Don’t miss out – the latest, greatest innovations in modern marketing
Brian Macreadie gives us his take on marketing predictions for 2019, while offering a healthy dose of parody in the form of three zeitgeist-busters (and all in less than four minutes)
The new year marketing zeitgeist
So it's mid-February. We survived January. Hopefully most of us received our resuscitating first pay cheque of the year, and it's getting increasingly lighter and brighter in the mornings for us northern hemisphere marketers as we commute to the marketing coal-face each morning. We've celebrated the Chinese New Year of the Pig, did our bit for the greetings card industry on Valentine's Day and, in my personal case, I was also a good son and treated my Mum to those nice tops she had her eye on at Marks & Spencer for her birthday.
In fact, I'm sure there are lots of things to be thankful for in February - possibly none more so for us marketers than the annual flood of new year marketing prediction articles being now well and truly behind us. You know, that deluge of fortune-telling marketing write-ups that foretell 'the top ten unmissable marketing predictions for 2019' or 'don't miss out... the business-critical marketing trends you need to know in the year ahead'.
We had a bumper crop of such prophecies this year (just Google '2019 marketing' and you'll see what I mean) and, while the number of near-identical articles was excessive, it's always interesting to read a few of them to keep abreast of the pulse of our profession and to stay informed of the marketing zeitgeist. And who knows, in among all the hot air and Nostradamus-like puffery, there might even be the occasional money-making top tip.
And so what did the zeitgeist tell us this year? What were the hottest, unmissable trends in marketing? Well artificial intelligence (AI) and - in my field of B2B marketing - account-based marketing (ABM), were perhaps the biggest (and least surprising) top tips for success. The punters at the marketing races might be forgiven for sticking a small wager on each of those.
And hot on the heels of AI and ABM were things like personalisation at scale, customer experience, brand purpose, revenue attribution modelling, the maturation of content marketing, connected data, video marketing and influencer marketing. Blockchain and voice-activation were hanging in there, as were programmatic ad buying and chatbots.
Save for the fact that they've made for a pretty fine game of buzzword bingo, the first few prediction emails that landed in my inbox or social media feed were pretty interesting reads. Interesting but, alas, also a little bit potty.
Beyond buzzword bingo
I don't have a problem with the predictions – well, some of them at least, such as customer experience and connected customer data. Who could argue would those? I wouldn't fancy the chances of any B2B brand whose customer experience is found wanting, for example. And it's undeniable that a large number of B2B marketers are prospering by investing attention and tactics towards helping to win, grow or retain large, targeted B2B accounts (i.e. ABM).
But what I do have a problem with when it comes to the marketing zeitgeist - and the prediction articles that fuel it - is the absolutely critical marketing stuff that gets repeatedly missed or consciously ignored. Of the 'top marketing trends' articles that I thumbed through, I saw few, if any, extolling the importance of things like brand strategy, positioning, how to write a business case, how to build trust with executives, persuasive copywriting, psychology, creativity, how to protect price premiums, understanding pricing elasticity, the intricacies and pitfalls of research survey design, ethnography, the basics of financial reporting, and all the other stuff that can really make a difference to the success of our companies. Even helpful, evergreen basics such as how to actually deliver effective email marketing didn't seem to get a look in.
OK, I know that no-one is going to write a 'hot new marketing trends' blog post that encourages us to focus on established norms, such as email marketing, event marketing, conversion rate optimisation, user journey mapping, SEO, writing well, pricing or market segmentation. And few people are going to write about unfashionable things like direct mail, PR or building brand fame in case they look uncool (despite them still playing a massive role in B2B success). 'Business as usual' or unfashionable basics aren't exciting enough (i.e. click-baity enough) to attract lots of eyeballs – so it's entirely understandable that people don't write lots about them. But they are the things that will probably dominate much of our time this year and I argue will likely have a more significant impact on our chances of success than chat-bots and voice activation.
That value thing
Moving past the micro-impact world of 'business as usual' tactics, there's a fundamentally more important, macro point that is missed or avoided by many marketing trend and prediction articles. The real, underlying job of marketing is to create value for our businesses – which we best achieve by creating value for our customers.
As us marketers get influenced to focus more and more of our time worrying about revenue attribution models or programmatic advertising, there is a risk that we spend less and less of our time thinking about how we create new tangible or intangible value for our customers. Paraphrasing the great Tim Ambler of London Business School, business "survival depends on basic wealth creation, and wealth creation is exactly what marketing does," and I suspect the marketers among us that will truly break the mould and set the trend in the years ahead will be the ones that dedicate more of their time to thinking up new ways to create value for customers.
The summary, then the parody
Please don't get me wrong, it's undeniable that mastering ABM and video marketing are important to many of us B2B marketers. And AI and the like are revolutionising our world, so we ignore it at our peril. But if those trendy new fads are all that marketing commentators, gurus, vendors, soothsayers and other assorted mystics write about when proclaiming the hottest topics in marketing, there's a very real risk that some marketers among us might place too much stock in them, or fear they're getting left behind in the skills race when they're not.
I promise I'm not having a rant about new trends in marketing – that would be narrow-minded in the extreme. I don't mind publicly admitting that I'll continue to keep abreast of the marketing zeitgeist as I seek to find a new competitive edge for my B2B brands. But I thought it might also be helpful and important to remind myself and my beloved fellow marketers that we should never lose site of the evergreen basics of our profession, and also try not to automatically succumb to the ever-rising tide of programmatic-this and influencer-that.
To labour that point excessively, I'm today launching a series of new products that I hope will bring more balance to the force of modern marketing.
In click-bait terms, here are three unmissable, ground-breaking innovations for the Marketer 3.0 (Trademarked) in your life.
The following zeitgeist-busters are powered by amateur photoshop and a healthy dose of taking the pish. Hashtag join the conversation.
1. The all-new Leave It!!! Cone
With unique fad-avoidance technology baked-in, the all-new 'Leave It!!! Cone' will stop the marketer in your life from incessantly licking things that aren't good for them or their business, like ceaseless re-targeting, too much focus on Snapchat or excessive reliance on automated-lead-nurturing. This handy, blockchain-free accessory will soon be available in a range of not-quite-hyper-personalised sartorial options to perfectly match your office or studio: pinstripe suit edition; 'preppy, dress-down-day' casual edition; or 'Shoreditch hip' edition. Not 3D-printed, it's available to buy on the Internet, which is full of things.
2. AI-Enabled BS Protectors
This stunning innovation in wearable tech uses artificial intelligence to automatically filter out incessant, distracting noise about artificial intelligence. It also uses advanced 'voice activation' algorithms to block out marketing guru waffle about 'voice activation'. Fully programmable to neutralise all other buzzwords and marketing jargon in your industry sector, it provides a breakthrough moment in AI (actual intelligence). It's the ideal gift for marketers desiring 95% less blah-blah-blah.
NB: To avoid a nasty trademark dispute, this product is not called Beats BS by Bri.
3. The latest innovation in AR Headsets: Actual Reality
Brought to us by the same rebels that advocated 'getting out of the office and talking to customers', this brand new AR headset innovation enables the savviest marketing talent to literally see what's right in front of our faces. Integrating two innovative features - 'tunnels' and 'vision' - this remarkable product comes with advanced 'blinkers' functionality to block out all known instances of 'ooooh! check out that shiny new digital toy'. Like a well-known disinfectant brand, it kills 99.9% of marketing distractions dead.
NB: This doesn't require WIFI, SaaS or a 'customer success guru'.
This year's league table features a record-breaking 95 agencies, and is chock-full of analysis, commentary and interview with the agencies themselves and on the state of the market.