10 Digital Marketing Trends for 2015

It’s the season of tinsel and top 10 lists, plum pudding and predictions — the time when marketers look ahead and resolve to evolve in the year to come. If you thought 2014 was full of surprises, wait until you see what the new year has in store.

1. Original Video Content

GoPro, Red Bull, Chipotle, Samsung, and Dove racked up the video views again this year. Their peers were watching. New video projects like Activia and Shakira’s La La La (Brazil 2014) in support of the World Food Programme and School Meals Programme and UPS’s Your Wishes Delivered campaign engaged and delighted viewers by focusing on telling good stories. Given the consumer response to original video content from brands (the below video generated more than 1 million views in a week), we’re likely to see much more of this in 2015.

2. Owned Stories

Spending on native ads is rising, with marketers expected to spend $4.3 billion on the format in 2015. At the same time, we’re seeing greater investments in owned content. This year alone Microsoft launched Microsoft Stories, Apple built a rich collection of original videos, and both Net-a-Porter and Airbnb launched print magazines. Native ads may be going strong, but brands are starting to appreciate that owned content – and the dedicated community that comes along with it – has its own rewards.

3. Mobile-First Marketing

You’d be hard-pressed to find a list of marketing trends that doesn’t include a mobile-first strategy. Most analysts agree that brands will have to put more thought into leveraging mobile technology in the coming months in order to create experiences that serve consumers’ needs.

Kathy Stromberg, vice president of marketing at Webtrends, agrees. “Marketers now have to find a way to make media concise and digestible enough to resonate for consumers who are on the go and viewing from a 3-inch screen,” she says. “Best practices are still being developed, so the opportunity is around defining what works and what doesn’t in the evolving space of mobile.”

4. Marketing in Real-Time

From the moment the Ellen DeGeneres selfie broke Twitter on Oscar Night, marketers started to see real-time marketing in a different way. Months later a video about “reactvertising” called us out on the folly of trying to respond to cultural events at the drop of a hat, but by then brands had jumped on everything from the World Cup to #Bendgate, often with great success. Parodies notwithstanding, look for more RTM and live-tweeting as marketers continue to strive for social media relevance.

5. Hyper-Personalization

Personalization has made its way into just about every aspect of digital marketing, but next year will bring a heightened use of algorithms to hyper-personalize ads. Retargeting and location targeting will pair up in more marketing campaigns to deliver a cohesive consumer experience that anticipates and responds to the customer’s every need.

6. Positivity

First JetBlue and Zappos launched the Happiest Travel Day – an in-terminal game show with prizes for travelers – then WestJet riffed on last year’s Christmas Miracle with a video that evoked the Spirit of Giving. The more researchers analyze what makes videos go viral the more they find that emotional content drives shares, and positive status updates are “contagious.” The established success of upbeat videos, particularly those that allow brands to demonstrate customer appreciation, will spawn more of the same.

7. Visual Marketing

Already big in 2014, the appeal of visual marketing will reach still more brands. YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Vine will play a greater role in content marketing strategies, but so too will individual pieces of content like infographics and data visualizations. Taco Bell won’t be the last brand to petition for a product-specific emoji. B2B marketers will recognize the value of visual social media and follow GE’s path to visual storytelling success online.


8. Visual Influencers

“We’re in the midst of a visual culture shift that will undoubtedly accelerate in 2015.” According to Forbes, 2015 will be the age of visual influence, when consumer-generated content rules and niche content creators on Instagram and YouTube wield unprecedented power. Brands are so eager to collaborate with visual influencers and learn to create better visual content themselves that some recently attended a YouTube-operated “boot camp” designed to get them up to speed. This trend will open new doors for brand partnerships and offer direct access to the coveted Millennial market.

9. Omnichannel Advertising

You know the term from online retail, but an omnichannel mindset is as critical to advertising as it is to site design. Customers expect a unified cross-channel experience, and ads that don’t react to that will fall flat. Among marketers’ go-to tactics will be programmatic personalization, such that consumers receive customized, relevant content wherever they go and brands can better optimize their ad spend.

10. Marketing Memes

Memes are a constant in social media. But this year’s #Bendgate – along with #BreakTheInternet and #AlexFromTarget – reminded brands that when done right, memes can spell big exposure (pardon the pun, Kim).

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