Here's the Only Marketing Trend You Need to Know for 2016

This Unexpected Trend Will Steal the Spotlight from 'Cool' Ad Tech

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New Year's "trend lists" will start filling up our feeds pretty soon with posts like "Top five ways to leverage native ads" or the perennial list about "What's hot in mobile."

All useful and insightful, though I submit there's really only one trend to remember for 2016, because next year seems destined to go down as the year of "marketing doing."

With all the buzz and disruptive hype of the past seven years or so, there was no small amount of "shock and awe" marketers had to absorb. In the tumult, a marketer's job became just too burdened with a deeply dysfunctional, fragmented set of capabilities developed in a tech/VC echo chamber but lacking practical, real-world applications.

That's why it's taken marketers a while to figure it out. As countless ventures jockeyed for space on increasingly complex Lumascape-like diagrams, marketers spent countless hours evaluating technologies instead of evaluating results of in-market programs. Amidst all the high-flying disruptive ventures, there was virtually no innovation centered on cross-process platforms needed to activate the technology.

But in 2016 we will see a clear change, a paradigm shift -- a term popularized by the renowned scientist Thomas Kuhn in his 1962 book "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions." There he describes a paradigm shift in terms that set the tone for marketing in 2016: "[A paradigm shift] represents a shift in the problems available for solutions … transforming the imagination to change the very nature of how the work is done."

This quote speaks to the profound changes we can expect next year, when marketers will replace the "awe" of algorithmic magic with awe-inspiring new questions about how (not if) we balance ad tech with the art of marketing. As Kuhn understood, once we start asking new questions, the paradigm shift is set in motion, resulting in new answers -- a new paradigm.

In practical terms, the paradigm shift might seem subtle to outsiders but will be centered on ventures that power the business of "marketing doing" in which, once again, marketing artistry can soar. These ventures will create the cross-process platforms where marketers can craft elegantly designed, operationally functional, multi-channel campaigns that curate welcome brand and user experiences. Finally, in 2016, marketing artistry will re-emerge, dominating the business so that technology will be deployed only within the context of the user experience the artist had in mind -- not the technologists.

The astute observer would have sensed this paradigm shift gathering force since 2014 with new ventures focused on process platforms. In 2016, this transformation will, in fact, transcend siloed tech functions of today into cross-process platforms that blend diverse marketing tasks, marketing artistry and meaningful metrics into business-friendly automation platforms that get on with "marketing doing." The central themes of this shift will revolve around:

  • Creating trusted ways for consumers to communicate directly with brands using the many new, powerful real-time communications technologies to power this capacity.
  • Marketing agility that unleashes the power of programmatic advertising technologies to scale, but with the intimacy required to express the art of storytelling in authentic and contextual ways.
  • Conquering the content marketing fragmentation conundrum with new platforms that let marketers manage this function as a strategy and a tactic (like a multi-level chess game) to streamline the process of content planning, content syndication and engagement.
  • Putting data in its algorithmic place through rigorous testing powered by integrated attention and intention metrics able to deliver the data depth so people can truly understand the impact of their work.

After all the hype and ad-tech buzz of the last half a decade, within the real world of "marketing doing," there will be transcendental moments of marketing magic in 2016. Just wait and see.

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