In previous years entire new disciplines emerged. Last year was big for content marketing, data, native advertising, programmatic. 2015 will be big for three overarching trends.
1. The return of creativity and design
Of course creativity and design never went away. But, it will dawn upon marketers and business people more generally what a premium creativity and design should command and their value will come again to the fore. Why? And why now for 2015?
For at least the last decade the excitement has largely been driven by rapid technological innovation and the huge shifts in consumer behaviour brought about largely by the internet and mobile.
More recently data and automation opportunities have continued to excite. All understandably and rightly so.
Of course technology will continue to evolve rapidly and no doubt there will be another internet-like breakthrough at some point.
You probably know that you can use data feeds, from the weather to share prices to trending music sales to stock availability and more, in order to real-time optimise advertising creative?
You probably know you can tap into your CRM data in real time via APIs (Application Programming Interface) to create custom audiences that you can lifecycle retarget with digital marketing from social to content to email to ads?
All powerful stuff. But what is the idea? What are the behavioural triggers you will use? What is the customer journey flow across channels and what are the creative and design treatments for those hundreds of dynamically served and personalised experiences?
How does this all support the brand promise? Who is responsible for the cohesive vision that is not only technically enlightened but actually engages creatively, emotionally and commercially?
The engineers have been the rock stars of digital for a long time. They deserve to be and will remain critical.
But for 2015 the real gold dust in terms of people and capabilities will be those customer experience architects, product managers and creative technologist types who have ideas, who can inspire with a vision, who can lead teams to design and deliver undeniably better customer experiences.
The fact that they understand the technology, the data, the multichannel customer experience and the commercial objectives is a given.
There is the need of inspired hypotheses. We need good ideas and brilliant design execution.
Of course marketing ‘optimisation’ in its many performance-driven forms has a long way to run yet and is never finished.
2. Marketing as a Service
Marketing as a Service is starting to happen and it will increase more over 2015 and beyond.
It’s not just technology that is moving towards thinking about platforms and services.
Marketing and entire business processes and models are moving that way. Away from the static and the linear and the planned, towards the fluid, ongoing and agile.
For example, if you can create shared content, marketing or data assets, and define unifying taxonomies and data architectures, then you can get much smarter, and more efficient, when delivering personalisation at scale. You can begin to segment and target in creative ways.
You can more rapidly deploy your marketing in reactive ways.
If you consider many of the tech developments, programmatic, automation, artificial intelligence, natural language processing, self-learning systems, they feed off, and are driven by data.
3. Connecting the dots
There has been a lot of investment in digital over the last decade and it continues to grow. There has also been a realisation that customer-centricity really is a source of sustainable competitive advantage and organisations are starting to walk the talk.
Witness the rise of board-level roles with the word ‘customer’ in them.
But there is a long way yet from the seamless, omnichannel, personalised customer experiences. To deliver on that promise there’s need to connect a lot of dots.
Only then will the digital and marketing engine start to purr efficiently rather than stutter as it does currently.
There are a lot of dots to connect. There is the need to join up data, to integrate technology systems, online and offline to become joined up.
But it goes well beyond that. The dots should be connected in the processes and operational practices to enable, for example, agile ways of working. Dots should be connected in the organisational structures to enable multi-disciplinary teams and multichannel thinking.
Dots should be connected in the skills, knowledge and capabilities of people. Marketing should be thought as an ecosystem that is nonlinear and always on, that is more modular.
Truly delivering on customer-centricity requires to join lots of dots. And whilst there may not be any single trend or discipline in digital that excites for 2015 it feels like there are at a tipping point where all the component parts are now available, as well as the will, to apply all that digital can offer in creative, engaging, even disruptive, ways to transform customer experiences and, indeed, entire business models.