From NCAA football analysts to Wall Street traders to science fiction screenwriters who conjure up silver cyborgs and interstellar flight, we all love to imagine the future. It’s fun.
However, when it comes to your brand and your business growth, it’s not an idle pastime. Knowing how to schedule the path of your next outbound message and its most productive format is crucial, and requires more prudent planning than a Ouija board or a fortune teller with a crystal ball.
So, here goes. This list is one I’ve been nurturing for years. Eight undeniable, irreversible, powerful trends that MUST define your next brand campaign if it is to remain relevant. As a journalist, I’m including a strong reference point for each of them to emphasize that these projections are NOT whimsical. Almost every objective indicator confirms that these specific evolutionary advances are already well underway.
1.) Mobile Everything
If your website, ad campaign, blog or social media concept doesn’t appear quickly with a clear and captivating aura on a smart phone, you’re already behind the curve. Reams of data prove it. In fact, mobile presence will soon be searchable on even more devices: watches, home appliances and cars. This does NOT mean, however, that everyone needs an app. Brands need mobile visibility, and the easier to access, the better. So don’t expect everyone to download your new app unless it’s as fun as those angry birds. Here’s an article from CNN about this year’s Mobile World Congress.
2.) More Video + 3D
Sure, everyone has a marquee video on the home page by now (don’t you?) but that’s just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. The smart, leading-edge brands now consider themselves ORIGINATING SOURCES of multimedia content about their specific industry, and the lion’s share of the new content is video. Trends, technologies, case studies, best practices, expert observations, advice, seasonal reminders, customer profiles and topical stories that connect to trending news – can all be better conveyed with video. All of it is also appropriate and helpful to build an archive of video content and to establish your brand as a source of accurate, relevant content. Beyond that, 3D video is coming to a home theater system near you. Here’s an article from CNET about the virtual reality doodads on display at this year’s CES.
3.) From Ads to Stories.
Jesus, Aesop, Confucius – they all captivated audiences with amazing, very personal stories that conveyed profound concepts. Why did we ever get away from this ancient custom? You should tell more stories, if you’re not already. The era of “Buy Now” is over. The age of “There once was a man with a problem similar to yours. Here’s how he solved it…” has returned. No one wants to be sold a product, but all of us still want to hear an interesting story that teaches a lesson. Case closed. Here’s a fun article from the folks at Stir Marketing on Storytelling.
4.) From Push to Pull
The chase is over. You can no longer force your prospective customers to watch your message, whether it’s an ad, website or earned (news) media play. Consumers Opt In. Your brand message has to be SO attractive, SO compelling, SO funny or SO spot-on helpful that they agree to watch or even seek it out.
Have you heard of TiVO? SoundHound? Sirius? Unsubscribe? Pop-Up Ad blockers? Every day, new technologies are mushrooming to block your targeted ad campaign. If your prospects don’t want to see unwanted ads, they will be enabled to do so. Instead, your message must be so provocative or solution-oriented that the consumer can’t resist. Ernan Roman calls it “creating addictive experiences which meet and exceed customer’s needs” in this Huffington Post blog post.
5.) From Solving Problems to Seeking Problems
Smart customers solve their own problems. They research the world on hand-held devices to shop for the right product or service, then use search engines to seek out the best prices. Given this new reality, what the leading-edge brand stewards do now is seek to understand the consumer and the marketplace well enough to identify real problems that customers don’t yet fully recognize. Identify the concern, then enable the consumer to solve her own problem. Your message must educate her to be wise on topics that have not yet appeared on her radar. This is key to thought leadership. Your brand must become the wise sage that sees the road ahead and guides consumers down it.
One of my favorite authors, Dan Pink, says this: “The research shows pretty clearly that the most effective pitches don’t try to convert people; they try to bring them into a conversation, bring them in as a co-creator.” Here’s the Intelligent Demand article explaining the concept.
6.) From Anytime and All the Time – to Just at the Right Time.
Are you customized the topic and timing of your message? If not yet, you soon will be.
The so-called “Internet of Everything” (IoT) is here. Refrigerators now have the capacity to know when you are out of milk, search inventories of local stores to find the nearest gallon of your favorite brand at the best price. Real-time message will pop up on your intelligent shopping cart about Cheerios when you’re in the cereal aisle. With one app, you’ll be able to adjust a thermostat, security and washing machine while away from home. Your iPhone will soon be reminding you to take a vitamin or that cholesterol-lowering pill. In this environment, big data will help identify a more accurate pool of prospects, your message can be customized and paid content placement will be more crucial than ever. Here’s a piece from B2B News Network about the amazing transformation.
7.) Be Bilingual.
If your brand isn’t bilingual, figure out how to make it so. The U.S. Hispanic population is now more than 55 million, or 17.4% of the whole, according to the latest US Census. Reach this audience or be left behind. ‘Nuf said. Here’s the article from the Pew Research Center.
8.) From Bloated Agency to the BullsEye Specialist
No matter what the big-brand, global ad agency says, there’s a lotta overhead in the 1990s-era global campaign. Those nice leather couches and marble reception desks in New York and LA don’t pay for themselves. TV remains overpriced and the “big idea” doesn’t work for everyone, all the time. In addition, the velocity and dimension of the above changes in the media landscape make it almost impossible for one agency to stay on top of all best practices. The old “Agency of Record” model (Remember McMann & Tate on ‘Bewitched’?) is fading and in its place, the specialist is rising quickly. The most adept brand stewards are hiring a boutique agency to develop the mobile-friendly landing page, a separate group to redesign the logo and another team to develop the content marketing campaign. Here’s a helpful article from the Houston Chronicle.