Happy New Year. For aud lang syne and all that.
We are well beyond that beautiful limbo of the holiday season, an inevitable opportunity for us as individuals to pause and look back on the previous 12 months.
Maybe there’s a tinge of regret (they are teachable moments), glimmers of brilliance, and hopefully buckets of pride in what we’ve achieved.
In the marketing industry, like all others being changed by technology, this time of year that falls at the end of calendar Q4 and beginning of Q1 is when we make predictions.
Don’t get me wrong, I love prediction pieces! They have kind of become an industry norm – something every blog and publication tends to run. Many are super helpful expert-POV that help us make sense of the change.
Most often, these predictions are a hugely optimistic look at the months ahead, and a really compelling benchmark - like a time capsule - as to where we are collectively the very moment the calendar year (human construct of time, human construct of time, human construct of time) comes to an end.
In the hype race, customers are left behind.
Now, if you’re situated comfortably within the marketing corner office of a marketing tech vendor (or more likely in a funky open office setting, you know, with the plebians) your predictions likely centralize around whatever it is that you’re selling.
Widget vendor? 2017 is undoubtedly the year of the widget.
If you’re in the media, you’re likely writing or being assigned stories that fall into the greater narrative of the tech industry. (Writing about “AI in marketing” this year? Yeah, you.)
We all know the dangers of hype.
Too often, executives who are making predictions try too hard to… well… sound like they can predict the future. Yes, we should all seek to be thought leaders, on the bleeding edge of our industry, ahead of the game, yadda yadda yadda. But what’s happened in many fields, especially marketing, is a bit of a race that’s getting out of control.
Vendors rush ahead to be innovative (or sound innovative). Our customers can barely keep up. Fast-forward 12 months and it’s time for another set of high-level, pie in the sky predictions that very few practitioners are ready to take advantage of.
Where is the customer in the maturity and adoption of these tactics? Who are you writing for?
They’re still trying to implement 2013’s predictions. Some are stuck in 2009. It’s not their fault, it’s the pace of change that is far more difficult to implement than the time it takes to write a thinkpiece on the future of their industries.
We are really not helping anyone with hundreds of pieces about what’s to come in the year ahead that are grounded in truth only realized by early-adopters, or worse, grounded in fiction.
So, I thought it would be fun to do a brief sanity-check of last year’s predictions. See how right our fortune teller industry luminaries really are.
Note: this is done in jest. I don’t mean to call anyone out, in fact I came across quite a few folks that I know and love and have left all names off my piece.
Let’s get into it: 13 Marketing Industry Predictions from 2016 – Did They Come True?
1. Digital Marketing will Cease as Marketers Shift to Marketing in a Digital World - Forbes
Forget digital, we’re so digital we’re not even digital anymore.
2. The Era of Cognitive Commerce has Begun – Forbes
Spoken like a guy who works for a cognitive business technology company, oh wait, he does (IBM).
3. Real-Time Marketing Analytics will Unite Online and Offline Behavior for Richer Lead Scoring and Nurturing in 2016 – Forbes
I know the predictor behind this one, and he’s a smart cookie. This one is getting closer to the truth, as it hopes phone activities from sales will be included in lead scoring. Also, he works at a company selling insights around phone activity. Moving on.
4. The arrival of Virtual Reality, combined with a major explosion of streaming and the death of old world distribution models will unleash a new age of what we used to call “TV” – Forbes, and this article too
Oooh a new age. I think ages, by definition, take a few years to shake out, so why don’t we check back on this one in a couple of decades.
5. Being Human Will Return to Marketing / Getting Back to Basics Will Trump the Sexy, Shiny, New Marketing Vehicle – Forbes
Now these guys are speaking my language. Are these predictions? Or is this a cop out? The jury is out…
6. The Maturation of Addressable Communications will Advance Across Channels – Forbes
I will take bread with this buzzword soup, yes, thank you. Mmm, delicious.
7. Intent-based Marketing Has Become a Reality – Forbes
Hello my friend! This predictor is also a very smart marketer who I love and respect. Three guesses what his firm sells.
8. By the end of 2016, CMOs will no longer present slideware to show their impact on revenue in board meetings– Forbes
Down with PPT!! Right after I finish editing next week's board slides.
9. In the same Forbes article, there’s one about the importance of data-driven marketing, from a marketing data vendor.
10. Another about sales and marketing alignment from a sales enablement technology vendor. And on it goes.
11. In content marketing, this article predicts live streaming will skyrocket in popularity (I do see a lot more of it from brands. I can’t yet find data on its usage but suppose this is closer to reality.)
12. It also speaks to the rise of personal authority over brand authority – something I harp on with my own clients. I’m behind this one.
13. This one predicts “brand/product/marketing/sales and CS teams will reorganize around innovation and customer experience”—again, let’s check back on that one in a few years. I love the spirit of this, but this one will take a while to shake out. Re-orgs take time…
Looking back, thinking ahead.
Look, while this article is done in the name of fun, I do hope it tempers next year’s slew of prediction pieces back to a pace that both positions your company as an innovative leader in your space, while addressing the real problems faced by your customers.
Otherwise, practitioners are sitting on the train, reading your piece on their phones, thinking “wow. My peers are so much farther along than me.” The truth is, most are not. It’s an illusion.
Speak to where customers are today, while painting a bright future for what they could have tomorrow. This will have more impact than lofty predictions.
In marketing, we can’t afford to be so full of BS about the future of our space. It’s become a joke.
Founders, you don’t need to always fake the illusion that you are somehow light years ahead of the market. No, investors don’t want to hear it. They know the companies that build billion-dollar industries are solving an addressable market problem, at the moment of need, with an eye to what’s to come.
Next time you write a prediction for the year ahead, do a quick gut check.
Now... where’s the champagne? I’m still celebrating.