It was management consultant, Peter Drucker, who advised the best way to predict the future was to create it. Creating new things being difficult, the next best way is to have access to validated and predictive loyalty and emotional engagement metrics to help point the way. Happily, we do. And after examining over 100,000 consumer assessments, we’ve identified 14 critical trends to help marketers create their own, successful futures next year.
1.Consumers Expect More: Over the past 5 years consumer expectations have increased on average 20%. Brands have kept up by only 5%, a big gap between what’s desired and what’s delivered. The ability to accurately measure real, unarticulated expectations, will provide significant advantages.
2.Attention Must Be Paid to Brands: Increased expectations come with a greater sense of product and service commoditization. You may be known, but you need to be known for something meaningful and important to consumers.
3.Category is King: Brands will stop trading away category-specificity for cross-category generalities in how they target, strategize, and execute content. To engage smarter, high-expectation consumers, brand wills need to be smarter about specific category values they can leverage.
4.Brands Will Get Emotional: Values that drive the brand decision process to have become more emotionally-driven. In most categories the rational aspects are price-of-entry. Successful brands will identify what emotional values exist in their category, and utilize them as a foundation for meaningful differentiation.
5.Real Brand “Engagement” Defined: For too long engagement has been associated with attention levels. Successful marketers will link “engagement” to how efforts increase how well the brand is perceived versus the Category Ideal, and a metric that correlates highly with loyalty, sales, and profitability.
6.Targeting Becomes Personal: With consumers craving – and expecting – more, and more customized and personalized products, services and experiences, brands that better respond to real consumer expectations, will find consumers engaging with brands that are able to personalize messaging and outreach.
7.Digital Done Right: With digital diversification getting bigger, and with more channels, brands need to shift their question from “should I be here?” to “what should I do now that I am here?” Success will be linked not to outreach, but brand differentiation and emotional engagement.
8.Content is King, Too: Content marketing will become a specialty unto itself. Tools like the Digital Platform GPS will optimize placement and help brands distinguish the difference between paid, owned, and earned media, more important when it comes to dealing with contextual relevance and strategically navigating brands in digital space.
9.Mobile Optimized: In 2011 Brand Keys trends identified that mobile would move mainstream. It has. For 2014 brands need to adapt strategies and delivery mechanisms, content and flow of communications to match increased consumer multi-tasking and multi-screen behavior.
10.Fewer Tedious Texts: More visually literate consumers will move from text outreach to more image-based connections. Visual content will become more important in creating viral marketing campaigns, with brands becoming more attentive to image-sharing initiatives and platforms.
11.Micro Becomes Mainstream: Micro videos will continue to rise in popularity and use. Metrics will move away from number of views and toward real brand engagement (see Trend #5). Watch for more :6 and :12 videos to accommodate digital delivery platforms and increasingly shorter consumer attention spans.
12.Integration Intensification: Brand marketing and digital budgets will fuse as teams work jointly and cross-silo. Multi-platform traditional and digital models will require social media integration into all marketing efforts, including customer experience, design, sales, and product development.
13.Data Deceleration: Data aggregations for traditional and digital will become more integrated and streamlined, allowing brands to better separate the “wheat from the chaff.” Big Data will actually get smaller and more compact. And more useful.
14.The Funnel Flattens: What used to be a “purchase funnel,” that became a “path-to-purchase,” will become an extraordinarily category specific “multi-path-to-purchase.” Content and value communication with the right platforms in the right way will become the only way to create emotional engagement – and profitability.
A new year provides brands with a chance for new resolutions and new beginnings, so, it’s worth noting Mr. Drucker also advised companies if they wanted to do something new, they had to stop doing something old. These 14 new trends provide brands the opportunity to break old habits, embrace new methods of brand engagement and brand marketing, and to help to create new and profitable futures for themselves.