’s not Whatsapp. It’s not Vine. It’s not Snapchat. It’s a 1980s communication mechanism which is ubiquitous and powerful.”
In January, McKinsey & Company published a report that more than confirmed email’s dominance over social media as a customer-acquisition tool; it’s crushing social media.
17. E-Commerce Will Sell Lifestyles
“There’s only so much you can say about a product’s specs, sizes and specials before customers get bored and move on. Expanding your product’s application or usage to become a pivotal part of a desired lifestyle opens up many new channels for discussion while simultaneously granting your brand broader cultural significance.”
Uber is killing this. Just look at those photos on its homepage slider: Young, stylish, well-dressed people being chauffeured to the various important places their lives require.
18. Real-Time Marketing Will Grow
For The Coca-Cola Company the major trend in terms of content marketing will be the move towards real-time marketing. We now have the technological ability to respond to the cultural context as and when it is happening.”
The World Cup presented the best test case imaginable for this prediction, and a few brands definitely got noticed when they participated in the conversation. Some, such as German airline Lufthansa, nailed it. Some, such as Dutch airline KLM, didn’t.
19. Business Models Will Get Turned On Their Heads
“All the changing technology and democratization of advantages typically held only by large companies generates some real doozy business model disruptions in 2014.”
20. Lines Between PR and Content Marketing Will Totally Blur
“In 2014, the PR profession will no longer be a silo under marketing but be fully integrated into the content marketing workflow as owners of a brand’s story.”
Just look at Krista Bunskoek’s job title in the No. 10 spot on this list. Shannon Byrne at The Next Web argued in June this convergence is approaching completion, and the PR folks need to embrace the opportunity.