Ah, remember the late 90s? A time of great promise, like a verdant digital spring bursting with vivid, varied color and light-headed anticipation.
“I like to refer to it as the time of the great happiness, when all boats were rising,” said Rick Chavez, chief solution officer at Microsoft Marketing Solutions, with a jokey wistfulness, speaking at ad:tech 2013 in New York City.
The marketing world was abuzz with talk about digital as a transformative force. The feeling was: CHANGE IS AROUND THE CORNER. IT’S HAPPENING. IT’S HAPPENING… Well, we overestimated how soon it would all go down, but not how impactful digital would become. It’d be impossible to do that.
“Consumers at work, at home, and on-the-go at their jobs, at night, on their mobile devices—their facility with technology is outstripping our ability to fulfill their needs,” Chavez says. “It’s a strange, interesting, and challenging thing.”
That’s why Microsoft recently conducted a study with Future Laboratory and IPG Mediabrands into global digital trends for 2014. I mean, it’s good to know what you’re dealing with. Microsoft posed a series of probing questions to 45 top digerati around the world (in USA, Sweden, Brazil, Russia, UK, Germany, Czech Republic) and talked to 8,000 online consumers to discern preferences, needs, and behaviors—basically, to figure out where the puck will be and where the puck is right now, “not in our own prognostications, but in their minds and their views,” Chavez said.
Microsoft and its partners identified eight major trends, most of which reflect what’s happening already, right now. In 2014, and beyond, we’ll just see more and more of it. But before delving into the trends, an important point from Chavez: We don’t just have half a brain.”
“We’re all clearly whole brain people—we have a left brain and a right brain,” Chavez said. “In the research it seems like some of the patterns and trends are about data initially, or just the experience or the emotive side, but there’s starting to be a combination of these things, which feeds into the challenge we face as marketers.”
As Chavez pointed out: We’re not “digital people,” we’re just people who use digital, which means putting the consumer at the epicenter.
Okay, let’s do this thing:
Digital trend #1: Value Me
Basically, if consumers are giving you access to their data, you’d better give them a valuable experience in return. Consumers want their data cultivated to meet their needs, not to help you sell your product—brands that can provide the former and still do the latter are the smart ones.
Digital trend #2: Enhancing the Real
This one’s about combining the digital and the physical worlds. “Give me the blended, intimate experience I expect because I’m a human being,” Chavez said. “I live in 3D, not in a bit stream.”
Digital trend #3: Intelligently On
Consumers are super-connected—everything from their phone to their fridge—which means they’re probably getting about 27 zillion marketing communications and push notifications and who knows what all almost 24 hours a day. Devices should make a consumer’s life more convenient, not more annoying.
Digital trend #4: Age of Serendipity
Technology that’s functioning how it should be will help consumers discover things about themselves they didn’t even know—new hobbies, music tastes, interesting content. Just look at the capabilities of a learning technology like Pandora.
Digital trend #5: Right to Anonymity
“This speaks to my desire as a human being to be able to control my data and my digital footprint,” Chavez said. “There might be some interesting photos of me in college I’m fine with when I’m 20, but I might not want job recruiters to see them when I’m 25.”
Digital trend #6: Niche Networks
Massive social networks are fine, but the next big thing is about connecting with smaller groups of like-minded individuals.
Digital trend #7: My Analytics
There’s a mountain of personal data out there; data on our sleep habits, our fitness, our favorite movies. What we’ll see more of is the creation of dashboards that combine all this data, thereby “allowing those moments to be moments of marketing possibility for brands to reach me with offers that matter to me,” Chavez said.
Digital trend #8: Creator Culture
Once the analytics are in place, that’ll lead to consumers co-creating experiences with brands, rather than consuming experiences the brands create.
“To win in this new highly digitized world that’s both right and left brained, both analytic and emotive, takes a village; it takes multiple disciplines to pull this off,” Chavez said. “The takeaway for you as marketers is this: Left brain, it’s time to meet your right brain.”