Back in December, CMO.com noted that many of the upcoming year's marketing trends would be a reaction to or evolution of previous trends—the explosion of “snackable” content in mobile, the drive for anonymity among users online, and the like. As we head into the second half of 2014, some of the trending topics we see are taking those developments further, while the bloom is fading slightly on others.
In the background, worldwide marketing spending is expected to grow faster in the second half, aided by the World Cup, the coming U.S. midterm elections, and economic recovery in countries that were savaged by the global fiscal crisis earlier in the decade. ZenithOptimedia recently boosted its 2014 forecast (PDF) for the third time, to show growth of 5.5 percent worldwide, based on signs of stronger growth in the U.S. and Asia. It also forecast Europe will show growth for the first time since 2010, as markets there recover from the Eurozone fiscal crisis.
Amid it all, the key to handling change is to focus on the one constant: consumers, trendspotters agreed. Consumers are the ones who will lead the application and practical implementation of the following trends highlighted in this slide show. Read on.
At the start of the recession, marketers focused on the lower end of the market. Then the spotlight moved to the luxury end as the recovery made it acceptable to again flaunt wealth. Now the middle class is poised for a comeback.
Witness the success of French economist Thomas Piketty’s book "Capital in the Twenty-First Century" and recent articles spotlighting Generation X, which is in its prime earning years yet had been eclipsed by the Millennial demographic. Attention is focusing on the large forgotten middle of the consumer spectrum.
"It’s cool to be in the murky middle," said Sarah Davanzo, chief cultural strategy officer at agency sparks & honey, in an interview with CMO.com. "The middle is now differentiated."
Cultural and fashion trends are shifting to the middle in a reaction to years of fast fashion and fast change, she noted. Consumers are deliberately dressing down in fashion trend called "normcore," entertainment is embracing Average Joes plucked from YouTube, and the success of Piketty’s book has opened a frank discussion about social imbalances, she explained.
As we head into the midterm elections, expect the drumbeat about the middle class to sound even louder in political ads and to bleed into the culture at large.
With more than 90 percent of marketers now engaged in publishing content, according to the Content Marketing Institute, it’s no surprise that complaints about quality are starting to arise.
“Everybody on the Internet is a little bit more confused than they were in 1998,” said Blake Brossman, chief technology officer of Web site PetCareRX, at the Direct Marketing Association’s Integrated Marketing Week event in early June.
Like any emerging channel, what happened to other media will happen to content marketing, added Shane Snow, CEO of Contently. As more brands go into the publishing space, “it becomes harder and harder to make hits,” he told CMO.com. “It will get harder to be sophisticated and successful.”
But marketers are taking it more seriously and putting resources behind their efforts, insiders said. Expect content to improve throughout 2014.
“Brands are getting serious about it, and are wrestling with whether to manage it internally, externally, or a combination,” said Eric Johnson, founder and president of Ignited, in an interview with CMO.com. “These decisions feel very much like social media in 2007.”
“Like it or not, constantly ‘on’ real-time marketing is the new normal,” said James Lou, chief strategy officer of Havas Worldwide North America, in an interview with CMO.com. But, he added, like they did with DVRs in the past decade, consumers are learning how to tune out by using their phones’ privacy settings.
Insiders also predicted that some marketers will rethink real-time efforts as the stage gets crowded and may move on to new channels altogether. Even Oreo, which started it all at the Super Bowl last year, went dark for the 2014 game.
“Under the shiny veneer and gloss of Oreo-like messaging, there is something afoul both strategically and creatively,” said Rich Guest, U.S. president of agency Tribal Worldwide, in an interview with CMO.com. “When a Spaghetti-O’s tweet—however well-intentioned—becomes news for The New York Post, one has to begin to question the very concept of real-time marketing.”
What’s next? That was the questiom posed to digital marketers at a recent panel held by agency Erwin Penland Advertising, CMO Joe Saracino told CMO.com. George Dewey, head of digital marketing at 20th Century Fox Films, offered a one-word answer: “Restraint.”
“I think we are rapidly approaching the point of no return,” Saracino said. “I expect to see brands exercising a little more restraint in the second half of 2014 and into 2015.”
Concerns about wasted spending and ad fraud have been rising, along with the explosion of programmatic buying platforms. While experts said one isn’t necessarily a result of the other, they agreed that automating media buys opens the door to fraudsters and needs better policing.
“Everyone is talking about it, but they aren’t connecting the dots with the daily barrage of stories about banner inventory being consumed by nonhumans—bots,” Ignited’s Johnson told CMO.com. “Can programmatic buying grow if there is a fear of fraud everywhere consuming 30 percent of the cheap inventory?”
In response to fraud and waste, expect tougher controls and action from the trade groups. The Internet Advertising Bureau already announced a program to combat fraud and improve both transparency and accountability in digital advertising. The Association of National Advertisers is expected to launch its own initiatives soon.
The content boom is also giving rise to a boom in authentication services that weed out prank content online (i.e., Jimmy Kimmel’s “twerk fail” video). For example, The Wall Street Journal announced during the NewFronts that it signed up Storyful, a platform that authenticates and acquires rights to videos, to supply verified content to its online video platform.
“It’s hard to tell what is real these days with so many fake memes, fake product launches, and hoax news stories,” sparks & honey’s Davanzo told CMO.com. “Brands are contributing to the confusion with prank activations and hyperbolic content ... We’ve entered an era of ‘truthiness.’”
Just posting unchecked clickbait, designed merely to boost click-through rates for ads, won’t do anymore. Search engines are becoming more sophisticated, PetCareRX’s Brossman said. Many have launched better screens to weed out pieces that are all headlines and no content, he said.
“Don’t have sucky content,” he warned. “Google has gotten smarter about that.”
Insiders have been discussing the rise of online video for years, but this really could be the year when online video overtakes network and cable programs. The release of the second season of “Orange is the New Black” on Netflix was treated as seriously as any network show premiere—a sign that streaming video is no longer an outlier.
An IAB study released during the Digital Content NewFronts showed online video has overtaken “regular” TV in daytime, news, and sports viewing. Another IAB study found 65 percent of marketers are increasing online ad spend this year, with two-thirds of them paying for it by moving money from television ads.
“While TV is undoubtedly still a great investment for many brands, dollars are slowly being siphoned to digital platforms,” said Amy Armstrong, managing director of ID Media, in an interview with CMO.com. “The reason? TV is limited.”
Marketers and agencies will have to join the fray and start producing their own content, according to Tribal Worldwide’s Guest. “If the future of television looks more like Netflix or iTunes, how will we buy a consumers attention? In short, we won’t be able to, and instead, we will have to earn that attention by producing truly great content,” Guest said.
Six-, eight-, and 15-second videos were all the rage last year, as Instagram video, Vine, and other phone-based video apps took off. But if the NewFronts were any indication, it’s not all about snackable video online. Many publishers were showing content that was close in length and format to TV shows.
“Snackable content isn’t going anywhere,” said Josh Crick, director of digital, David&Goliath, in an interview with CMO.com. “It’s less about a trend in storytelling and more about the technology that is finally allowing long-form content to play a bigger role.” As data becomes less expensive, screens have better resolution, and Wi-Fi is more consistent, users expect all kinds of content, he said.
Yes, insiders said, the mobile format will keep spurring short videos, but marketers also are finding that high-quality long-form formats can serve as a more effective branding platform.
“We think 2014 has seen the rebirth of the epic narrative story—evidenced through TV hits such as “Game of Thrones”—and this trend is starting to impact advertising,” said Mark Figliulo, CEO and founder of Figliulo&Partners, in an interview with CMO.com. “It’s difficult to tell a compelling, emotionally engaging story using short-form content.”
No, your fridge still won’t talk to you, but your car’s dashboard will. Last year, marketers were excited about the opportunity in the networked home—home security systems, thermostats, and even appliances connected to the cloud—but the reality is still in progress, insiders said.
However, a number of new, practical applications are moving along, starting with the networked car. GM is rolling out Web-enabled dashboards on most of its 2015 Chevy models later this year. Think of the car as the original mobile device, said Tim Mahoney, Chevy’s global CMO, in a recent interview with The Economist Group's Lean Back marketing blog. He said the car company believes convergence and mobility is the key to the interacting with consumers, and this is an extension of the way people stay connected in their cars.
Another, more portable trend—wearable devices—has not exactly set the world on fire this year, with the exception of the many fitness bands out in the market. Google Glass has not gone mainstream, but insiders said other applications of wearable technology with more practical uses show more promise. Havas’ Lou cited temporary tattoo fitness biosensors made by Electrozyme; wearable authentication technology from Nymi that eliminates the need for passwords for your smartphone, computer, and car; and NexBand, a modular wristband that can run different apps, instead of only one, like the existing fitness bands.
So whether Glass booms or busts—and it’s looking like more of a ‘bust’ right now—wearable tech is here to stay,” Lou said.
All that connectivity has a downside, experts warned. The recent data hack at eBa and the discovery of the Heartbleed bug have renewed calls for tighter regulation of data and more rules to protect the privacy of consumers online. As the European Union puts into effect the new “right to be forgotten” online, marketers should expect more regulation, despite their efforts to police the data themselves.
“The infusion of screens into our lives is spurring fear, resentment, and some fretting about what’s been lost in our embrace of digital devices,” said Marian Berelowitz, editorial director of JWTIntelligence, in an interview with CMO.com. “Our love affair with mobile devices is turning into a love-hate relationship.”
Marketers will have to walk a fine line between safeguarding information without turning consumers off with long registration forms and authentication, David&Goliath’s Crick said. “I think that brands will continue to implement marketing efforts that lean on established ‘mainstream’ integration services, i.e., Facebook sign-on and Google+, which help offsite direct risks to their brands,” he told CMO.com.
But privacy and security fears are changing the game, Berelowitz added. “Rising consumer awareness of just how vulnerable digital data is to cybercriminals, government spying, corporate tracking, and other prying eyes will push all players in the mobile sphere to make privacy and security a higher priority,” she said.