It seems revolutions in digital media rise from nowhere only to be replaced by something better than anyone has ever imagined. But digital media itself gives up the data that shows what’s ahead.
Bell Pottinger Digital has revealed its 15 predictions for digital trends in 2015. They looked at the most discussed trends over 2014 and the increase in mentions throughout the year so as to predict what will be the greatest trends in marketing for the next year.
Each of these trends indicates new directions that your business could exploit – at the very least you need to know where your competitors may be moving. For each trend I’ve given a definition and an example of a creative use. Now you need to think about how you could apply each one to your own business and you’ll find your own creative use.
Near field communication
NFC is a short-range low-power wireless link that can transfer data between two devices held close to each other. In its most useful form it identifies your bank account to a computer so enabling contactless payment with your mobile phone. It’s more straighforward than Bluetooth as no pairing code is need. You simply tap your phone on a contactless payment terminal to identify your account, personal preferences or loyalty points and then action is taken via an app on your phone.
You may see NFC tags in interactive advertising, shopper activation, on-product information containing a web address, a discount voucher or other details. It lets you gather data through each interaction so it’s also a good source of information for you too. The biggest drivers for NFC are Google Wallet and since October 2014 Apple Pay.
Creative use: the brand Four Levent include an NFC tag in the cuffs of their shirts. The tags are preloaded with a link back to fourlevent.com, but can be changed to any address the customer wants via a mobile app, such as their own URL or contact information. Tapping a smartphone on the tag gives a 20% instant reward at fourlevent.com.
Internet of Things
The Internet of Things is the global interconnection of the complete range of everyday objects from teapots to street lamps – everything in the world. The phrase ‘Internet of Everything’ might be clearer. Each object is given a unique ID and the ability to directly upload information to the Internet.
It will enable a deep level of automation of our most routine tasks, both for the individual and society at large. This will connect a wide range of devices from health monitors, household products and city-wide transport networks.
Creative use: the potential is virtually endless. Almost any product can be transformed with a data component. As an example, GlowCaps are simple pill boxes that use light, sound and text notifications to remind you to take your medication. When it’s time for a refill a button sends a request to your pharmacy (but I wonder why the manufacturers haven’t made this automatic?).
Wearable technology is a type of computing device that you wear somewhere on your body to enhance your access to the internet. Their most common use is to enable health or fitness monitoring with information transmitted to an online database. Other applications include Google Glass which you have no doubt seen in the media, which allows you to search online, send a message, navigate and much of the other activities that the internet facilitates.
Creative use: wearable technology isn’t just restricted to watches and glasses, you can also find it in clothing and accessories such as rings by Fin. These rings convert hand movements and taps into commands that devices such as smartphones and TVs can then carry out.
Internal communications is the function responsible for effective communication within an organisation. Progress as a discipline is being transformed by technological changes including mobile, video and social media. Concepts driving change include treating employees like consumers and the inbox revolution.
Creative use: Experian used a multi-channel approach to communications to bring the organisation’s story to life. Employees want to use the tools they’re familiar with outside work, that means communicating and absorbing information across a range of media from text notifications, ebooks, video as well as email and print.
Stories create engagement, build communities and nurture brand loyalty and relationships with customers. Brands have traditionally presented the ‘official’ story – you can do so much more on social media to present the human side of your brand and the people who make it work. There’s no need for long or complex histories – fast-moving social platforms encourage fewer words, more pictures and video. This is fundamental to transmedia storytelling where a single story is told in unique fragments across multiple platforms and formats.
Creative use: Apple creates videos that not only show the product features but the stories behind innovations that make lives better. This relates new products to current problems and shows that Apple’s customers are their driving force, not technological goalposts.
Branded content blurs conventional distinctions between advertising and editorial content. The fusion of the two creates one product intended to be distributed as editorial content. It is often labeled as ‘sponsored by’ a brand but it carries more benefits than simple sponsorship. Branded content is usually developed or curated by a brand itself to provide added consumer value such as entertainment or education rather than selling a product or service.
Creative use: A classic success story is the Metro Trains Dumb ways to die campaign in Melbourne. Instead of a dull public service message that would be easy to ignore the campaign produced an entertaining song and video that the target audience would seek out, engage with and share.
Beacons are sensors that communicate wirelessly with mobile devices via Bluetooth Low Energy technology. They enable two-way communication with a consumer’s mobiledevice in a physical space (such as a retail store). A typical use is to trigger the sensor when a customer walks into a store so that he can be given targeted marketing messages via apps on his phone.
As well as improving the shopping experience for the consumer this provides analytics for the retailer that are much more detailed than previously possible, e.g. pinpointing routes or hotspots within a store. The downside is a risk of making the customer feel that their privacy has been invaded.
Creative use: At the 2014 CES (Consumer Electronic Show) a scavenger hunt was held to encourage attendees to explore the event. Visitors downloaded an app to their phone and then looked for beacon badges throughout the conference venue to win a prize.
Personalised content that appeals directly to an individual is less likely to be ignored. With accurate targeting and choice of channels marketing messages become a valued service rather than an unwanted intrusion. And companies now have the big data to tailor every aspect of the consumer journey. This taps into the emotional desire for each of us to be seen as unique, and this is increasingly turning into an expectation thanks to services across the web.
Creative use: The marketing agency Lynton Web adapt their website to reflect the needs and interests of the visitor as they evolve with each visit. So a first-time visitor is served a call-to-action to learn more about the agency, and when the visitor returns the CTA becomes more direct and points to services they offer. They also adjust the text for visitors according to form submissions, reflecting a visitor’s company name and even the software they use.
Big data is an extreme volume of data that is difficult to process using traditional techniques. It includes a wide variety of data types often generated at great velocity: structured databases of orders and customer information as well as unstructured data generated by the web and smart devices. Big data has the potential to help companies improve operations and make faster, more intelligent decisions.
Creative use: Thanks to the speed and volume of big data the retailer Macy’s Inc. adjusts pricing in near-real time across its range of 73 million items based on demand and inventory.
The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as ‘a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.’ A key part is value – this is material that people will search for as opposed to some background advertising campaign. The format of course can be anything including video, podcasts and books. The great advantage of content marketing is that it raises awareness among consumers and answers questions about how a product addresses their problem.
Content marketing also supports other digital marketing efforts – it provides content for social media and contributes to SEO by creating links and building up content for search engines.
Creative use: AirBNB which connects travelers with home-owners created a video with the help of their customers, inviting them to create short clips showing a piece of paper travelling across the screen. AirBNB then created a short film of paper airplanes, boats and other creations exploring the world. The film inspired people to travel and engaged their customers in a creative way.
Augmented reality takes an existing picture such as live video or a real environment and blends new digital information into it. You may be familiar with the concept in video games where digital elements are blended into the user’s environment. Other practical uses include visual displays and audio guides for complex tasks, product information displayed over products in-store or trying on clothes while online shopping.
Creative use: Hallmark Cards uses AR in their webcam greeting cards. In order to view the animation the end user has to visit the Hallmark website and download a small software program for a specific card.
3D printing is a process of making 3D solid objects from a digital file. An additive process is used to create an object by laying down successive thin layers of material until the entire object is complete. Each layer can be seen as a cross-section of the final object. The process begins by making a virtual design of the object you want to create using a 3D modeling program or 3D scanner (to copy an existing object). The file is then uploaded to the 3D printer to create the object layer by layer.
3D printers have been used in traditional manufacturing and research for rapid prototyping – a quick turnaround of test designs. They are also used for rapid manufacturing, particularly for personally customised products in short runs.
It’s predicted that in the future people will be able to manufacture many of their own products rather than buy end-products from businesses. As well as impacts on business this might affect energy use, waste reduction and the level of customization that people expect.
Creative use: 3D printers have entered both home and professional kitchens and from here consumer knowledge will spread throughout the home. One of the most fun applications so far is a machine that 3D-prints ice cream.
Real Time Marketing is based on up-to-date events. Instead of creating a marketing plan and executing it according to a fixed schedule, real time marketing is creating a broader strategy focused on current trends and immediate feedback from customers. The goal is to connect consumers with the solution that they need at that moment.
Through social media, businesses can gather up-to-date information on their target audience and within minutes they can share a marketing message. Today’s consumers expect instant gratification so by creating a marketing message when it’s needed consumers are more likely to recognize the immediate utility of a product.
Creative use: When the lights went out during the Super Bowl in 2013, Oreo’s social media team quickly tweeted “Power out? No problem” accompanied by an image featuring an Oreo, followed by “You can still dunk in the dark.” The quick wit was appreciated by Twitter users.
This should be old news. According to the 2014 European Mobile Optimisation Study, 36% of top brand websites still aren’t optimised for mobile even though industry has been talking about mobile optimisation since 2002. However the need for change is already here. The devices used to access information online are changing rapidly. And Google recently announced that sites which aren’t optimised for mobile will now have their search rankings reduced.
Many businesses still want their users to visit the desktop so they get to see their best content in all its flashy glory. However if visitors want to view your website on the move then mobile is where you need to provide an engaging experience. If you can create a web experience on mobile which is user friendly it would be easier and more economical to integrate your existing content rather than having to re-create everything for mobile apps. The key point is prioritising information from a mobile user’s point of view, rather than stuffing your site with every historic detail. Also adapting a desktop website into a mobile site means using less graphics and text, and incorporating native features such as click-to-call buttons.
Creative use: Pizza Hut keeps its mobile site simple. The marketing message and call to action are kept prominent to make ordering a pizza from your mobile easy, which is what visitors are looking for.A key feature is that the same webiste elements are present on all screen sizes, wrapped into a vertical format for mobile screens. This enhances familiarity and so usability for the visitor.But does the length of text for the introduction appear disporportionately large in the mobile design?
Gamification is the use of game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in a desired activity such as improve user engagement, provide education or employee evaluation. Gamification is built into the system in order to create a broader experience that taps into intrinsic motivators. It does not aim to create a game but to use gaming techniques in order to relate actions to different and stronger motivators.
Creative use: Lisbon created a dancing traffic light in order to make waiting at traffic lights less boring and so reduce the number of drivers ignoring the lights. They set up a booth where people could dance in front of a camera and the image was simultaneously displayed on a nearby traffic light. Gamification here introduced only the most important element of play, namely fun – a narrow interpretation of gamification would have led developers to create needless points and rewards.
Each of the top three trends have seen a conversation increase of over 200% so whatever happens we can expect rapid change ahead. Little-known topics are becoming mainstream. These are the trends predicted to transform the landscape in which business operates. If you fail to ride these trends in your niche you’re leaving it to a competitor to find a better way of doing your business.
You can explore the full infographic on the next page or download the original.