Following is a re-run of the post from January 2016 when I again rubbed my crystal balls and made some predictions for the year.
Let me know if you think the scores I gave myself are reasonable.
7 trends driving business in 2016.
Like everyone else who sees themselves as having a useful view of the train coming at us, I have again tried to articulate the things I see as important to businesses, particularly the smaller ones that make up my client base.
- The density of digital content is becoming overwhelming.
Businesses have always generated and distributed ‘content’, but it was called ‘advertising’ or ‘collateral material’. Since we all became publishers, and the marginal costs of access to markets approached zero, there has been a content explosion, and we are now being overwhelmed. It has become pretty clear that video will take over as the primary vehicle of messaging, and I expect that trend to consolidate over the coming year, and see a bunfight for eyeballs between social media and search platforms
Ad blockers will change the way the so called pay walls work, as well as ensuring that the density of content is replaced by less but better stuff. Ad blockers may be come discriminatory, allowing through stuff that the algorithms know you have been searching for.
The focus on content will be on the sales funnel and conversion metrics, much more than just pumping the stuff out, which will be a good thing for those who manage their inboxes.
Commentary Jan 2017
I think I got this fairly right, although video has not surpassed everything else as I expected, and I have not seen ad blockers becoming discriminatory as yet. Still might happen in 2017, but it is a bit like sticking a finger in the dam wall if you think it will stop the flow. 3/5.
- Existing digital platforms will extend themselves competitively to attract new users, increase the usage and ‘stickiness’ of their platforms. Linkedin’s successful extension of their blogging platform and purchase of Slideshare are one, Facebook is aggressively setting out to attract new users by making themselves attractive to developers and others, with the launch of FB techwire in an attempt to attract the really technically oriented including those writing about tech, Twitter appears to be trying to find ways of monetising their users and will probably apply controls to the currently uncontrolled stream in your feed, but there again, I thought that last year and they did not do it.
Also, platforms will recognise the huge potential of the B2B advertising market, and find ways to exploit it. Many B2B businesses are reluctant to use social advertising as they see the platforms as essentially B2C and therefore not appropriate for their products and services. This is a huge potential market for business, and the social platforms will be cashing it.
Commentary Jan 2017.
Again, not bad. Microsoft bought LinkedIn during the year for 26 billion, which proves the point of the potential for B2B of social platforms. Microsoft will want a return pretty quickly, so expect the free version of LinkedIn to be stripped back, with features being transferred to the paid versions. Got it wrong, again, about the monetisation of Twitter. 3/5
- Rate of Technology adoption is still increasing. Ray Kurzweil’s 2005 TED talk on the rate of technology adoption is resonating louder now than a decade ago. Some of his observations such as the rate of cost decline of solar technology and battery technology efficiency are coming to pass. However, it is his basic thesis of the logarithmic rate of technology adoption that will engulf us over the coming short term. Think about the confluence of big data and machine learning. When you wipe away all the tech-talk and hyperbole, it comes down to a simple notion: the “friction” of information that has always existed is being removed at logarithmic rates, progressively revealing more stuff to see, and to do with the stuff we have. As we go online, and use technology throughout the value and marketing chain, technology is reducing costs, speeding cycle time, and opening opportunities for innovation.
Commentary Jan 2017.
Chances of getting that wrong were pretty slim, so a fair score is warranted, although the specifics of a prediction were not what I would expect of a soothsayer, way too general. 4/5
- Evolution of the “marketing technology stack”. For most small businesses this can be as simple as a good website with a series if resources available to collect email addresses, and an autoresponder series on the back.
For large businesses it can be a hugely complicated stack of software running CRM, customer service and scheduling, marketing messages, and the integration of social channels.
Commentary Jan 2017.
If anything I underestimated the speed of Martech adoption, and the rapidly increasing options. Scott Brinker continues to be the thought leader in this space, and I look forward to his 2017 Martech landscape graphic. 4/5
- Big data to little data. The opportunities presented by big data are mindboggling, but even the big companies are having trouble hooking their data together in meaningful ways let alone introducing the third dimension of big data.
Small companies will have to start to use little data better, or die. Data already available to them is becoming easier to use every day, to turn into insights about their niche, local market, and competitive claims. Simple things like pivot tables in excel will be used, and tools like Tableau which brings a structure to data from differing sources including big data, will become more widely recognised by small business for the value it can deliver.
Big data will have machine learning applied, and the data revolution will get another shove along. From a non technologists perspective, industrial strength data systems such as IBM’s “Watson” must drive some sort of further revolution, but my crystal ball is too cloudy for me to have much of an idea of the impact beyond making what we currently see as advanced systems look a bit like a pencil and paper look to us today.
Commentary Jan 2017.
Small and medium companies still have a huge and increasing capability gap when it comes to the management of data. While it is powering ahead in large enterprises with the resources and energy to pursue digital, SME’s are floundering. Over the course of the year several clients I started working with did not even use the most basic data analysis capabilities of their own data with simple excel tools. 3/5
- Technology hardware explosion becomes over-hyped. The volume and type of hardware that has become available is as overwhelming as the access to and availability of information. Driverless, wearables, AI, 3D, blah,blah. Each of the developments has its place, and may change our lives at some point, but there is just so much of it that we are becoming immune to the hype. Who needs a tweeting washing machine anyway?
So, what is next?
Seems to me that we are on the cusp of an energy disruption driven by the combination of hardware and advanced materials science . The technology surrounding renewables is in the early stages of an explosion that will change the face of everything. Highly regulated and costly energy infrastructure distributing energy will start to be replaced with decentralised renewable power generation, much the same as PC’s replaced mainframe computers 30 years ago. The catalyst to this metamorphous will be the combination of governments that are broke and no longer able to fund the institutionalised energy systems and the development of a reliable “battery” system. Elon Musk has made a huge bet on his “Powerwall” battery system and manufacturing plant currently under construction, and it would be a brave person that bet against him. However, looking well ahead, it seems probable that it is the beginning of the logarithmic adoption curve of renewable power following the path of Ray Kurzweil and Gordon Moore.
Commentary Jan 2017.
The action has replaced the hype in several areas, with the IOT dropping down the list, and VR and Augmented VR rapidly becoming a reality.
I expected to see Musk’s Power Wall start a huge adoption curve which appears not to have happened, although his Tesla cars have proved to be a smash hit. However, Governments around the world, and certainly in Australia are profoundly gun shy when it comes to actually doing what they say they will do about the digital and power infrastructures we rely on. Their inability to move beyond the simplistic populist bullshit, self- interest, nonsensical press releases, and immediate electoral cycle is profoundly disturbing. 3/5
- Marketing has always been about stories. However, somehow ‘content’ got in the way of those stories, and marketing became a different beast in the last 10 years. We will go back to marketing, and start to tell stories that resonate with individual targets. Storytelling will become again the core, and we will be looking for storytellers in all mediums, written, pictorial, video, as we all absorb and recount stories in different ways.
All the good journos displaced by the disruption of traditional publishing can find great places in this new world of marketing storytelling, if they are any good. The competition is strong, and the results immediate and transparent so no longer can you get away with rubbish. Organisations will change to accommodate the fact that everyone is in marketing
We will become more aware of the permanent nature of the internet, and the manner in which our brand properties need to be managed.
In a commoditised world, where the transparency of price makes competition really aggressive, the value of a brand is increasingly important, and fragile.
These 5 extraordinarily stupid examples of how not to do it should be a wake-up to the CEO’s who leave marketing to the junior marketers, often a transient bunch who have no investment in the business or brand, they are just there for a good time, and usually a short time.
One day I will do a study that compares the realisable value of the tangible assets of businesses compared to their value as calculated by the market. My instinct tells me that in many stock market categories the biggest item as calculated by the difference between those two numbers represented as goodwill and inflated realisable values, will be the biggest item on the asset side. In short, the value of their brands and customer relationships. Managers and boards need to deeply consider the nature of the people they have managing their brands, or risk losing them, often before breakfast, as the speed of disruption and change continues to increase.
Commentary Jan 2017.
Marketing is still about stories, always will be, the challenge increasingly is getting the stories seen. There will continue to be money wasted on stupid, irrelevant and sometimes offensive marketing, nothing to be done about that, the gene pool is still pretty shallow when it comes to marketing decision making.
As we go into 2016, the 3 questions every board and management should be asking themselves are:
“If I was starting in this business today, what would I be doing to deliver value?”, and
“If a leveraged buyout happened, what would the new management be doing to unlock the value in the business?” and
“What do I need to do to implement the answers to the two above?”
Have a great 2016, and thanks for engaging with me.
Addendum Jan 2017.
These three are still great questions, and I suspect will be in another 50 years irrespective of technology and all the other distractions. People will still be people, and we will still behave in ways dictated by hundreds of thousands of years of behavioural evolution, not the tech of the last 20.
Have a great 2017, and thanks for engaging over the course of the year.