2015 Digital Digest

by Jessica Ramesh

We review some of the issues that have shaped the year and look forward to 2016

The sum of experience

According to John Watton, EMEA Marketing Director at Adobe, “Marketing in 2016 is all about experience. In this digital age, your brand is now the sum of your customer’s experience. Yes, it’s about giving what your customers want, but it’s also about standing out from the crowd and getting noticed by being entertaining.” It’s a trend that cuts both ways. According to Brian Schultz writing in Ad Age earlier this year, “Experiences are what people increasingly use to define themselves across social channels.” Schultz highlights research suggesting that consumers are generally happier when their money is spent on “living, rather than having.” This idea may be reflected in one of 2015’s buzziest – and also fuzziest – notions: our arrival in the rather awkwardly named ‘post-digital’ world. For post-digitalists marketing means branding. And what is a brand, other than the range of experiences consumers have of a business or organisation, whatever the context?

Content as product (and product as content)
According to the Content Marketing Institute, 80 per cent of marketers plan to produce more content in 2016. That’s a hell of a lot of content. And it’s not like we’re currently short of the stuff. So what’s going to make yours special? At the beginning of the year Seth Godin told Contently.com, “I think what kills brands who try to be interesting is to have meetings where they’re not saying to senior management, ‘How can we be more interesting?’ Instead, they’re saying, ‘How can we play this more safely?’ That’s not what happens when you want to make a hit TV show or a website that people care about. You need editors, not brand managers, who will push the envelope to make the thing go forward.” Asked how he recommends measuring that engagement, Godin has a pleasingly simple metric: “Will people miss you if you are gone?”

According to Robert Rose, chief strategy officer, Content Marketing Institute, “2016 will be the year when the worlds of product-as-content and content-as-product collide. The hottest, most positive trend will be enterprises reorganising their brand, product, marketing, sales and customer service teams around innovation and customer experience.”

‘Things’ happen
The value of connectivity depends entirely on what it is that’s being connected. 2015 was the year the internet of things went mainstream and it seemed there was nothing that couldn’t be improved by the addition of a sensor. Spoons, diapers and toasters have all been granted new functionality prompting some to wonder whether, in the rush to thingification, brands were seeking solutions to problems no one really has. Perhaps the real potential in this sector lies in the development of the connected household. The smart-home will provide marketers with access to a huge range and depth of data, and the implications are profound – as are the anxieties about privacy, security and service failures. If there are to be winners in this field, they’ll need to understand that there’s a trade-off between utility and data, and the services they provide will need to capture the imagination in a way nothing quite has yet.

Video and conversion
Video: it’s the basic language of the internet and, according to Cisco, will account for 69 per cent of all consumer internet traffic by 2017. That could rise to 80 per cent by 2019. 2015 saw some significant developments in the sector, with the arrival of live streaming apps like Periscope. US expert and author Jay Baer highlights the trend towards “video that is quick, disposable and omnipresent… If you have video, you have audio. If you have video, you have text (via transcription). If you have video, you have photos. But it doesn’t work the other way around. Always start with video if you can.”

Getting real
Here’s where we conflate a whole bunch of issues and shunt them together under a single heading. Social media has cast a harsh (but welcome) light on branded blather and corporate cant. For anyone outside the marketing industry, ‘authentic advertising’ may sound like a contradiction in terms, but 2015 has been marked by a keen focus on credibility, transparency, authority and identity.  As Michael Reeves, Business Development Director at Red Bee, pointed out in issue 26 of Figaro Digital, “Authenticity is about deeds more than tone. It’s made through a customer experience, not a marketing or digital campaign. It doesn’t matter how jauntily charming and transparent your web or packaging copy is, or how movingly you bring to life your brand’s altruistic purpose in content and advertising. It’s all undone by one aggressive payment demand letter or a surly call centre operative. That’s because those bad experiences for the audience look like the truth that a brand is trying to hide, and thus they reframe the entire marketing effort as deliberately misleading and inauthentic.”
Compiled by Figaro Digital editorial staff