2016 arrives in just a few weeks, and I thought I’d share my best guesses on where the world of marketing is headed. To make it sound more authoritative, I’ve substituted the word “Predictions” for “guesses.” I’m sure there are a few of my predictions that will elicit a “No Shit, Sherlock” response, and some that will make you shake your head. In no particular order, here we go:

  1. Cyber security will become an even bigger issue in 2016. This year there have been major hacks into the FBI’s computers, Experian, Scottrade, and Ashley Madison. The topper was data for 22 million government employees was stolen. There are some really nasty people in the world, and they seem to enjoy hacking into everything they possibly can. Security as an issue, both before and after breaches, will make plenty of headlines in the coming year.
  2. The privacy discussion keeps popping up, and there is a direct relation to the security issue. Interestingly, privacy doesn’t seem to be as big an issue with people under the age of 35. The reason I think it will be on the radar is because politicians and bureaucrats (of all political persuasions) believe they need to protect us, mostly from ourselves. It’s makes good political hay to announce that you want to protect the peoples’ privacy. Of course, it’s OK for the government to have our sensitive data, just not anyone else.
  3. Political spending will be up in 2016, and this impacts inventory availability on any media that has finite ad space to sell. Borrell Associates estimates that political spending will be up more than 20% from the 2012 election cycle. Plan your media accordingly.
  4. Mobile devices are where people spend the most time on the internet, but it’s not where they buy. At least not yet. They research and compare on cell phones, but the vast majority of purchases are still made on desktops. As mobile friendly websites with simple checkout processes have proliferated in 2015, people are starting to change their behavior. My prediction is that online purchases move to mobile devices at a rapid rate in 2016 and surpass desktop purchases by the end of the year.
  5. Live video collaboration and participation tools have been around for a while, but they tended to be clunky, slow, and difficult use unless you purchased professional grade software. Google Hangouts is a good example. This year Meerkat, Periscope and Blab all arrived. Meerkat and Periscope are live streaming apps that bring you into the broadcasters’ world. Blab is a live communication tool with 4 boxes in the middle of the screen. Participants interact with each other and people asking questions through the feed on the sidebar. I think 2016 will see the explosion of live streaming apps and bring them into the mainstream.
  6. Ad blockers have been a hot topic for the last 6 months. Should people have the right to block ads on websites? I think publishers will start to rebel. The first consequence is more “native content,” the industry term for paid editorial. The second consequence will be publishers forcing people to bypass their ad blockers to gain access to websites. The publishers have to make money to stay in business and provide free content, and that’s done with advertising. 2016 will be a battle year, not a solutions year. Solutions are in 2017 or even further into the future.
  7. Automation gets a lot of coverage, and it will continue to grow as it seemingly makes life easier for marketers. I’ve spent enough time with automation now to see some of the shortcomings. The reality is that any automation software still requires regular human oversight. The more that is automated, the more oversight is needed. When the algorithm serving your ads makes a change to one parameter, it can have unintended effects elsewhere. Until artificial intelligence arrives (it’s being tested now, can you say Skynet?), pay attention.
  8. Content has been a big buzzword for the last couple of years, and that isn’t going to change. As Google moves away from keywords (not completely) and tries to direct search results based on intent, content will become even more crucial.
  9. As marketers keep producing content, the consumer is starting to experience overload. Too much information can be as crippling as no information. According to IBM, 90% of the data in the world has been created in the last two years. An inevitable result is consumers narrowing the scope of who they allow into their sphere of influence.
  10. Social media has been the darling of the marketing world for the last few years. At first the platforms had trouble figuring out how to monetize their traffic, but now they are doing just fine. And they are making it easier for professional marketers to use the various advertising options. Most of the connected world is on Facebook now, and the next-level players like Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn have strong penetration. In 2016 social media is no longer new and hip. It’s just a normal part of life.
  11. As media continues to fragment into smaller and smaller segments, marketers must embrace the future by building communities for their clients and themselves. Individuals grant access when you provide them with value. They share that access with their friends and followers, in effect endorsing you. The hardest part of building communities is bridging the digital divides of social media platforms, email communications, apps, and websites. There is still a place at the table for advertising, but it doesn’t look like your father’s Oldsmobile.