Source: What The Best Brands Will Do in 2016 | Andreas von der Heydt | LinkedIn

Andreas von der Heydt is the Head and Director of Kindle at Amazon in Germany. Before that he held various senior management positions at Amazon and L’Oréal. He’s an Internet, marketing, startup, and leadership expert as well as a management coach, author, and keynote speaker. His latest book is about what makes a future leader. Andreas also founded Consumer Goods Club. He worked and lived in Europe, Australia, the U.S. and Asia. Andreas enjoys blogging as a private person here on LinkedIn about various exciting topics. All statements made, opinions expressed, etc. in his articles only reflect his personal opinion.

Andreas opinions and thoughts:

In summary, I believe that in 2016 we will move more than ever from a “Mad Men creativity-driven marketing era“ to an age of “Predictive analytics and holistic software platforms.“ This will enable to create compelling new content being engineered by data and focusing on building huge distribution in a scalable manner. With many opportunities coming from big data, VR, AI, video streaming, etc. we must be careful not to over-complicate marketing and not to neglect who really matters: Our customers and audience.

Let´s jointly look into the marketing future to ensure that you and your brands will take advantage of the relevant trends in order to build and keep strong brands:
Customer Know-how and Simplicity are the Basis – People have more choice than ever and are overwhelmed by information and data (same is true for any marketer). In parallel, they want to spend as little time as possible on having to choose what´s right for them. Instead, they want to receive personalized and smart recommendations which suit their needs and wants at any given moment in time.

According to the 2015 Lead Nurturing Benchmark Study from DemandGen Report, 42% of marketers have been implementing lead nurturing tactics for more than two years. Top brands have developed lead nurturing programs which are personalized, as they send prospects on different nurture paths depending on their actions and interests. This is a significant indicator that predictive marketing is having an impact on how lead nurturing programs are executed (see also below paragraph on big data and analytics).

One customized approach which smart marketers are taking in this context is the application of dynamic pricing. Models such as subscription (e.g. for digital content providers like Spotify, Amazon Prime Video, and Kindle Unlimited) or “Pay What you Want (PWYW)“ strategies. Pricing determined by customers rather than by firms. An interesting PWYW example is Humble Bundle. Careful, however, dynamic pricing must not result in a negative customer experience as it was the case for some people who booked a car ride via Uber or Lyft at New Year´s Eve; a mistake often also made by airlines and hotels when using outdatedyield management pricing tactics.

Big Data and Analytics are at the Heart of Modern Marketing – The ability to develop an integrated, analytical view of customer activities and business operations will enable brands to design personalized and still “simple“ marketing strategies and tactics. Big Data and analytics assist to uncover new insights and deliver a sharper competitive edge. Especially more advanced cognitive technologies will enable marketers to better comprehend and predict customer wants and needs. With the help of highly sophisticated CRM tool such as Insightly, Zoho, Hubspot, or Nimble even small and mid-sized companies will be able taking advantage of the wealth of data which are out there in this beautiful data universe. Those data-driven and holistic software tools and management systems collect, combine, structure, and analyze relevant data sets, generate insights, match them with existing or new target groups, integrate them into your sales and marketing strategy, and make precise recommendations for future actions. And, of course, bigger companies can always go with the more complex CRM solutions of Salesforce Pardot, Microsoft Dynamics, or Oracle CRM.
Social Media Sells – Although plateauing in many countries, Facebook remains the most popular social media site. According to a Pew Research study, in the US 72% of online adults are Facebook users, amounting to 62% of all American adults.
The proportion of online adults who use Pinterest and Instagram has doubled within the past three years. Some 31% of online adults use Pinterest (up from 15% in 2012), while 28% use Instagram (up from 13% in 2012). Also in terms of user engagement, the proportion of Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn users who use each respective site daily has increased significantly. Fully 59% of Instagram users, 27% of Pinterest users and 22% of LinkedIn users visit these platforms daily.

No doubt, Social Media is a powerful medium to drive traffic to websites. Using Social Media to make sales is the next smart step you should be making for your business. Social Selling, which has already increased its importance level in the past two to three years, needs to be fully incorporated in any company´s marketing and sales strategy in 2016. LinkedIN – especially for B2B – will lead the pack with the highest traffic-to-lead conversion rate ahead of Twitter and Facebook. By the way, my personal assumption is that Twitter will become significantly less relevant as per 2016. Using Snapchat to tell stories and to engage on a regular basis will be much more relevant for any marketer.

Two important aspects to consider when developing your social media strategy further: First, regardless the social networks you prefer for your company and brands, having the right metrics in place to define and track success is key. In 2016 companies will fully understand that not “views“ matter, but that engagement and other active metrics like comments, shares, dwell time, etc. are crucial. The more sophisticated brands will even have metrics in place to measure the quality of comments (e.g. analyzing the Klout score of the commenting person, tracking leads and sales generated from comments) and will have moved completely away from reactive measures. In a nutshell, social media has produced leads and revenue. More than ever it needs to deliver specific and ambitious ROI targets. Second, do not over-stretch your social activities and expectations too much in too little time. In other words: Keep social social, i.e. listen to your audience, answer their questions, pick up their ideas, and treat them with respect. Top brands will have implemented best-in-class “social listening” tools and fully embedded processes.

Meet and target Generation Z – Here comes Generation Z, the post-millennials loosely defined as those born between the mid- to late-1990s and 2010. Gen Z represents about a quarter of the U.S. population (often similar in other countries). While the millennials (Gen Y) don’t remember a world without computers, Gen Z does not know a world without constant and convenient access to the web. Their ease with digital technology presents both opportunities and challenges for the companies that want to reach them.

They are very entrepreneurial, more financially conservative than their Gen Y counterparts, they embrace diversity and they embrace differences, they’re well informed and independent-minded, and social responsible. Generation Z is harder to reach and harder to interact with than Gen Y. They have short attention spans and a significant 11 percent have been diagnosed with ADHD.
Mobile and Location-based Marketing will make Fixed Thinking redundant – In May 2015, Google announced that more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Japan. Consequently, smart marketers will put even more money on mobile-focused marketing and will also target more strongly users at the point of engagement in 2016. Location-based marketing technology like iBeacons and RFIDs will gain a lot of traction. For example, 313 Somerset, a mall near the Somerset MRT station, is Singapore’s first mall to launch a beacon-based mobile advertising network. With their prior permission, users of the Tring313 app can get coupons and sales alerts as soon as they enter 50-500 meter distances from the mall. In many cases, retailers reported 46% sales conversion due to the app.

If you want to find out more about the importance of mobile and location-based marketing and on how to engineer your business to win in the mobile moment, I suggest you read the insightful book The Mobile Mind Shift – Engineer Your Business to Win in the Mobile Moment by B. and J. Ask which provides a wealth of information, examples, and insights.

Messaging will take off – 36% of smartphone owners use messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Kik or Apple´s iMessage, according to the Pew Research Center report published in August 2015.

All the major social platforms now have messaging components, and it’s only a matter of time before they figure out how to make that data available to businesses for comprehensive and effective marketing purposes. Messaging apps are an increasingly important part of the mobile app space. Facebook’s WhatsApp Messenger and Facebook Messenger are particularly strong throughout the West, while local heavyweights such as WeChat in China, LINE in Japan and KakaoTalkin South Korea lead in key markets across Asia. The billions of users of messaging apps represent huge opportunities for those who can take advantage and convert app downloads into revenue.
Although games and messaging features such as stickers have been key to driving monetization to this point, publishers are experimenting with new ways to expand their revenue potential.

For example, WeChat is leading the way in m-commerce. It has experienced huge success as a mobile payment platform with its users able to purchase movie tickets, taxis and even municipal services. Other messaging platforms in APAC have followed suit while the West has yet to scratch the surface of this type of functionality. Messaging apps are also testing the waters with advertising. Their progress in this area has been slow but steady as publishers are understandably wary of alienating their user base with intrusive ads. WeChat, for example, has successfully integrated ads into its users’ Moments timelines. Innovative forms of advertising and brand promotion will be key moving forward. For example,Snapchat Discover, which allows media brands to directly engage with customers in innovative ways, pushes the boundaries of advertising on messaging platforms while sidestepping many of the issues of traditional advertising. Certainly publishers will find additional ways to push this model further in the messaging app. For further info on the messaging app landscape see the excellent report of App Annie.

Artificial Intelligence, Wearables, Virtual Reality, and Robots are here to stay – Machine intelligence capabilities have been steadily growing in sophistication every year. New methods of computing, like quantum computing,
may again set the industry on supersonic development speeds. To get an idea for how far we have come since then, one has only to reflect on recent advances in theRoboWatch project an endeavor that is teaching computers to learn complex tasks using instructional videos posted on YouTube.

In 2016 we’re going to start to see more personal assistants – aka “Chatbots“ – and the ones that are already online will get much more smarter. Chatbots –many of them having started with features of the latest massaging apps – like Amazon´s Alexa (I love her!), Apple’s Siri, or Microsoft’s Cortana will get a lot more sophisticated; the best ones of them soon being able making you personalized proposals and anticipating your wants and needs. We´ll see that first in shopping. AI-powered personal assistants that screen the Web to help you find and choose exactly what you want could serve as a replacement for Google and other search engines already in a few years.

Wearables and virtual reality will move into the mainstream and become content marketing playing fields. Along with more VR headsets like Oculus Rift, Holo Lens and 3D cameras being sold, 360-degree video which has already taken the Internet by storm – will significantly gain in relevance by providing users an unparalleled look and experience. Go on and experience it yourself, click and track, and speed across the Jakku desert from Star Wars: The Force Awakens with this immersive 360 experience created exclusively for Facebook.

You can develop videos like this yourself. It only takes a 360-degree camera like the Ricoh Theta or and Kodak SP360 and you can practice 360-degree storytelling on YouTube’s popular 360 video sharing platform. You might also want to get your Google Cardboard to experience Virtual Reality on your smart phone.
Moving Images and Video become the ultimate King of the Content Jungle – 2014 and 2015 were already incredible years for video content with Facebook being now a serious player in the visual content arena. The rise of video will further increase. Globally, consumer internet video traffic will be 80 percent of all consumer Internet traffic in 2019, up from 64 percent in 2014.

In an era where the human attention span has shortened from 12 seconds to eight seconds in more than a decade (and now being below the one of a goldfish)
the use of video (which in B2B businesses is already ubiquitous) will become also omnipresent in B2C with social networks investing strongly in it. Traditional advertising budgets (mostly TV) are being reprioritized to fund digital video. Branded video content is an essential area of focus for marketers. According to anAOL survey, already now over 30% of brands’ digital video budgets are dedicated to branded video, a number expected to rise in 2016 and beyond. Traffic will shift from traditional media and written blog posts toward Facebook Live, Instagram video, YouTube, and other dedicated video sites. They will enable brands to reach consumer with e.g. serial shows similar to the traditional (= old-fashioned) television broadcast model.
Marketers will put brand(ed) videos into the center of their marketing activities (e.g. more product videos, more videos embedded on company sites). In addition, in 2016 marketers will focus more and more on VINE video clips and live-stream video platforms like Periscope and Meerkat.
The best marketers will have action plans in place which provide the most seamless integration of chat and video.

San Francisco-based makeup brand Benefit Cosmetics e.g. frequently engages its community on Periscope by hosting both Q&As and live makeup tutorials with its own experts as well as influencers. They have been pretty successful, with an average of more than 2,000 live viewers tuning in to a stream. The most recent session received over 19,700 hearts.

Red Bull, the popular energy drink which is known for successfully hopping into new social trends, live streamed on Meerkat a behind the scenes view from its half pipe competition.

A newer and very hot kid in the bursting video streaming apps market is a website called Blab. It´s a kind of Periscope or Meerkat for groups. On Blab four people can video chat simultaneously as an audience watches and comments. It is easier to use than the group video feature of Skype or Google Hangout. Plus, since Blab has tied itself closely to Twitter, it´s very easy to share Blab video chats on Twitter to go viral in a big way. Imagine conducting brand interviews and discussions on Blab, talk shows, casual hangouts, live workshops, etc. You can´t position and present your brand in a more social manner in the digital age.
Data Security – With the Internet of Things (IoT) moving to an Internet of Now (IoN) there will be even higher demands towards data security. Hacking has become a sort of sport. Quoting Michael Dell: “For the most part, companies can’t protect themselves on their own. The adversaries are very sophisticated. We’re talking about state-sponsored attacks, terrorism, identity-theft criminals, and activist groups. They are well funded–it’s a multibillion-dollar industry–and they are relentless. They’ve also automated the process of attacking…“
As a top marketer one of your biggest worries should be cyber-security and how to ensure the safety of your customers´data. Therefore leading brands hire specialized companies such as Social-Engineer to test the strength of their security both online and offline so they can identify where they’re weak.

Communication needs to matter and to be real time – Micro and group communities, so-called pocket communities, e.g. in Facebook Groups or in Slackwill become more relevant, since they permit more personable and real-time interactions. Targeted and personalized paid social media advertising is becoming a clear Must. This will include – besides videos and video streaming – blogging, podcasting, and webinars, since they grab the audience´s attention and deliver high ROI. Generating positive and sustainable „engagement that matters“ is key. In 2016 top brands will concentrate fiercely on building a strong base of highly committed and raving fans. Time spent with such fans as well as the quality of that time is more important than traffic and reaching whomever. Inspiring and sticky storytelling that is co-created and fun will play a major role.

When planning for your 2016 content strategy, you need to consider that there will the Olympic summer games in Brazil, UEFA Euro 2016 in France, and the US presidential election just to name a few. Meaning it will not only be a super cluttered year, but it´ll take smart and concentrated efforts to stand out of the crowd by producing meaningful, inspirational, and bold content that differentiates yourself from the rest of the gang. In this respect, besides the previously described media channels like video and live streaming, identifying and collaborating with main influencers (a hand-picked group of highly connected and reputable opinion leaders with big and relevant audiences) will bring content marketing to the next level. Smart marketers will set up an Influencer Marketing plan consisting of top bloggers, relevant business experts, influential journalists and other high impact persons and institutions.

Finally, I also expect a continued rise of episodic content. Meaning snippets of content that evolves along a plotline. Take Wattpad as an example which has produced with this approach some pretty successful authors and books.
Employee Advocacy as a major Social Currency – To build a strong brands, you need brand ambassadors, i.e. employees who are thoroughly engaged, highly committed, and authentic. According to the 2015 Edelmann Trust Barometer there is a tangible impact of trust. Nearly two-thirds of respondents refuse to buy products and services from a company they do not trust, while 58 percent will criticize them to a friend or colleague. Conversely, 80 percent chose to buy products from companies they trusted, with 68 percent recommending those companies to a friend.
Smart brands will take a fresh look at personal branding and how they tell their stories e.g. by empowering their employees to play a more active part in bonding with the audience and building honest and trustful relationships. For a good example have a look at Adobe on how they empower their employees and how well they share a human perspective people naturally gravitate to.
To support your team with relevant content in a structured way you could use tools such as Trello which houses everything your team might need online, i.e. employees can choose from a huge pool of unique ideas and data from your warehouse. Another cool app is SocialChorus which connects every employee to a daily digest of work news and content.

At the same time, giving employees the opportunity of getting more involved will increase their engagement in return and make them more enthusiastic about and committed to their work. It should not come as a surprise that, according to a recent Gallup study, actively engaged employees are healthier and more productive.
Customer and Content-centric Organizations – Digital marketing silos that segment various marketing efforts into stand alone functions are a remnant of the past. Most importantly, digital strategy isn’t just concerning digital marketing. Instead, digital transformation encompasses all facets of business – From R&D, sales, finance, legal, HR to strategic business planning.

One way of doing that in a more comprehensive manner is to introduce the role of a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) which is also postulated by various consultancies. A CDO is someone who understands the relevance and functioning of digital media and is able to lead the respective transformation of the organization. A rather demanding role which spans a broad set of hard and soft skills, which encompasses the entire organization, as well as working with outside partners such as designers and developers (and not tipping on the toes of the CIO and CTO).

Personally, I favor more an approach as outlined by G. Westermann and D. Bonnet in their excellent book Leading Digital by developing the whole organization to digital masters from the very beginning versus installing a sole “Digital Messiah.“ Westermann and Bonnet argue that for for marketers and executives to become truly outstanding in today´s and tomorrow´s digital age they need to become “Digital Masters“ who excel at two essential dimensions: First, they build digital capabilities by rethinking and improving their business processes, their customer engagements, and their business models. Second, they build strong leadership capabilities to envision and drive transformation. Each dimension of capability is important on its own. Together, they make you a Digital (Marketing) Master. In this respect successful brands will have to consolidate all of their marketing efforts into a unified strategy and organization.

In addition, top companies will lay out their key departments around the main axes “customer experience” and “continuous innovation.” They use less, but more holistically operating tools with more functionality. As marketers spend a lot of their time on content, top companies will come up with innovative automate marketing and CRM solutions.

In regards of content they are going to establish what I call “Social Media Buddy Teams (SMBT).“ One part of the SMBT will be responsible for strategy, analytics, and insights. The other one will look after content and social. Please also note that content marketers will need to develop their skills in order to become savvy directors of (short) videos and collaborate with hosts of live broadcasts, etc.

Forward-thinking top brands will work hard and smart to recruit and retain so-called hybrid marketers, i.e. tech-savvy and analytical minds which at the same time have a strong passion and aptitude for marketing. These next-generation professionals will establish new border- and silo-less organizations and will make traditional-minded marketers irrelevant.

Final Thoughts 
Top brands and marketers should focus their resources and efforts, i.e. generating results with a few channels as opposed of wanting to be everywhere. This is especially true for social media which has gone mainstream in the past few years. Sometimes to the detriment of building and maintaining lasting and personal relationships. The more exposure social media is getting, the bigger its wear-out-effect will be, if not managed properly. Brands should not forget about applying the basics, i.e. having an excellent email list with thousands of engaged existing and potential customers might be worth more than implementing the latest predictive analytics tools. An all-encompassing style of Digital Leadership is to be applied and executed by top-notch leaders.

Last but not least, marketers should better wake up and start comprehending that Millennials, Gen Z, etc. are not so different from everyone else – They´re looking for trustworthy brands they can relate with and which offer them added-values to satisfy their needs and wants.

 

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