Marketing Trends in 2017: The Good, the Bad & the UGH…Not THIS Again!

Some things change, some things stay the same. That seems to be the message in a recent Forbes article predicting marketing trends in 2017. (Note: all quotes in this blog are sourced from said article). What hasn’t changed? According to the article the need for exposure, of course—visibility.  As for digital marketing, focus is emphasized. We’re going to breakdown and rate each of the Forbes article’s trends into three categories:

  1. The Good – what we agree with and what should be (but sadly isn’t) no-brainer common-sense
  2. The Bad – what we think are erroneous trends/practices at best
  3. The Ugh – what we’ve seen come and go before in a slightly different version

Not all will apply to each trend; and some trends will have more than one applied. Let’s get right into it.

1. Increased focus on customer experience.

The Good:

The article states Customer experience is the heart of marketing for every industry. And while we agree that to be successful today’s businesses must embrace customer-centric philosophies to create effective marketing strategies and positive digital transformations, to us this is not really a ‘trend.’ It’s called good ol’ fashioned business sense applied to a contemporary marketing context. It’s an outright no brainer.

2. Engaged and effective measuring: analytics 2.0.

The Good:

According to the article, recent admissions by Facebook and others about the incomplete picture their data offers is going to swing marketing analytics back toward hard business numbers including profit, revenue, customer retention, and satisfaction. We agree that concrete numbers show real-world success best, and that data—no matter how sophisticated—can show almost anything (or nothing).

The Bad:

The real danger here is the pendulum swinging too far. If business goals track only to hard numbers, we run the risk of regressing back into a mindset where brand and corporate integrity is compromised for profit. In an era where corporate social responsibility is just starting to gain some traction, it would be unfortunate if intangible costs and values once again disappeared from the marketing spectrum.

3. Lean on the new marketing lieutenants: marketing technologists and data scientists.

The Bad:

We are the first to agree that technology and data matter. But to say that the answer is to rely on technology and data and have so-called Chief Marketing Technologists lead is tantamount to paint-by-numbers. Marketing is about people—culture, society, psychology, and other soft human sciences which require more instinct, intuition and heart than cold, hard, data. The world may be obsessed with data, but no technology nor technologist will ever produce a Rembrandt—not the feeling of one, anyway.

4. Personalized everything.

The Good:

There is a right way to do this. But unfortunately, what no doubt you have in mind—that common-sense, no brainer approach behind your Father’s barber and your Grandma’s baking—is not the direction this trend is heading in.

The UGH:

This used to be called “mass customization,” but now has taken on a new, even more personal dimension, “As we work to individualize everything from Coca-Cola cans to shoes.” For starters, mass customization was never fully adopted universally. And did it really produce better products and user experiences? The reality is we once had personalization: it was called local artisans and journeymen who could custom make everything from horse bridles to clothing to pottery on demand.

5. Better video content…and more of it.

The Good:

We as iD Integrated Marketing are big proponents of video, especially better video content. There is something visceral, dynamic, and impactful about telling meaningful stories in moving images. But…

The Bad:

More of it!? Do we really need more of anything?

The UGH:

Augmented reality? Interactive experiences? Digitally enhanced video? We’ve been here before and it’s the same old song: Technology is going to change everything! For the better? Really?

6. More social media marketing.

The UGH:

The idea that “we need to change the way that we think about social media” and use it “to engage with consumers, not blast messages” has been around since the advent of the medium. Social media strategies should embrace this one Marshal Mcluhan axiom: if the medium is the message, then social media is all about “me.” My vacation, my selfies, my opinions, my pets, my family, my life, me, me, me. Since that is absolutely the case—we challenge anyone to prove otherwise—then the key to social media is listening not engaging. And let’s be honest, for most companies—and advertising agencies—that simply does not compute.

7. Embrace the IoT (Internet of Things).

The Good:

It is true that the Internet of Things has been in its infancy, and it is likely that 2017 will see businesses “leverage the power of billions of connected devices—a marketer’s dream.” Done well, this could be a very cost-effective means of truly meaningful and personal customer care.

The Bad:

Three words: ‘privacy-invasion fatigue.’ Just how much surveillance are consumers willing to accept? “Beacons, sensors, edge devices, TVs, clothes, fitness brands, and more are all producing useful data, meaning more opportunities to get closer to the customer.” But how close is too close? As in, too close for comfort?

THE UGH:

Here we go again with the big data, more is better, and technology is going to save the day. Again, it’s the CMT—Chief Marketing Technologist—calling the shots, so enamoured with what technology can do, he never stops to ask whether or not we should be doing it in the first place.

8. Chatbots and AI go mainstream.

The Bad:

It doesn’t get any worse than this statement: “providing positive customer experience and service means leveraging the power of technology.” Really? Here are the facts: no computer algorithm, no matter how advanced, is any substitute for genuine human interaction. The time and resources spent on developing better ways of approximating human contact would be better spent on better training and more amicable and pleasant call centre / customer care environments.

The UGH:

Have any of these people gotten lost in a voicemail system? Or used SIRI? Could you imagine having genuine human contact hidden behind yet another layer of digital firewalls? Only this time you won’t be able to just “press zero followed by the pound key” to circumvent the system and reach an operator.

9. Right-time marketing instead of real-time marketing.

The UGH:

A rose by any other name smells as sweet; this turd smells as bad as its older cousin, “real-time marketing—with eyes out for opportunities to market and score.” It’s a marketing philosophy taken right from the U.S. Navy SEAL’S Sniper Manual. Customer as target. Track their movements. Check the wind. Time the shot. Instead, why not craft marketing strategies and messages which are ALWAYS RIGHT? And let the customer decide when, where, and how to recognize how right they are?

10. Prepare for marketing to own digital transformation campaigns.

The UGH:

Here we go again. Technology not only changes everything, it drives change. What’s more, the article is suggesting, “what [Chief Marketing Officers] should actually own is the digital transformation “campaign”—the process of showing the market and your teams that a company is transforming.” But transformation of any kind in any business is a change management issue, requiring a completely unique skillset surrounding a company’s culture. The notion that the key to this is a marketing campaign is indicative of the arrogance of your typical marketer/advertiser. “We will tell them like it is, and they will buy it.” It’s the kind of hubris behind such famed debacles as New Coke or the reinvention of Sears.

The Last Word

So there you have it, iD Integrated Marketing’s take on some of the trendy boy-band acts of the “marketing world tour, 2017” and what we think of them. So, does this make us old school? No, it makes us down-to-earth common-sense professionals who know there’s no substitute for genuine human inspiration, insight, imagination and passion. Timeless wisdom, attention to detail and to consumer needs, and quality products, services and customer care never go out of style. Forget about what’s trendy this year.  Remember, your business—like life itself—is a marathon, not a sprint. So beware the pundits and experts who will try to convince you the way to win is by abandoning what you know in your gut is the right way to go in favour of chasing after the latest and the greatest.