Marketing’s Complexity Strengthens, Solidifies Moving into 2016

This time of year, everyone in marketing seems to have an opinion about what will happen in 2016, or what should be the focus of every marketer’s attention in the coming year. The skill however lies in finding where industry experts intersect on particular thoughts and ideas to arrive at new insights.

Recently I listened to an AMA webcast that featured thought leaders from across the country at companies like IBM, Networlding, and Anvil Media, Inc. who shared their personal insights as to what to pay attention to in marketing during 2016. I was excited about this call because I’ve listened to some of these speakers before in person at conferences, and their insights were always very practical and more importantly, tied to what they’re actually seeing in their daily businesses as opposed to theory.

Here follows a brief summary of some of the thoughts and trends that were shared on this call, infused with additional commentary from the marketing blogosphere, all summarized into an overview of “Top 10” predictions and insights about where marketing is headed in 2016. As I see it, like a finely aged wine, marketing and all of its complexities will continue to strengthen and solidify in the year ahead:

  1. Time to Stop Thinking in Terms of Campaigns:  According to Mary Garrett, Vice President, Marketing and Communications at IBM Global Sales and Distribution, at IBM, the future is in thinking about the “always on campaign.” If you’re moving on a quarterly cycle, you’re missing the rhythm of marketing. Marketing is more of an always on, journey oriented process and no longer about “the campaign.” (Related post: “How Targeted Content & Media Mix Optimization Combine to Create Effective Customer Engagement“)
  2. Always Be Agile. Per Garrett, think more holistically about what you’re trying to do. Instead of trying something and waiting until its perfect, go out in sprints to the market, test and monitor what people are responding to. Be much more dynamic and iterative in your approach. This mentality, which began in coding, will be more and more pervasive in 2016. (Related post: “Agile Marketing and the Need for Speed“)
  3. Companies Tell Better Stories – Expect to see more richness in how companies deliver through marketing, centered around storytelling, which capture stories of the heart. (Related post: “The Power of a Good Story with Insights from Storytelling Expert, Park Howell“)
  4. Content Diversifies; Builds Communities – Content is still king, but building community through blogging and email marketing is going to take another leap forward. In fact, according to Melissa Wilson, CEO of Networlding Publishing Inc., companies like PwC, Mercer, and Hewlett Packard are beginning to publish their own books. Wilson foresees a trend of companies acting as publishers of books. (Related post: “How Targeted Content & Media Mix Optimization Combine to Create Effective Customer Engagement“)
  5. Deepening Relationships Will Occur Because of More Effective Networking: Per Wilson, networking is really at the heart of effective marketing. Individuals and companies together will continue to learn and apply the science of networking, particularly through a more serious and broad focus on the strength of personal branding. (Related post: “Re-Thinking the Purpose of Networking”)
  6. Companies that Embrace New Frontiers in Marketing will Further Strengthen Customer Relationships: Per Garrett, at IBM they’re seeing new frontiers emerging in marketing such as advancements in cognitive computing. Cognitive computing involves self-learning systems that use data mining, pattern recognition and natural language processing to mimic the way the human brain works. By embracing this technology, marketers can really improve their marketing to the individual in the future, thus deepening trust and customer relationships with better targeting. (Related post: “Book Review: The Second Machine Age“)
  7. Continued Focus on Personal Branding in 2016. Companies are aggregates of people, and the idea of taking the opportunity of one’s brand online will prove measureable results, leading to strengthened companies and relationships. Individuals will start to take this more seriously in the coming year. (Related post: “How to Own Your Personal Brand“)
  8. Experience Really Is Everything. According to Kent Lewis, President & Founder, Anvil Media, Inc. experience is everything … we can no longer base marketing on the best practices of others. We need to constantly test/tune/tweek/apply – in short, take ownership of the experience and modify for the end user accordingly. (Related post “Rendering Authenticity in an Experiential Economy“)
  9. Age of the Customer Should Frame the Approach  – Customers are expecting that they need to have more personalization. Customers will be more receptive to you if they feel like they’re getting something in return. Keep the customer at the center of the experience and handle with care. (Related post: “Marketing is Dead and Customers are in Control: Mobilize Your Advocates!“)
  10. Brands will go native. According to Lewis, brands will be forced to go into other forms of advertising. Become your own publisher … rather than relying on third party platforms. (Related post: “Content Marketing Trumps Advertising: Here’s Why“)

In short, marketing and all of its complexities will continue to solidify in 2016, leading to more effective and efficient marketing practices. In other words, companies and individuals alike will get better at using the tools, resources, and knowledge available to better apply such methods as storytelling, improved customer experiences, more authentic connections, increasingly targeted communications, and more agile work methods.

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