Consumers rule. That's the marketing lesson of 2013. But how will brands respond in 2014?
To reach consumers next year, marketing content will need to appeal to people on a personal level and have real value. Brands need to be ready to share with consumers and actually listen to what they say. And marketing's imperative will be to reach the right person at the right time with the right message. Context will take precedence.
Here are a few of my predictions for digital marketing in 2014 and how brands will try to reach consumers:
Watch, Share, Repeat
Online video, particularly on social media, is massive. According to Pew, over half of adults watch videos on social media. So get ready: here come the brands. Notice I said "video," not "ads." Because while the spotlight right now is on Facebook's new video ads, the real innovation will come in much less ad-like packages.
Look for more creative short-form video, like Lowe's "Fix in Six" Vines, and longer-form entertainment, like this piece for Purina, created by Buzzfeed. No surprise that YouTube's year-end tally of the most-watched ads is heavy on entertainment and creativity, light on the hard sell. So if brands buy Facebook's new ad units thinking they're going to recycle television ads online, well, good luck with that.
Tweet This, Watch That
Looking to reach a TV show's audience online? Stick with Twitter. Yes, Facebook's got the social TV numbers, and apps like GetGlue are synonymous with "second screen," but Twitter's big television moves this year will pay off in 2014.
Partnering with broadcast providers to bring content to Twitter, helping advertisers target viewers directly, and buying social TV analytics companies like Trendrr and Bluefin Labs will all help Twitter make a compelling case to both advertisers and studios. As the entire landscape of television, as well as our viewing habits, continue to evolve, Twitter has the pieces in place to be the major social TV player moving forward.
Content Goes 3D
Brands looking to connect with consumers will invest in the maker movement, especially 3D printing, ushering in an era of co-creation and collaboration between brands and fans. We've seen some fun examples already that offer a glimpse of what's to come. Recent films The Hobbit and Ender's Game showed how 3D printing can integrate into marketing, offering designs for props and mementos from the films that fans can print out (and in the case of Ender's Game, customize).
We're moving beyond user-generated content that benefits brands to useful generated content that benefits consumers. Whether its purpose is entertaining or practical, content marketing in 3D will be expected to provide the same value users demand in 2D.
While I feel it's more likely that in 2014, 3D printing as a service will take hold, versus the idea of a 3D printer in every household (which is probably several years away), the only real barrier will be brands themselves. Allowing fans to participate in promotion or even production will mean relinquishing some control. Are brands ready for co-ownership with consumers?
You, Here, Now
In-store, personalized retail will be 2014's biggest mobile marketing story. It's real-time content in context, from maps and specials to recommendations and product information. And that's just the consumer end. The promise of micro-location targeting for the retailer is volumes of data on consumer shopping habits and patterns.
While there are existing apps and competing technologies, Apple's adoption of Bluetooth-based iBeacon should drive more widespread use and development. Since just about any iPhone or iPad with iOS 7 can become an iBeacon device, retailers who might be hesitant to spend a lot on new technologies could be more tempted to jump in with their own apps.
Free Isn't Free Anymore
Finally: you can create great content all day long, but if no one sees it, what's the point? We're bombarded with links, pictures, videos and text on our social feeds, and more of it than ever is coming from brands, which makes grabbing users' attention a challenge. Plus, unexpected changes on the platforms themselves can severely limit a brand's reach.
2014 will be the year we all come to terms with the fact that while we might not be paying for a presence on the platform or site, actually getting content in front of people is quite another story. Paying for amplification, syndication and targeted distribution of brand material online will surge.
Missed last week's take on what Apple's iBeacon means to the future of in-store retail? Check it out here.