2015 promises to be another year of high growth for mobile, but also a year of transformation. Users will continue to do more of the same (watching video, listening to music, search, engage socially, …) but will also do new and different things, such as using mobile as a virtual assistant, a payment method, a remote control to activate other devices, and much more. As advertisers seek to deepen connections with consumers and be relevant in the key touch-points, mobile will often become the platform and opportunity to do so.
As mobile usage will transform itself in 2015, digital marketing will be transformed as a consequence. Here is how I believe it will happen.
#1. The rebirth of content marketing
Content marketing is based on the mantra that users will engage with content that is valuable to them. The right content at the right time can educate users, entertain them, inspire them, and users have been willing to trade their attention for relevant and useful content. Content marketing is an exchange of value between users and advertisers: your attention in exchange for a service that has some value. Now, as mobile becomes the main platform to engage with consumers, advertisers will reap the benefit: mobile devices have always been providing a service to consumers, and as users perform new activities with their mobile devices in 2015, advertisers will have the opportunity to enable valuable experiences in native ways. For example, as mobile devices increasingly assume the role of personal assistants, advertisers will be able to provide content to meet that expectation and be useful to consumers.
#2. Content types will further converge
Video, music, gaming, and social will further converge. We are already seeing a dramatic increase in watchtime of gaming content (passive gaming), dominant video and music platforms like YouTube and Spotify are becoming more social (and YouTube just launched a music service as well, Music Key), and branded content is following the same direction, with more gamified content and more music partnerships. In 2015 these trends will only accelerate, and new experiments will take off, blending different types of content. For example, gaming will grow in virtual reality and become even more social and connected to video. Alternative reality gaming is another interesting space to watch, as Niantic Lab’s Endgame kicked-off just recently and will bring gaming, social, and video together in the same experience.
#3. Context (not content) is king
So far, the potential of mobile devices to provide context-based signals hasn’t really been exploited, largely due to technical and privacy constraints. However, tech players like Apple, Facebook and Google have been gearing up to provide more context-based signals to advertisers (for example, in October Facebook launched hyperlocal ads to target users within a mile of a business), and advertisers will massively embrace these new possibilities, especially as they strive for relevance and better ROI on their ad spend. Also, in 2015, as people leverage their mobile devices for new uses, they will be increasingly keen on trading their personal information (including position, what they buy, etc) for useful services, which should give a further boost to context-based advertising.
#4. From storytelling to magic moments
This is going to be a hard one to swallow for many marketers. In 2014 (and 2013) we saw a convergence of film-making and advertising, which resulted in beautiful pieces of storytelling (my favorite remains P&G’s thank you mom campaign). Lack of constraints when it comes to duration of creatives has been a key strength of online video advertising (vs. TV advertising), and many brands have even crafted short films as ads. Unfortunately, I believe that this trend is doomed. First of all, short form content works better on mobile. Most interactions on mobile last for less than a minute, and users are becoming less patient: as they discover video content increasingly on social platforms, the next video is just one scroll-down away. If video watching used to be for users like a date with one brand, it has now become like a cocktail party where they can always walk away from you to go get another drink. Secondly, if the objective is to build deeper relationships with consumers, the opportunity for brands to engage on mobile platforms in more fragmented but meaningful moments is so much bigger. Mobile users demand full control of when and where they consume content, and brands will win by engaging with valuable content when and where consumers need it. Obviously, storytelling won’t die, but it will morph itself into something new, possibly more episodic, with shorter yet interconnected experiences that reinforce the purpose and value that a brand stands for.
#5. Brand and Performance advertising will come closer to each other
Mobile is great for branding (e.g. video watchtime is shifting very quickly to mobile) and is great for performance too (e.g. more conversions are happening directly on mobile, better targeting, etc). It is a tool of convergence, and an opportunity for advertisers to satisfy an audience which is engaging with mobile devices in a jumbled way: as an entertainment platform in one moment (e.g. watching video) and a utility in the next minute (e.g. getting directions, setting reminders, purchasing something, etc). Brands have been slow at leveraging this trend for a number of reasons, from technical (again, limits of technology and privacy) to know-how, and to organizational (different decision makers for brand and performance advertising). While a year might not even be enough for advertisers to adapt, in 2015 we should begin to see a significant shift in mindset towards a more comprehensive approach, blending branding and performance objectives, metrics, and consequently content strategies.
One last prediction… It would be the 6th, a little bonus. Brand building will become even more collaborative. Digital has already transformed brand building from a one-way communication to a 2-ways conversation with an audience. In the last couple of years, we have seen how successful advertisers have been engaging with audiences through participation. After GoPro (every minute a GoPro user uploads a video of him/her while using the camera), other advertisers like Nike, Mercedes, and Unilever have put their brands in the hands and voices of their audiences. Driving participation is effective, scalable, and cost-efficient, and that’s why it will go mainstream in 2015 as a marketing strategy. Beyond collaborating with their own consumers, brands will increasingly collaborate with stars, mainly YouTube creators. Celebrities like Bethany Mota, Michelle Phan, PewDiePie, Devin Supertramp and others, move huge masses of people as they respond to their passions: music, fashion, culture, gaming, comedy, sports, etc. These celebrities are already very busy working with brands, and in 2015 they will become impossible to ignore.
In what other ways do you see digital marketing changing in 2015? What impact will the mobile transformation cause?