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More of the Same, But Different

When people ask me what I think The Next Big Thing in marketing will be, my response usually goes something like this: There will be more of the same Big Things, just different.

That’s not to say that the coming year will be uneventful. Just the opposite. Each year—more like each passing day—a plethora of big and small opportunities, trends, and fads enter the scene. These shifts bring the same challenges marketers face every time something new arises: How do we weave this new thing (e.g., channel, strategy, customer expectation) into our current approach? What do we need to change to do so? What are the costs—dollars and otherwise—and is it worth it?

There are several Big Things marketers are currently wrangling. Data is one. Marketers, especially direct marketers, have always used data. But the amount of and access to potentially actionable customer data has never been greater. Marketers elated by the prospect of using that information have to consider how they gather and use its golden nuggets, while staying on the right side of the “cool versus creepy” line. Legislators are hot on enacting privacy directives that would render far too much of that glorious data useless. So, although data isn’t a new thing it’s a Big Thing—and will continue to be as its volume and velocity speeds forward.

Another Big Thing is mobile. It’s been The Year of Mobile for so many years that I can’t even recall when the first one was. But the enormous increase in smartphone adoption, along with the proliferations of apps and technologies such as geo-targeting, keeps mobile on the forefront of Big Things. What’s more, customers’ ever-increasing proclivity for checking email, researching and purchasing goods, and connecting with social networks via smartphones has marketers scrambling to optimize their email and website experiences for mobile. So whether there will actually ever be a Year of Mobile, marketers consider mobile a very Big Thing that will only get bigger as smartphone adoption continues to expand.

Customer-led trends

The last Big Thing I’ll mention here is customer experience (CX). Marketers who think this is something new are forgetting how long Disneyland has been in business. Or perhaps they’ve never lived by the type of corner store where proprietors treat customers like family. Customer experience—the all-encompassing, excellence-is-in-the-details type of CX—has been in existence since there were buyers and sellers; however, the spoiling of customers by the likes of Amazon and Zappos have transformed top-notch CX from a nice-to-have to a must-have. Every poor interaction is a threat to CX, and thus a threat to retention and advocacy. Many marketers have become the de facto “owners” of CX; after all, it’s their brand promise that sets customers’ expectations. For those marketers, CX will remain a Big Thing as they work diligently to continually meet customers’ ever-evolving expectations.

So, will there be a hot new channel, social network, or technology? Of course there will be. And marketers captivated by shiny objects will rush to harness it. But the real Big Things, the ones with staying power that “are more of the same, but different,” will continue to be the things that have biggest potential for both immediate and long-lasting revenue impact and competitive advantage.

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