2014Now is certainly the time where our Twitter feeds are brimming with posts on the marketing predictions and trends for the coming year. Marketers all over are keen to offer their two penny’s worth as to what 2014 might have in store, and are looking ahead to the shape the industry may start to take in the future.

However, I feel it is important to look back in order to look forward. Even in today’s fast-paced marketing world, we’re not just going to see dramatic changes just appear out of nowhere; rather, we may see certain trends grow and develop (while others drop off the radar) in a fluid and ongoing way.

That’s why rather than make obscure predictions for occurrences that may possibly happen in 2014 and beyond, I feel it is more appropriate to look back over the last year, and assess with the benefit of hindsight the shape we expect things to take over the coming 12 months. As such, here is my summary of trends that have been growing solidly in the last year, and I believe will continue to do so in 2014.

1. Viral Videos

As you can see from Passle’s PR Video of the Year Awards, brands have been making great use of YouTube and Vimeo in creating and sharing great branded videos. Whilst there may not be a secret to having something ‘go viral’, creating content that is non-promotional and not heavily branded, with the purpose of entertaining and inspiring, is clearly a marketing trend that is very successful – and this will no doubt continue as we enter 2014.

2. Giving Up Control

More than ever in 2013, brands have learnt that despite their best efforts, they can no longer control the conversations which happen around their products and services. Which is why they shouldn’t be trying to. In many ways, consumers now help to shape a brand as much as the brand itself does, which is why in 2014 we will see more and more brands giving more over to their customers and not just pushing standard marketing messages onto them.

3. Social Media Scepticism

Social media scepticism is one of several PR and marketing trends which isn’t new. Brands and businesses of all sizes have been quick to jump on the social media bandwagon, but have experienced mixed results. Particularly for small businesses, it can be difficult to measure and appreciate the value of a blog or social media page, given the work it takes to keep updated, so naturally they are sceptical. With the rise of new networks and platforms such as Snapchat and Vine, brands now need to be making even more decisions about which platforms to be on and the kind of content they need to be sharing. These challenges aren’t going to disappear in 2014, giving rise to even more scepticism of social media.

4. Being Useful

Earlier this year on the Passle Content Marketing blog I highlighted this great piece of content from McDonalds, where they list every single item on their menu in a straightforward, easy-to-read way, and give its nutritional value. Whilst from a traditional marketing perspective it may seem more intuitive for McDonalds to hide the high calorie/fat/salt content of their food, in 2013 consumers are looking more and more for brands to be honest, transparent and useful. Giving your customers the information they are looking for– and making it easy for them to find – will continue to be the way to succeed in 2014, and retain customer loyalty in the long-term.

5. Focus on Reality

Advertising and marketing featuring models of all races, shapes and sizes has been on the rise in 2013. The success of the Sainsbury’s Christmas advert shows the potential in creating campaigns that are meaningful and realistic, as it is these which are resonating most with consumers. Painting a stylised picture of the perfect life to sell a product or service is losing effectiveness to brands which present a gritty and honest take on things. Whilst big, flashy campaigns will continue (and many will be effective), we will also see a rise of more earthy and grounded marketing as we head into 2014.

6. Fostering Real Relationships

Over the last few years, brands have come to realise that having x number of followers on x number of social platforms doesn’t lead to real results. Burger King Norway’s recent Facebook stunt demonstrates this perfectly – the fast food giant offered its Facebook’s fans a wager, where if they admitted they weren’t a true fan they could unlike the page and receive a free Big Mac. As a result, many of their ‘fans’ took the offer and departed, leaving Burger King with a smaller – but much more engaged – Facebook community. This trend will undoubtedly continue to grow, as brands focus more on engaging real customers and creating relationships with them, rather than growing a broad fan base.