When we think about the future, most of us can say that it is unpredictable. For instance, who could have predicted more than a year ago, that in 2016 we would have major changes on the world political scene that would have a huge impact on everyone’s life?
However, unlike the future of politics, we can actually predict some communication trends that will take the world by storm this year. Let’s focus on 4 factors shaping the marketing world at the moment.
Treating your audience as your best friends
Traditional brand communication involving the posting of press releases to target media, and being at their mercy for at least one of them to be published, is at the decline stage. Now, people tend to pay much more attention on highly emotional, carefully crafted and personal messages which they can relate to, not to corporate information, packed with facts and statistics. The same is expected from media. They value real, personal, stories with high emotional impact. If you can engage your audience and, at the same time, push them into some kind of action, there is a win-win situation for media and the brand, resulting in both being remembered.
Now, in 2017, we have noticed the emerging trend of real time marketing that brands use to invoke interaction with their brand, and to trigger a social response. Starbucks, a great example of a socially responsible company, reacted to President Trump’s immigration ban, by pledging to employ 10,000 refugees over the next five years – and this invoked a huge interaction, and triggered a widely felt social response!
In recent years, we have seen that social influencers are also very important when planning communication campaigns. Their opinions and relationships are usually well established within their community groups, with such a societal penetration that they can have a massive impact on brand perception and adoption. This year, in my opinion, there will be changes in the way we tailor communication strategies – i.e., from product or brand orientated, to customer orientated, with simplified stories that are very emotional, much better segmented, and strike at the audiences’ hearts. Stories will be based on core values such as love, friendship, a sense of belonging, and will even include the values that appeal to groups of adversaries or ethnic minorities, which rapidly emerge at times of political turbulence.
Emerging visual trends
Last year, we experienced a real revolution in visual communication. Since Facebook introduced its “live” option, video visual options have developed almost on every social platform. You can live stream on YouTube, Instagram, Periscope, and Snapchat. This trend will continue to grow in 2017. In such a fast paced environment as we live in, videos are the quickest way to connect and interact with your audience. But with the videos, there are some limitations that most brands take into account when crafting their communication strategy. They are real, authentic, almost anything can happen during live streaming. They may lose control of what potentially can affect the brand perception. However, authentic story telling is the direction most brands are going for, so in the not too distant future, live streaming might become as common as posting threads on Facebook or Twitter. In as much as visual communication is on the rise in 2017, we will probably observe further development of augmented reality products such as the Pokemon Go app, Samsung Gear VR, humanoids from the Ex Machina movie, or AI software, and of course, the popularisation of 3D printing which somehow may affect our ways of communication as well. When it comes to images, they will probably be more realistic, rather than wholly composed stock images which, according to top marketers, are in decline. We will probably observe further development in the free to use simple graphic design tools like Canva, or animation software like Powtoons, which enable the creation of visually attractive content, even for beginners.
Using big data and neuroscience to tailor brand communication strategy
We are all aware of big data engines which measure our audience patterns, demographics, trends, associations, in fact anything related to human behaviour. Using big data in tailoring a communication strategy came to light when Mr Trump won the presidential election in the USA, but certainly it is used more commonly, aside from within the political world. Increased accessibility of quantitative social trace data gives us the opportunity for better understanding of a target audience and appropriately reacting to their preferences. In 2017, probably every brand will benefit from having access to some detailed insights; by having a better understanding of their target audience and responding actively to their preferences, needs and wants. Big data engines are designed and analysed by systems operating on principals sourced by neuroscientists; understanding how people respond to certain stimuli is very important when crafting a brand communication strategy, where more attention is paid to brain functions, and reactions. These are the challenges for us, the communication strategists, for this year – to combine many disciplines, from psychology, history and business knowledge, to biology and neurophysics.
Co-creation and gamification
It is worth highlighting these two emerging trends, which have been gaining popularity during recent years. Both refer to active interaction with the target audience. For years, we have been thinking about how to make the audience take action, to react to our messages. As proved by scientists, the most engaging content you can create is actually asking people interested in your product to co-create the best possible version of the desired item. Co-creation works even in a B2B world. ‘The Internet of Things’ is a great example of internetworking of physical devices, cars, buildings, electronics, and software where companies collaborate to achieve a modern infrastructure of smart cities. FMCG brands also actively search for ideas within societies. There are car brands, coffee shops, cosmetic and fashion brands that invest in co-creation communication strategies which allow them to gain a lot of interest, insights, engagement, and as a result, great ROI. I can predict easily that co-creation will be big trend this year.
Although almost everyone has heard about gamification, this trend seems to be still at the early adopters’ stage. The application for point scoring, competing with others, applying rules, are relatively new in communication strategy and is still perceived as being in the experiential field. However, I have the feeling that in 2017, we will notice more gamification elements such as challenges, goal trackers, or rewards for taking action, than ever before.
Margaret A. Szwed