Digital Surgeons



Our Top Digital Marketing Trends & Predictions for 2016 (and what we hope stays in 2015)

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As marketers, no matter the campaign, tactic, strategy, or channel, we are ultimately judged by our ability to anticipate and meet consumers not just where they are, but where they will be. Marketers beware: channel and platform lifetimes are short, and attention spans are shorter. Stay ahead or risk missing the next great wave (obsolescence isn't a good look for anyone). Here are the 14 trends & predictions we are betting will define staying ahead in 2016, and the jargon we hope disappears as the ball drops.

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1. VR will redefine entertainment, education, and collaboration… but not in 2016

Make no mistake about it, virtual reality is poised to become a mainstream platform that completely reinvents how we work, play, share, and collaborate, but it's not quite there yet. Price and accessibility, as well as strained eyes, sore necks, and nausea will all keep the tech from scaling to the masses this year despite the upcoming release of headsets from Sony, HTC, and Facebook-owned Oculus.

2. Users will swipe right on “Tinderfied” interfaces

In our on-demand, Uber for X world, consumers demand one touch food, lodging, movies, and even massages. Complicated, infinite scrolling experiences will be replaced by simple, card-based user interfaces that reduce friction and deliver one swipe consumer satisfaction in intent rich micro-moments.

3. A.I. Will Power the Next Level of Automation

Machines will become increasingly adept at understanding natural language, powering a boom in artificial intelligence driven automation. With heavy investments in deep learning coming from tech giants (Apple, Facebook, and Google) and car companies (Toyota) alike, A.I. has the backing for exponential growth. Virtual assistants, like Amy, will make booking calendars and transactional information exchanges a thing of the past. Inbox zero will no longer be the stuff of daydreams when your inbox can anticipate your response and reply for you.

4. Vision-Based Learning Will Change How We Draw Meaning From Multimedia

We produce 2.5 quintillion bytes of data a day. 2,500,000,000,000,000,000 bytes. A day. We all know big data exists, but now we have to make sense of it. A.I. efforts from Google and Facebook are focused on vision-based learning solutions that will allow machines to derive meaning from the endless number of pictures and videos that echo throughout the internet and across social channels. Following Google's decision to open source TensorFlow, their machine learning library, we expect vision-based learning to substantially change media before the end of 2016.

5. Share of Attention Is in, Clicks and Impressions Are Out

Share of attention will be the rising metric brands fight for in 2016 as dated media metrics like clicks and impressions are retired to the vanity metric graveyard. With ad-blocking now ubiquitous, advertisers need to focus on earning and holding the mindshare of the consumer. A growing emphasis will be placed on "return on experience" metrics that measure whether a user engagement actually leaves an impact beyond a momentary impression.

6. The Future of Competition is eSports

The future of competition has arrived. eSports, or competitive gaming, is an emerging billion dollar platform that holds the potential to reach advertising-averse millennials in completely authentic ways. Red Bull and Coke are leveraging eSports to take their brand to the next level, are you? With over 134 million viewers and projected revenue growth of gaming at large breaking the $100 billion mark, getting in the game now is more important than ever.

7. Live Is the New Battleground

Live engagement platforms, like Twitch and Periscope, will be the battleground where brands compete for viewers and authentic engagements. Twitch, (purchased by Amazon in 2014 for $970 million) alone accounts for 43% of all live video streaming traffic by volume. Periscope, acquired by Twitter, allows you to go live and capture an audience anytime, anywhere. The big idea and the slick, highly produced Super Bowl Ad spot are becoming relics as consumers want to create and engage with brands with their own content, on their own terms, with their own audience watching.

8. Gifs on Gifs on Gifs

In a FOMO world filled with goldfish attention spans, quick shareable content isn't an important part of the game, it is the game. Social networks have begun to natively support sharing GIFs mid-stream which will put pressure on brands to create viral looping images that can create noise across these networks. GIFs will replace Emojis as the predominate way to communicate in lieu of text as brands and consumers take a page from BuzzFeed and begin to use GIFs to tell stories.

9. Video Will Become Immersive

While virtual reality experiences currently require expensive, cumbersome hardware, immersive 360° videos that can be viewed sans headset are now supported by Facebook and YouTube. Want to step into the batter's box with Bryce Harper? Gatorade has a video for that. Missed last night's fight? Showtime released a boxing match to be viewed from the first to the final bell, 360° and ringside. 360° videos will explode in 2016 as consumers increasingly demand both immersion and control of their video content.

10. Death to Channel Differentiation

It's no longer about being offline or online, it's about being everywhere the consumer wants to be. Consumers don't differentiate on channel, they differentiate on experience. 2016 will punish brands that substitute checking-the-box on digital channels for a marketing plan. There is no such thing as digital strategy, just sound strategy that incorporates digital tactics. The rise of live events is signaling a shift toward brand offerings that deliver experiences without a digital barrier.

11. The Revenue Will Dry up With the Ink

2016 will be the year of the single largest shift to digital media from print, radio, and television. Instagram, Facebook Video, and ad tech will be just several drivers of the transfer of revenue that forces ill-equipped newspapers and magazines to shut down. Digital distribution eliminates print overhead, is more sustainable, and places the content square in the consumer's pocket or purse, waiting for them whenever and wherever they are.

12. Publishers will get Squeezed

The demand for viewability will drive ad networks and traditional media buying activities out of a marketplace that is increasingly demanding quality. Increased ad blocking means that publishers must find new ways to monetize their audience, which is an opportunity for brand advertisers that can jump on yet-to-emerge trends and platforms.

13. Sustainability Will Be Rewarded

The increasing number of consumers living Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability will force brands to evaluate not only how their products affect the health of their consumer, but the world around them. When Chipotle eliminated all the GMOs in the ingredients found in its 1,700 locations, it was because of the LOHAS consumer. When CVS stopped selling cigarettes and welcomed a $2 Billion dollar loss in revenue? LOHAS. In 2016, more major brands will take steps toward making their products and company more sustainable, and the largest consumer segment you've never heard of will reward them.

14. It’s a bird, It’s a plane, It’s a drone!

2015 is the year drones emerged from the garages of hobbyists and went mainstream. So much so that the U.S. government is even requiring owners to register their aircraft into a federal database. We are betting 2016 is the year brands will begin to leverage them to deliver (literally) personalized brand experiences. On Cyber Monday, Amazon released a teaser video for their future drone delivery system Prime Air. While it may be in the distant (or not so) future that our packages are flying unmanned through the air, Amazon is leveraging the public's fascination with drones to prove they are committed to thinking forward. Smart brands will join them and take to the skies.

Jargon we are hoping stays in 2015

  • "Buzzword" Don’t use overused jargon to describe overused jargon.

  • "Millennial" (as a monolithic stereotype) There is far too much diversity and far too many of generation Y to classify them all together.

  • "Data Scientist" It’s impossible to keep them out of those big ol’ lakes of data.

  • "Unicorn" Keep looking in the Forbidden Forest for your next hire, we’ll stick with curious polymaths.

  • "SME, A2O, BAU" TRY to use the full word, other marketers don’t know WTF your meaningless acronym means.

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