crystal ball


It is new years eve 2015, and being an advocate of accountability, it is only right that I submit myself to scrutiny over the predictions made in January for 2014.

Below is a reproduction of the post from January 2014, with a few comments and the score I (generously) gave myself.

All in all, a pretty good record I think, although I struggle to find much quantitative data to support the generous scores.



  • Simple is the new complicatedAll the conversations about social media, analytics, fragmentation of just about everything, we are bombarded with messages, options, and imperatives. Amid all this, marketing is at work, and the stuff that works is simple, cut through ideas. David Ogilvy had a bunch of “Olgivyisms”, one of which was , “big ideas are usually simple ideas”. This still holds true, it is just the big ideas have to cut through more fluff and interference than in Ogilvy’s day, and there is more confusing analytics and alternatives to be considered.
    • Score. This remains a prediction, but I guess simplicity will always be a primary objective of thinking marketers. I think it was that great proponent of simplicity Steve Jobs who said “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. 3/5
  • Simplicity facilitated by new tools. Tools to leverage the capabilities of the web have been getting simpler by the month. It will reach the point where those with absolutely no computer skills at all can participate. WordPress has made building a web presence pretty easy, but now  the new generation of similar tools like  Weebly, take that a further step. The 40% of SME’s who have no web  presence beyond a facebook page set up by their children, has passed, they no longer have an excuse.
    • Score. I think this prediction still holds, but I remain astonished at how many small businesses do not get it.  The 40% of SME’s without websites remains about the right figure, sand  the take-up  the new tools does not seem to be as wide as I expected.2/5
  • Reach and frequency is dead. This was the mantra of paid  advertising for most  of my long career, you paid for both in a matrix that focused on a demographic,   “women 25-40 with children” or “working women earning over  50k” and so on. Before behavior based analytics with any more  accuracy than a big U&A study, it was the best we could do, but it was pretty crap. Now with every man, his friends, and parents on facebook  LinkedIn, Pinterest, et al, reach and  frequency have a different sound. The enormous penetration of social media and the opportunity for behavioural analytics have changed the dynamics of advertising, and advertisers have raced to the new platforms, without recognising that the existence of the platform, free, and ubiquitous, has changed the rules entirely.
    • Score.  Not as dead as I thought, but declining. The wider use by Google and facebook particularly of advertising payments based on an outcome beyond just “availability” of an ad is a step that has highlighted to marketers the value of closely defining their targets then personalising communications. Most small businesses however still do not have much idea of how to best use Googles adwords and facebook ads.3/5
  • Banner advertising on the web is also dead. Web banners simply do not work in the way a banner on the corner of your street did. They do not  grab attention, and convey a message, they are simply in the way.  Look  no further than the huge drop in rates from a decade ago when they were touted to be the next advertising El Dorado. I am not surprised, simple supply and demand economics would indicate that when supply is infinite, the price at which demand can be met is  close to zero. However, there is a caveat. The IPO of facebook in 2012, and Twitter in November 13, based on revenue projections that demand banner ads remain revenue generators is forcing some pretty smart people to consider how to make them sufficiently relevant to continue to attract revenue, and they may just crack the code.
    • Score. Did poorly here, marketers are still wasting huge sums on digital banner ads that promise reach, but deliver little of value. I am not sure if this is stupid marketers, or stupid boardrooms, either way, I score myself down. 1/5
  • Values matter, more than ever. The temptation is to “pimp” your products and services at every opportunity. LinkedIn forums are full of new “discussions”, which are just pimping a product, very few get opened, they certainly rarely create an discussion, and are one step away from Spam. If you are gong to spend your resources,  money, time, talent, on marketing, make it count, tell people  “why”. Steve Jobs articulated this very well when launching the now famous “Think Different” ad to Apple employees.
    • Score. Got this wrong, pimping products seems to be more prevalent than it was in 2013, but I am prepared to believe that the worm will turn at some point. Perhaps 2015?
  • Content is serious business. Content is not just a word, it is a consumer of considerable marketing resources, and the capability  of creative content creation to build a brand is evolving at a rapid rate. In the past, I  have wondered at the capacity of the web as a brand building device, giving it top marks as a medium of delivery, but I could not think of a brand that had been built by the net. Now it seems, that Red Bull will get a guernsey. Their web presence is exceptional, huge resources are put into creating the positioning as extreme sports in all sorts of amazing  ways. This best of 2013 post on Digiday has some great marketing, including Red Bull, and this terrific story of an old Nissan Maxima . The new year will see great strides in video brand building, the pace of creative change, and the socialization of the change, as demonstrated by the Maxima example, will continue to accelerate.  In 2014, the “Social” component, promising businesses interacting with their markets for free, will be overtaken by the “media” part of the social media equations, as to be noticed  bucks will have to be spent. There will  be the off the wall hits, but the average cost of being seen will go up substantially. Content creation without any content marketing and compelling reason why a consumer should even look at it let alone give it any consideration will rapidly become almost useless.  Your content is competing in a highly competitive and fragmented market for a share of consumers limited attention, and the old rules of marketing apply.
    • Score. At last, a 5, and the evolution will continue.
  • Environmental” research. This is not tree-hugging,  it is my term for standing back and forming a view of the context in which your customers and markets live, what is changing that will alter their lives, and how can you leverage those changes by innovating in the manner  in which you serve them. Now more than ever, this is a skill required, as there is simply so much data and information around, it is easier than  ever to drown in the detail without understanding the context. For example, in my view, 3-D printing is an emerging disruption, not just  to manufacturing but across industries that are in any way engaged with selling “things” rather than  services. Forming some views on how this may impact on you, and your value  chains, and taking steps to build the capabilities that will become necessary to survive and prosper is as important as breathing.
    • Score. The jury is out, but the judge (me) still sees this sort of research as absolutely fundamental to success. 3/5
  •  Data accumulation and “personal  leveraging”  Word of mouth has always been the best marketing tool available, now the continuing development of social media  platforms and marketing automation, the  opportunity to be  “personal” is increasing with every day that passes. In  conjunction with this is the building of lists, contacts with whom you have the opportunity to build a relationship.
    1. Score. Absolutely. 5/5
  • Every person is a potential media channel. Just consider the capability to connect to facebook, LinkedIn, and the rest, and send  information, ideas, links, referrals, to everyone in their networks. Media channels used to be a few radio, TV, newspaper and magazine channels, they were all one way, the “stuff” got pushed out and the opportunity to respond was limited to letters to the editor. No longer!
    • Score. Still the case, although many, perhaps most small businesses are still not taking advantage of the opportunities.
  • Personal KaizenKaizen is Japanese word for “continuous improvement” extensively used in lean literature.  Lean is more than just an operational strategy, it is one for every facet of  your life and business. Every time you do something, strive to do it better, by being smarter, than the time before. Being serious about personal kaizen makes you curious, interested, and interesting, qualities that attract opportunity.
    • Score. I have seen the tern “Kaizen” pop up a bit in the last 12 months in the marketing literature, but  that does not mean much is happening. I leave it to you to mark yourself. My mark of me, a bit harsh, but private.
  • Craftsmanship. In a world of increasing homogeneity delivered by specification driven design and manufacturing, where differences are often just cosmetic and qualitative, genuine craftsmanship, bespoke design, and catering to the individuality of people is increasingly important. The extent to which craftsmanship and “manufacturing” beyond the C20 concepts of mass manufacturing for operational  efficiency can become integrated is just starting to evolve.  There are many examples, one I am personally familiar with is Ian berry who is Ironsides leather. Ian crafts leather, belts, harness, bags, using just the old tools of the trade, experience, true skill, and passion. It is true craftsmanship, and buying a belt from him is receiving a gift of that experience and craftsmanship. Ian is also a great advertisement for  the point above about simplicity. He produced his website using a Weebly template, a   few photos, and a bit of time, no cost. No HTML, no complex menus, no computer skills beyond a one finger  familiarity with a keyboard.
    • Score. Still the case, perhaps more so. 5/5
  • Marketing and technology will continue to collide. The days of marketing being unaccountable are over,  there is no excuse for not  calculating the ROI of your marketing investments these days. Scott Brinkers blog on the intersection oftechnology and marketing is a terrific resource, his thinking on this is in front of the pack, and allied with Avinash Kaushik’s wonderful Occam’s Razor blog, there is enough brain food to keep most of us fed on the topic.
    • Score. Also still the case, if anything, the rate of growth of marketing technology is accelerating. The first Marketing technology conference held in Boston in march 2014 was a resounding success, and I hear from Scott Brinker that the second planned for march 2015 will be even bigger. Enough said. 5/5
  • Collaborative marketplaces will continue to rise and rise. The web 2.0 enabled one way markets to thrive,  Amazon, Ebay, electronic banking, and many others. More recently,  collaborative marketplaces have emerged, where both sides of the transaction put something in, rather than just buying a product. Airbnb, Uber, and many others, will continue to explode, mainstream companies in areas threatened will need to consider how they respond. Car hire companies need to have a service, to disrupt themselves, hotel chains need an equivalent to Airbnb, and so on, the disruption is profound, and just beginning.  The best thinking around in this is being done by Jeremiah Owyang, whosebody of work on the topic is extraordinary.
    • Score. Still the case, and accelerating. Jerry Owyang’s  latest database of recently funded startups on the topic is extraordinary, and expanding. 5/5
  • Mobile  firstUse of mobile devices to access websites and social media platforms continues to increase, reaching numbers in late 2013 upward of 65%, and reaching the eighties for some specific sites, numbers that astonish even the bullish predictions of a year ago. In developing countries, where the economies  are booming, and fixed line infrastructure is limited, mobile and wireless have simply jumped ahead, and the infrastructure of the developed world will simply not be installed. It is these countries that are driving mobile innovation.
    • Score. Still the case. 5/5

Let me know what you think,

Another amongst the tsunami of 2015 prediction posts will be along in a few days, but as has been my focus in the past, I seek to articulate the strategic drivers and trends I think will shape our commercial environment, rather than make specific predictions about particular events. Makes holding me to account that much harder.

Hope you had a good Christmas break, now almost over, and that 2015 is a stellar year for you.

Thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing over 2014.