Every year, January follows a well-established pattern in which the familiar and collective sigh of PRs returning to work is accompanied by an avalanche of inaccurate predictions about the future of our industry.
“But it’s no longer January,” I hear you guffaw. True enough, although I still have a bitter taste in my mouth, and it’s not whisky.
With the Dry Month behind us, and the majority of New Year’s resolutions consigned to the bonfire of good intentions, it’s time to hit delete on the snowdrift of utter bollocks that’s clogged up my inbox over the past month or so.
According to industry pundits, 2016 is the year “campaigns need to engage emotions”. Meanwhile “cutting the cord” and “living in the moment”are a must.
And of course millennials are no longer the most important demographic, with a certain gentleman predicting the death of them this year – a morbid thought.
“Stunts need to try harder”, shouted some, while others quipped that “less is even more” because “nothing beats a great idea in 2016” – a highly original aphorism, i’m sure you’ll agree.
Combine that with “a media landscape that will continue to develop and change”, and it’s clear that most of these predictions are simply vacuous statements masquerading as bold insights.
In fact, an experiment by psychologist Philip Tetlock, who analysed 82,361 forecasts from 284 experts across two decades, emphatically proved that forecasts are just as likely to be wrong as they are right.
In Tetlock’s words, a dart-throwing monkey would fare little better if given the same task.
And if Mr Tetlock is right, then we can also assume that funnel reversal, transmedia branding and the rise of Climatarians – predictions for 2015 – are also meaningless.
These joined seamless experiences and self expression as the highly original trends for 2015, while others observed mobile marketing will continue to expand (a fact not a prediction).
With the benefit of hindsight, I’m struggling to see how any of these predictions have been helpful, let alone accurate.
Retracing our steps to the here and now, what we discover, unsurprisingly, is a regurgitation of last year’s dinner. It wasn’t enough for some that 2015 would see a creative renaissance in PR (whatever that means), they then felt the need to reiterate how business-critical creativity is in PR for 2016.
Authenticity has been another recurrent theme, with one armchair pundit opining, “Company culture in 2015 should focus on authenticity, transparency, leadership and corporate purpose”.
A year on, and another expert warns “any lack of transparency and authenticity coming from an organisation will not be tolerated”. How perspicacious of them.
Stating the bleedin’ obvious has never been so profound. Time and time again, we’re afforded the pleasure of learning about how X will be the year that sees visuals grow in popularity, or Y will be the year of video.
Visuals came about when primitive man began drawing on the walls of caves – and for those still living under a rock, YouTube launched over a decade ago. Much as these PR soothsayers invite us to applaud their originality, visuals and video are hardly novel trends.
There’s only one major trend that I foresee – and that’s the continued peddling of marketing bullshit disguised as ‘game-changing’ insight. And if that’s not seamless self-expression, I don’t know what is. Anyone for monkey darts?
By Warren Johnson, founder and CEO of W