Mobile, content, video, social – the media is flooded with predictions on how these aspects of marketing will evolve over the next 12 months.
But in my opinion, the critical success factor of great marketing in 2014 will be finding ways to break bad brand habits that can hinder communication.
I’m talking about the gaps that still exist in many organisations, inhibiting a joined-up approach, and the barriers that can prevent firms from developing purpose-driven strategies. Until these obstacles are overcome it is impossible to develop sustainable, meaningful communications, however much you invest.
A relevant tone of action will be the defining characteristic of the best marketing strategies next year. It’s all about a brand’s online behaviour and digital body language, across the full breadth of the organisation. That means all departments – not just the marketing team – need to share an awareness of and responsibility for communications.
And it goes deeper than that. Brands that can identify and harness core themes or ideas which are both relevant to their business and have resonance with customers are set to flourish. Establishing a true rapport with customers entails taking a big step back from corporate messaging, appreciating the wider context, and facilitating person-to-person communication that is rooted in reality.
This has an impact at a tactical level too. A brand’s values need to be conveyed implicitly in the decisions it makes, the issues it talks about and the way its representatives conduct themselves. Producing reams of message-heavy content that requires multiple levels of approval is not going to cut it. Instead, brands need to unlock ways to generate relevant and succinct information that adds value to online conversations in real-time. 2014 will be less about words and more about pictures, with infographics and video becoming mainstream for interesting content that is infinitely more digestible and shareable.
I agree with eMarketer’s view that social, mobile, video and advertising are on a rapid convergence path. But I hope this convergence will be coupled with more socially intelligent approaches across the breadth of channels and the breadth of organisations.
One thing is for sure. In 2014, marketers will be under more pressure than ever to demonstrate how their activity improves business performance. Measuring likes, shares and follows is not going to be enough. Many leading brands are now working with a new breed of marketing agency that can act as ‘solutions integrators’ as well as providing strategic and creative direction. These agencies have the aptitude to bridge gaps and overcome barriers that can prevent meaningful communications and effective measurement. They have the confidence to align themselves with business goals, then ensure activity is focused for maximum bottom-line impact.
I’m as keen as anyone to see the exciting ways in which marketing will evolve over the next 12 months. But it will all be meaningless if fundamental performance issues are not addressed.
Alana Griffiths is Marketing Strategy Director at Mason Zimbler.