Three brave marketing trend predictions for 2014 now that it’s half way through

Karl Treacher bucks the trend and presents his three ‘brave’ predictions for brand and marketing trends in 2014 a full six months into the year: content, experience, and public-private sector love.


OK, so perhaps I’m a little slow off the mark with my predictions. But I learn from the best and Apple taught us never to be first, just be better. Like Apple, I’m going to be a bit braver with my marketing trend predictions than I may have been had I written them in November last year. So here are my big three macro trends for 2014.


1. The rise and fall and rise again of content marketing

Content marketing’s star will rise, fall and rise again. Marketers will have to come to terms with the first-mover advantage being a thing of the past. The rebirth of content marketing, beyond custom magazines, as the trend we saw through 2011 and 2012 came courtesy of free publishing platforms, online retail, SEO, price comparison and review sites.

The inconvenient truth is that content marketing has many of the same competitive pressures and cost centres that media at large has. Just like the media market, medium sized brands struggle to compete with the scale of larger brands, and the agility of their smaller competitors. Some brands that experienced easy, early wins will see these become more difficult, and most will come to understand that although owned media can be more valuable than bought, it isn’t cheaper.

The good news for agencies is the promotion of owned media will keep dollars in the media budget, the bad news is the buckets those fall in will change. Content-first will replace digital-first thinking as the latter takes its correct seat as a means, not as an end. Content-first thinking encourages the creation of assets (e.g. mobile banking apps) rather than pure promotion. It’s part of building customer experiences. Which brings me to…


2. Personalisation and the CXO

It’s time for big data as a trend to deliver. Many brands have the data, and the tools to cut it up, but have stalled either on executing or by using personalisation solely in digital. Personalisation will, and has, gone further than customised eDMs (electronic direct mail). This will also be the year we see brands really merge and bridge the digital and physical divide.

Although personalisation can be complex for marketers, the opportunities can be simpler than on-site behaviour and inbound channel analysis. Starwood’s a good example of both simple and complex personalisation. Its recent optimisation of mobile ads demonstrates that personalised isn’t always about individual profiles. The hotelier customised its mobile ads simply by a searcher’s location, adding a map with one-click driving directions. Month-on-month mobile bookings are up by a factor of 20, and apparently a hefty amount of those are same-day bookings. (There’s an insight!)

Simple and effective, but Starwood’s a big believer in personalisation: it also offers guests customised content based on whether they’re planning a trip, are en route or have checked in.

Almost any consumer brand, physical footprint or not, can use a customer’s geography to customise their message. Date and time are other easily available wins.

This appetite for personalisation has grown as Apple’s iBeacon looks to potentially mainstream the promise of delivering mobile content (and offers) to customers and visitors. iBeacon was a less touted inclusion in iOS7, but, simply put, it allows Bluetooth transmission of messages based on proximity to physical beacons in stores, tourist sites, cultural institutions etc. The difference this time around is the scale of having a manufacturer pushing the idea. (Android does supports the technology as well.)

The opportunities are big if UK Telco O2’s study, ‘The Rise of Me-Tail’, is anything to go by. The report claims 56 percent of customers would be more inclined to visit a retailer offering a good personalised experience. The study also suggests potential sales lifts of up to 7.8 percent for retailers.

Personalisation as a trend is a recognition that brands are the experience a customer has with them, not what brands tell customers they are.

Future dominating brands get this at a C-level and are making room at their table for a CXO or CCO: customer experience officer or chief customer officer. Brands like MetLife, Oracle, FedEx et al have named CCOs. I’d anticipate growth of these roles in Asia Pacific and globally through 2014. (Or at least many C-levels finding the responsibilities of a CCO/CXO added to theirs.)

Customer experiences are part of the reason the next trend makes a lot of sense.


3. Brands meet the public sector and make merry

As our government privatises and takes more of a hands-off approach in services, an opportunity for many brands has arisen. There’s a wealth of opportunities for brands looking to do as they say, as well as ‘think global, act local’.

I’m not sure who won, synergistically speaking, when Londoners decided to label their city bikes ‘Boris Bikes’ (after London Mayor, Boris Johnson), but it definitely was not Barclays, the actual sponsor.

But despite similarities, CitiBank took a punt in New York with CitiBikes and no one seems to have mentioned ‘Bloomberg Bikes’ or even, now, ‘DeBlasioCycles’. Closer to home, Lipton Tea is on Brisbane’s bikes and RACV (Royal Australia Club Victoria) is on Melbourne’s. Unfortunately, ‘QuirkCycles’ and ‘DoyleBikes’ have not entered local parlance. Hope remains, but it does suggest that Boris’ personal brand may have outboxed Barclays in Londoners’ LIBOR-strained (London InterBank Offered Rate – around which the financial industry scandal revolves) eyes.

It’s not a huge leap to see this as what would’ve been health policy a few decades ago. Nor is it a huge leap to see AmEx’s Small Business Saturday in the US as interior economic policy. The ‘shopping holiday’ claims to bring in about US$5 billion for small businesses, and even receives some political backing from the White House: President Barack Obama has been involved each year since it started in 2010 and promotes the holiday via Twitter.

Some examples have more in common with stadium stamping than strong brand affinities. For example, the connection between CitiBank, Barclays and bikes is tenuous. Oh wait, I’ve got it: they’re taking us for a ride! Lipton Iced Tea’s sponsorship, on the other hand, certainly plays a role in line with its brand positioning.

This is a blue-sky space and we’ll see better alignment and innovation here through 2014. It’s corporate social responsibility meets marketing meets branded experience meets communities. Anyone unhappy?


The wrap

The theme behind these trends is customer experience. Successful brands will be those whose purpose, strategy and customer experience align. Unsuccessful will be those who do one thing, plan another and have no idea what happens when a customer actually interacts with them. Regular readers will know an airline I’m thinking of.


Karl Treacher
BY Karl Treacher ON 17 June 2014
Chief executive of The Brand Institute of Australia, a behavioural analyst
with more than 15 years of brand consultancy experience and a pioneer of organisational branding and culture alignment. Tweet at him using @treacher.