What could we see in 2019?
As we all sit at our desks in misty eyed reminiscence over another great holiday period, ready to seize this January and make all those amazing personal changes we promised ourselves (wait, is it really the 8th already?!), various talking heads are hard at work donning their soothsayer hats, hoping to clog up your inboxes and claim your newsfeeds with confident prophecies about marketing trends for the year to come.
Well, this is a bit like that. Except for two key things.
Nearly a decade of wild predictions, technological fizzle-outs and unpredictable realities have led to a healthy cynicism when it comes to these articles. However, it’s still fun to think about the future!
So with one big digital finger in the air, here are our 5 predictions on which way the winds of change are blowing in 2019…
1. Increased legislation of technology giants
For digital marketers, Fiscal Phil’s last budget demonstrated a tangible attempt to tackle to the fairly laissez faire approach adopted by the tech mob fondly known as FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google) to their public responsibilities. Despite its global standing taking a seemingly daily hit, we can’t imagine that the UK government will be the only ones to start taking on this group.
Taxes may be the most high-profile step, but given the continued coverage of Facebook’s dodgy data practices, expect increasing restrictions on how these companies can manipulate user information, and to what ends, most likely to be in a tightening of GDPR regulation.
Ultimately, the likelihood of social media becoming a place of balanced and reasoned argument are slim, but the aggressive nature of the leading platforms’ echo chamber effect may be diluted, and that can only be a good thing.
Odds of happening: high – the chances of under pressure governments looking to score political points against distrusted, faceless corporations as part of an effort to appeal to the masses seems quite likely.
2. Decrease of brand presence on social media
We would argue that this is quite closely linked to increased governance of our favourite platforms, as it will play a key role in how they operate, and how they are perceived.
2017 saw a number brands temporarily pull away from YouTube due to concerns over where ads would be placed, while 2018 saw Unilever specifically called out social platforms that “create division in society and promote anger and hate” as environments they would avoid spending their £2bn marketing budget.
Due to an increase in moderating efforts from Google, most withdrawals from YouTube were just a brief pause, but brand safety is one of the industry’s current badges of honour, and if there are continued examples of inappropriate placements of brand ads next to disreputable content, the way brands use social media could change. If this happens, expect some fluttering eyelashes from brands in the direction of Netflix and Amazon Prime, and the potential for multi-tiered subscription services – but this would be far too ballsy a prediction for us to make...
Much will depend on how far media vendors and agencies are prepared to go to re-establish trust that has been eroded by a lack of transparency across various elements of the supply chain, both for brands, and social media users.
Odds of happening: evens – while research shows that two thirds of users don’t trust social media companies, until people start actively withdrawing their patronage on these platforms, they will always hold an appeal to brands. If there’s another scandal early on in 2019, disengagement is likely to increase, leading to some itchy feet for brands.
3. Increase of brands using live streaming as a conscious communications strategy
A bit of a social theme running through these predictions, but a related trend that we believe could become even more prevalent is the use of live streaming for brands.
Due to the issues already covered regarding transparency, and the context surrounding where a brand’s messaging appears, owning the full story is increasingly appealing. While a live stream may not achieve the same reach as a heavily promoted paid post, brands can guarantee that the post appears on their page and in newsfeeds, rather than running against videos of dubious content.
Issues regarding unpredictability are countered by an increasing need for brands to reflect their authenticity, and the inherent risks of a live stream can help demonstrate a brand’s openness and transparency that has currency with users who have grown tired of elaborate ad campaigns and misleading messaging. The ability to set up a decent stream with minimal equipment only adds to its appeal.
Odds of happening: high – the opportunity for a brand to portray itself as open and genuine through its willingness to embrace the risk of the unexpected, combined with relatively simple tech requirements make this a no-brainer for brands keen to up their authenticity perceptions.
4. The sound of search
The rise of Alexa, Google Home, and various other smart devices driven by voice activation will inevitably lead to a long-term monetisation strategy for these companies beyond initial product sales, and this usually means ads.
An audience that is actively looking for something a brand offers is that brand’s dream, with search ads the foundation of Google’s monumental success. Voice activated search is just another method of conducting a search and will soon be another way for the established players to control the flow of information to users based on financial benefits.
Quite how this will play out is still up in the air (we’re just providing trends, not details), but expect to see the introduction of paid search ads when you ask Google Home about certain products, and ever more prominent positioning of favoured partners on the Amazon platform.
Odds of happening: high – voice activated searches are essentially no different to searches conducted via a keyboard, and brands will still pay to be first in line for these consumers, and even more so as the much-heralded Internet of Things takes an increasingly prominent grip on people’s homes
5. Machine learning will continue to allow personalisation at scale
It wouldn’t be a true trend list without some reference to big data. Companies continue to fall over themselves in their attempts to prove that they are data driven, but this over-use has effectively rendered the term useless. Everyone expects you to use data to drive your offering, but how you do that has varying levels of success.
One of the areas that machine learning can have arguably the greatest impact is in personalisation. While the large tech giants have been using it already to encourage additional consumption from their audiences (Netflix recommendations, Amazon product listings), many brands are still reliant on human interpretation of what a personalised offering looks like, containing within it inherent bias shaped by individual preconceptions and notions, meaning personalisation is still dependent on another person deciding what boxes you tick.
Machine learning can interpret personal data at far greater quantities than any human could possibly hope to achieve, and without the inherent personal bias shaped by individual experience, can provide far more accurate personalised offerings to users. This in turn increases the relevancy of a brand’s offering to individual users.
Odds of happening: high – the continuously advancing technology and falling costs means that AI is increasingly available to a wider business audience, encouraging more and more companies to take advantage. Expect to see even more personalised ads, as well as tailored landing pages and user experience.
So there you have it, our top 5 predictions for 2019 out in the open. Please give us at least a couple of months before picking holes in our suggestions – by which point Twitter will be the next Yahoo and Netflix will be running mid-stream pre-rolls for those unwilling to double their subscriptions...
All the best for 2019 from the Zoo crew!
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