As Marketers and Content Creators, we pride ourselves on either setting new trends, or keeping an eye on the horizon for new opportunities to adapt into creative and innovative executions.
However, with the world evolving at such a rapid and unpredictable rate than ever before, and our empowered customers taking the lead, Marketers are often taken by surprise at some of the evolution in our fields!
Here are the seven fascinating trends over the last year that surprised us.
(1) Augmented Reality
The premise of Augmented Reality is placing a smart phone or device display between the real world and the user’s eyes, which can alter what that user is seeing by mixing reality with animation via a screen.
While AR has been around over the last couple of years, it was the unexpected extreme popularity that the Pokemon Go smartphone game found that really put it on the map.
What started as a bit of an experiment and nostalgic fun, ended up earning something along the lines of $4 million dollars a day, and had masses of people congregating in random fields at midnight… for nothing more than capturing pixels!
It was a huge surprise to Marketers globally, and definitely opened our minds to the absolutely huge potential this medium holds for organisations clever enough to take advantage. For example, AR is starting to be used to help people take advantage of the space around them, like tips at Real Estate Open Homes, locations of note within Shopping Centres, and even in their own homes with 'Smart Technology' and integration. While it has been predominantly smaller developers or even marketing agencies experimenting with AR to date, major companies such as Apple, Google and Facebook are starting to get involved.
(2) Fake News and Cognitive Warfare
Unfortunately, with ever-shortening attention spans and growing digital platforms, news stories are getting exposure at a rate never seen before, however the truth behind each post isn’t always held accountable or policed by any means. Then on the flip side, we’ve got to the point where the reader doesn’t care about accuracy anymore either, which means they read the title and take it as the truth, often sharing it with other users too!
The need for clicks and SEO has led some outlets to use ‘click-bait’ or even fear mongering (known as ‘cognitive warfare’) to sell stories or products to an audience that is just all too eager to be taken for a ride.
This continues to be a huge shock for Marketers and a blurry line for ethical practise.
(3) Virtual Reality
Similar to AR, above, the rise of mobile and digital technology has seen the introduction of Virtual Reality, in the form of headsets with 360 degree camera and gyroscope capabilities. While it still has a long way to go, and most businesses are having trouble justifying its use, never the less, it’s popularity is starting to grow.
People are demanding more immersive content, and VR is a medium with a lot of potential that can offer customers a far more enriching experience from the comfort of their own home.
The unique executions of VR have mostly shocked the Marketing practise in this case. For example, there is research going into how customers can scan wine bottles in a store and be transported via Virtual Reality, right to the cellar door to see the wine making team making that very bottle! This sounds absolutely fascinating, and is only the beginning!
(4) Evolving Artificial Intelligence
AI and Algorithm Automation has exploded on the scene of every industry and is being used in such innovative ways, that it’s completely disrupting everything we know about all aspects of business practise!
While not perfect by any means yet, the part about AI that astonished Marketers was that it is beginning to offer a more favourable human experience through its ability to adapt and tailor messaging, than actual human customer service itself!
Recent studies and research into AI’s capabilities has demonstrated its remarkable ability to accurately profile a customer’s personality and then predict future behaviour based solely on their recent internet searches and social media ‘likes’, without asking them a single question. The implication of this for Marketing would be completely (or at least significantly) removing the guesswork out of reaching an audience, which is incredible.
You can read more about this in my AI blog, here.
(5) Health and Well Being
The health trend is not really new, however the focus on blending products in unusual ways is. For example, the rise of veganism and ethical eating has seen sustainable plant-based 'meat-free meat' and protein alternatives, such as Quorn, enter the market in full force. More interesting is that the consumers are really embracing these products, both as mince or fillets, as well as ready made meals!
The social scene also seems to be sobering up, with brands like Heineken creating full taste beverage products, without the alcohol. Also, certain brands, such as Lean Cuisine, have been upgrading their messaging from ‘diet to lose Kgs’, to empowering messages, like ‘I’m eating to be healthier to improve my quality of life.’
The surprising factor for this trend for Marketers is the continued unpredictable nature of people's behaviour when it comes to healthy living, and how brands are responding in unique ways.
(6) Craft and Boutique Brands
A nostalgic throwback, niche boutique brands in well-established industries are making a return to the spotlight. While a lot of the above trends are focused on new technology, modernisation and automation, paradoxically, there has been a rising trend in things like home craft beer brews and smaller creative agencies taking the lead over larger alternatives.
It’s present in many different industries, from gym and fitness, to alcohol. The active-wear brand, Luluemon, just released its first craft beer, called Courageous Blonde! Even older fashion brands like Puma and Paco Rabanne are reinventing and reestablishing themselves for the market, and people are really responding.
What perplexed Marketers the most about this is not only the power that nostalgia has over customer behaviour, but also the random way it manifests itself. For example, one minute, the big mainstream brands which are heavily advertised and efficiently produced are the products of choice, and then suddenly, less popular alternatives that are small and made by hand become trendy.
(7) Social Media Advertising
Most organisations, both large and small, are starting to realise that advertising budgets are far better spent on social media platforms than anywhere else. The days social media was used as a way to connect idly with friends and family have long gone, evolving now to become powerful machines connecting audiences all around the globe to organisations and brands via the use of content.
Portals like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are where your customer eyeballs truly are today, and if you combine this with the ability to be incredibly selective with targeting demographics, you have a pretty effective way of communicating directly with your ideal customer.
The reason this surprised Marketers was that, well... we really took social media for granted, and most underestimated its abilities. Many Marketing departments were in denial for a long time, and many more still are! One only has to look at how much advertising budget is being wasted on far less effective media, like print, to realise this.
It's all about your audience, and right now, social media is offering Marketers the best way to deliver relevant content with strong Calls to Action to the right people, and actually grab their attention, rather than be simply a distraction. It's also highly measurable and really engaging.
What Will Happen Next?
Given how all of the above trends took Marketing professionals by surprise this time around, it's pretty safe to assume, given the rate of evolution in the world, that we will continue to be in awe about the next big thing! It's just so fascinating that, in years gone by, it has been the brand and organisation's job to spur different trends and behaviours, but today, it's the highly empowered customer leading the way.
This means that all industries and practises are being led by people thinking differently and simply demanding change. So, I always say it's best to embrace, adapt and innovate accordingly, than to resist. Find that next trend, and ask yourself, 'how can my offering utilise this to offer more value to my customer?'
Do you agree, disagree, or have I missed anything? Feel free to comment below!
Let's see what the future brings!
Melotti Media- Copywriting and Marketing Solutions