This is no secret. Technology and consumer behaviour are evolving in unpredictable ways and what the future will hold a decade from now no one can fully imagine. However, let me share some predictions about the trends that may change the marketing landscape for brands – and in no particular order, here we go.
Consumers will create content for brands
User generated content will and by far exceed company created branded content. Brands will have to embrace this and accept that they will no longer be in complete control of their brand. Therefore, it will be very important for brands to create a strong identity in the minds and hearts of their customers in order to create great and ‘on-brand’ content.
There will be three approaches to content: create, co-create and curate. Create will be the brand’s content, co-create will be content created in partnership with consumers and curate will be about selecting user generated content and sharing it. The most important ingredient will be authenticity. Brands which manage to attract fans passionate enough to create funny, emotional and lovable content will be very lucky. There will also be a shift away from talking at the world to making the world talk. Brands will have to turn everything they do into a catalyst for conversation. Even in terms of their advertising, they will want people to ask, “What is the product? What is the music? Who conceived this? What are others saying about it?” Everything will be about the conversation. Owning your audience will be a key marketing asset.
Companies will believe in branding
Companies will understand that branding is not about a new logo or look. Every brand has, at its core, a great story to tell (which is not being told today by many brands and this will be the first recipe for failure in the future.) Products will have to become brands and have an idea or stance to promote and connect with consumers – brands will have to figure this out in order to brand (or rebrand their product), and to do this they will require brand experts and not ad agencies that are execution (TV spot) focused. In fact globally, branding precedes advertising and brands will have to give this space priority, as well as find a story that is worth telling and has the potential to evolve.
Branding is becoming a two-way conversation, as social media has given consumers a voice unlike anything they had before. As brands track individual consumer behaviour in real-time, they will use the knowledge that comes from these conversations to tailor their brand communications on a mass scale.
Mobile will be a key marketing medium
There are more mobile devices than people on the planet; it is the way people interact with friends today and it will be the way they will interact with brands tomorrow. People will shift to the small screen to view content and successful brands will be those which will be able to create personalised content. Branding is becoming a two-way conversation, as social media has given consumers a voice unlike anything they had before. As brands track individual consumer behaviour in real-time, they will use the knowledge that comes from these conversations to tailor their brand communications on a mass scale.
Brands will become more transparent
Transparency will be the new challenge for brands. Consumers will expect brands to do and be good. They will want to know what the brand stands for and they will reward those that reflect similar values. They will ask: “Is this brand good for me (as a consumer) and good for us (society)?” Brands will have to be transparent in an authentic way – they will have to live and demonstrate their values; they will have to walk the talk.
Videos not TVCs
Video sharing has increased with the rise of mobile; videos are in high demand because people love visual storytelling. This shift in consumption patterns will change conventional marketing models. Brands will have to be more nimble and creative, digital and activation agencies will morph into a single agency (the smartest one). Brand ideas will have to be cohesively executed across all channels simultaneously and content produced more quickly. This will have big implications for the traditional agency-brand relationship; instead of a single Rs 20 million TV production, brands will need 10 videos worth two million rupees each.
Social media will no longer be talked about
As counterintuitive as it sounds, we know that a new medium has succeeded when we don’t talk about it anymore. No one talks about going online because we are always connected and the same is increasingly true of social media and I expect we will see the full transition over the next five years. Facebook is already making more money on advertising than most major TV networks. Instagram accepts 15-second videos that look a lot like commercials. The fact that these are social media platforms is irrelevant – they are part of the marketing mix and offer brands the sort of reach they could only get a few times a year on TV. In future, if any brands are still talking about the importance of ‘social media’, they will be the ones that are about to be extinguished.
Agencies will offer products not services
Agencies will become connectors. Brands want to connect with people through content creators and content creators want the brand’s money. Agencies will be the ones who create these connections. Good agencies will act like products and not service companies. Service companies aspire to have happy customers and a contract renewal. Product companies innovate quickly and offer better offerings and value with every iteration. The capabilities of creative agencies will need to be overhauled and the agency models will change. Marketing communications is much more complex and nuanced and the ‘grand reveal’ of a traditional advertising agency is starting to look hilariously outdated. Marketers, emboldened often by their own direct relationships with activation and digital agencies and even the big technology companies (like Facebook and Google) are beginning to suspect that in some cases these companies and not their agencies are the ones driving the marketing innovation agenda. The big ask for agencies will be to reclaim the innovation agenda without succumbing to the temptation of shiny new things for their own sake.
Brands will value the Millennial customer
Brands which do not understand that the Millennial customer is an entire generation of people and not a niche ‘youth’ market will fail. The central issue for marketers will be to win the battle for cultural relevance. Those who will win will be those who will make marketing as valuable as the product or service they are selling.
These are my predictions for 2025. Embrace them or erase them.
Shoaib Qureshy is Chief Executive, Bulls Eye DDB. firstname.lastname@example.org