End-of-the-year lists can be a nice way to reflect on what was significant, successful, or downright awful over the past twelve months. But for those of us in tech, reflection is equivalent to thinking backwards. The end of my year is an opportunity to think about what's next—and how my company fits into it.
Trends in digital marketing can be challenging to see because of the speeds at which tech advances and the tides of the marketplace. But there are indicators of what is to come if you look closely.
Here are five trends I expect to see in digital marketing in 2015.
1. Employee advocacy
Brands already rely on social media to compete in today's market, but they increasingly are realizing that consumers aren't interested in talking to a company on Facebook or Twitter. Consumers want human connections.
In 2015, brands will harness the social media connections their employees already have. Brands will do this by connecting with employee advocacy communities to start employee advocacy programs of their own. Brands will find that their employees, by acting as ambassadors within their own networks, make deeper connections with potential clients.
The employee-advocacy method is low-cost and practical, and the gains are huge. Brands such as IBM and Cisco have already caught on and are reaping the benefits.
Video is a powerful marketing tool that has become wildly popular over the last couple years as consumer cameras allow for nonprofessionals to shoot with ease. The 15-second Instagram video feature has been a revelation in the medium.
In 2015, expect to see ever more companies using visual storytelling as they incorporate the human voice into marketing. Brands have never had more opportunity to access quality media than today.
Tools such as the GoPro and Hyperlapse, and even the iPhone cameras, are highly accessible and produce stunning results. Companies that use these tools will have a significant edge over their competitors.
The volume of free content on the Web is skyrocketing. Consumers are already over-stimulated. Brands must therefore work overtime to draw consumer attention. Blasting out more and more content is not the answer.
Quality content is.
The difference between a thoughtfully designed website or a well-cropped executive photo and your run-of-the-mill stuff out there is obvious. Good aesthetics stand out.
Likewise, everyone in marketing today, regardless of his or her role, is a writer—though not necessarily a good one.
In 2015, brands will need to produce well-planned and well-edited written content to stand out from the rest. There's a lot of milk out there; you'll need the cream that rises to the top.
4. Wearables and IoT
Brands must already have user-friendly mobile platforms to compete in today's ever-expanding market of smartphones and tablets.
In 2015, mobile data and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions will expand dramatically. Wearable devices, such as smart watches and exercise bands, are expected to grow in popularity, so brands must focus even more energy on user experience to remain competitive.
Pay-as-you-go models will also expand as Millennial consumers, who want it all (including full, anytime access to products) drive the market. On the plus side, those models allow companies to easily track consumer behavior, which in turn allows for greater customer satisfaction as brands strive to meet the needs of their clientele.
The difficulty for brands will be figuring out how to scale their data, deciding what to feed consumers, and what to leave out.
5. The personal touch
One growing trend among consumers—and here I especially have Millennials in mind—is to resist homogenization. Most young professionals hate when content pops up that has nothing to do with them.
As brands adjust to meet the expansive demands of the ever-diverse Generation Y, they will lean toward individualized marketing. Emphasis will increase on digital analytics and tailoring advertising to consumers, not just blanketing blog posts, etc. Advertising will become more personal, regionalized, localized. It's not a coincidence that Honda's new ad campaign revolves around the Bay Bridge and you happen to live in Oakland.
Likewise, brands will strive toward authenticity of voice in their media and written content to give consumers the human connection they desire. Selling is out; talking authentically is in.
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The access that consumers have to products and choices means that, in 2015, the individual consumer's desires will dictate the market. No longer can brands spit out mass content and expect to reach people in a meaningful way.
In 2015, marketers will home in on what matters most: people.