What does the Future of Marketing Hold? 10 Key Takeaways from #FODM15

Last week, I managed to nab myself a free ticket to the Future of Digital Marketing, a one-day event ran by Econsultancy, which takes a look at the newest trends in the industry and what you can do about them.

During his intro to the day, Econsultancy CEO Ashley Friedlein explained that this was the 10th year of the event, and we were treated to a quick look back at what had been predicted in years gone by. My favourite was from 2006, when we were faced with the question ‘should we be blogging?’ I think we eventually got the message on that one.

So what does the future hold? I heard so many interesting ideas, including those that will be prevalent over the coming year and others that are a bit further away. Without further ado, here’s my ten key takeaways that you should spend time looking into.

Econsultancy CEO Ashley Friedlein starts the conference. Credit: Econsultancy

1. Not mobile friendly, not even mobile first, but mobile only

Mobile marketing is arguably the biggest buzz in digital marketing right now. The Google mobile algorithm update has further increased the need to be optimising experiences for mobile. Ashley raised the idea of being mobile only. Interestingly, more people who are buying online, particularly in Asian markets, are moving away from ever using a desktop computer at any stage of the process.

TL:DR - Mobile is just going to keep becoming more important.

2. We are entering the third age of marketing

According to Andy Hobsbawm, Founder and CMO at EVRYTHING, we are entering the third age of marketing. This third age will mean that every physical thing will be connected in some form, and our challenge as marketers is to figure out how we can leverage them to create excellent customer experiences. Andy cited the recent Pizza Hut movie projector as a great example of this.

TL:DR - Make use of the increasing connectivity in physical things.

3. We’ve got screen saturation, and we need to change that

Screens are everywhere, but do we need them.

In his excellent morning keynote, Zappos UX Designer Golden Krishna showed us the danger of putting user interfaces everywhere (including at McDonald's and in cars). We might be a long way off a ‘screenless’ world, but we shouldn’t necessarily start a brainstorm by drawing a rectangle (a screen). Instead, we should focus on how we can possibly come up with an invisible experience, where our product or service achieves its purpose with no need (or at least less need) for screens. Golden’s book on the topic is available here.

TL:DR - UX doesn’t equal UI. Sometimes we don’t need an interface.

4. Granularity is the future of content marketing

During his talk on content marketing, Doug Kessler, Co-founder and Creative Director at Velocity, told us that content has to work harder and harder to stand out amongst the noise (something a lot of you will already have realised). However, ‘granularity’ is the way to make sure your content is heard by the right people. By zooming into specific audiences and specific topics, your content will become more resonant and relevant. Plus, lazy marketers will shy away from this, as it inevitably takes more time and effort than bigger catch-all pieces.

TL:DR - Narrow your focus and get content to the right people.

5. The future of search is testing, testing, testing

Implicitly confirmed by Matt Cutts in April 2014, the dominance of big brands in the search results is coming to an end. Businesses that are smart enough to be agile, and be dynamic and respond quickly will often rank higher. Distilled’s own CEO Will Critchlow, asserts we must be constantly testing, taking a CRO like approach to discover both what Google wants to see and what the user wants to see, to allow us to achieve ‘agility’. Plus, Google’s deep learning means even its engineers don’t know why it returns certain results, which further stresses the need to be testing, so we can uncover Google’s preferences as quickly as possible.

TL:DR -  Utilise CRO practices in SEO, both for Google and the real users.

A slightly scary thought from Will's presentation on the future of search.

6. Beacons are dead, long live virtual beacons

Beacons were all the rage in digital marketing in recent years. The idea that you could use these little pieces of tech to both collect data on your customers and send them targeted experiences was understandably highly appealing. Unfortunately, according to Jess Stephens, CMO at SmartFocus, the tech doesn’t work. So, in the absence of physical beacons, we should use technology in phones (e.g. accelerometers) to collect data, and make use of gamification to get users to buy into this type of proximity marketing.

TL:DR - Make proximity marketing work with virtual beacons. 

7. Prescriptive analytics is the next step in analytics

Descriptive analytics tells us what’s happened. Predictive analytics tells us what’s going to happen. In his talk on the future of analytics, Neil Mason, Director Emeritus at the Digital Analytics Association, informed us that ‘prescriptive analytics’ will be the next step. Prescriptive analytics will tell us what we should do with the data we have. To implement it effectively it takes a lot of preparation and simulation, but could give you an edge over the next few years.

TL:DR Learn what you should be doing with prescriptive analytics.

8. We need to stop being social switchboards

Stop being a social switchboard. Credit: Flickr, Christopher Brown

Andrew Grill, Global Managing Partner at IBM Social Consulting has a problem with social switchboards. The problem with this current way of thinking about social media is that all social communication is intercepted by one person (or a small team) and re-routed to the correct department, but this can be a slow and laborious process. To become a truly social business, we need to make use of powerful text analytics or psycholinguistic analysis (like IBM Watson) to reroute the incoming communication to the correct person.

TL:DR Federate your social channels with powerful software.

9. Millennials see flaws as authentic

Targeting millennials can be a bit of a scary prospect. we’re constantly told that they’re more savvy towards advertising and any ‘mediocre’ marketing will be white noise to them In the afternoon keynote, William Higham, CEO at Next Big Thing gave us the startling statistic that 85% of millennials think flaws make a service or product more authentic. This means that honesty in your marketing campaigns will be a big factor in its success. Plus, even if part of it falls short, accepting the criticism from millennials will add to your authenticity.

TL:DR Be more authentic (or even flawed) and millennials will respond better to your marketing.

10. Programmatic will link more closely with creative

Two points from Simon Andrews’ talk on programmatic really stood out during his presentation: programmatic is (probably) the future of digital, but there is also disconnect between programmatic and creative. We have the ability to target exactly the right ads much more efficiently, but creative is seen as a cost in programmatic advertising, so it’s not often made use of. Simon, who is founder of Addictive, says we should use ‘cloning’ and ‘clustering’ to provide numerous different visuals and copy variations to appeal to the exact user you're targeting.

TL:DR Use simple design and copy variations to dramatically improve programmatic advertising.

These 10 points are simply discussion starters. I’m sure you’ve heard about some of them before, and you might be particularly excited (or dismissive) of certain ones. If you have any thoughts, or you were at the conference, leave a comment below.

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