The (only) two trends in Marketing
Yes, I think there are just two that matter.
I recently carried out some research for a client, looking at the latest trends in e-commerce: there were 31 distinctive "new trends".
Similarly we can find plenty of content about new trends in content marketing...or trends about automation, SEO, social media, PPC, analytics, CRM, Media consumption, mobile marketing, technology and programmatic display.
The diagram below shows the current ad-tech landscape: one indicator that there is a significant level of complexity in the market.
Another interesting data point is the amount of affiliate activity there is behind the sale of marketing courses. An affiliate network recently told me that Viagra and related products are in first place, weight loss product in second, and in third place we find "online marketing courses".
I think we can safely say that in today's market there is a lot of both, noise and complexity.
Marketing today is a more complex discipline then it has ever been, but at the same time, today more than ever, it can separate the winners from the losers. The success comes from implementation and there is no doubt about this. If your pages don't load quickly, if your analytics isn't accurate or if your automation software is poorly implemented, then things won't work, even with the best possible strategy in place. To excel you need to have your finger on the pulse of the industry and be aware of all the most recent trends in each specific area.
On a strategic level however I would like to point out that there are two key marketing trends to keep in mind.
1. Data fluidity (and data driven advertising)
Digital technology allows for each interaction to be tracked and each data point to be stored and activated across different platforms. At the highest level advertising today is all about data; it informs what message you send, what creative you use, what device you target, at what time and how much you should pay for that eyeball. You might be booking a BA flight on your PC and ten minutes later booking.com may target you with a relevant ad on your mobile device.
Data driven advertising can require a high level of sophistication in areas like system architecture, big data analytics and automation. If done well it can be extremely powerful: it allows advertisers to accurately measure their ROI, test and learn new tactics and continuously scale their advertising investments with a high level of confidence that they will pay off. (Nothing too new here)
2. Advertising isn't working so well
People download ad-blockers for their phones and for the laptops and watch movies on Netflix, where there are no ads. Let's be honest, people never really liked ads - now they have the means to avoid them. Scott Galloway, marketing professor at NYU, has called advertising a tax on poor people.
Similarly, some of today's most successful companies have grown, (very fast), without advertising. Uber is the prime example, they only recently started advertising to attract more drivers. Another good example is AirBnB and so is Google. I recently spoke to a sector specific social network with already over 6,000,000 registered users, growing at over 10,000 users a day, without advertising!
These data points cannot be ignored.
Using techniques like content marketing, product marketing, growth hacking, influencer marketing and PR a number of firms have outperformed the competition. Achieving this however requires skills around content production, social media, PR, psychology, product management and in some cases big data analytics.
Some may argue that only new digital start-ups can promote themselves in a certain way, but this isn't true.
Sure an established company may have certain brand guidelines to follow and maybe even a compliance department to involve, but this does not mean they don't have the same tools available, they just need to radically change their approach, (this is what digital transformation is about - which isn't just broadcasting your ads online rather than on TV, but it's about updating skills, technology, KPIs and processes).
To be clear, all media channels can be effective; depending on your product category and market positioning some channels will be a better fit than others. I am convinced that for some firms online advertising may play only a small role. I also think that no marketing strategy can be well formulated if it doesn't carefully consider the implications of the two major trends we talked about.