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The Seven Trends

The Seven Trends 2019: #6 New Interfaces

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New interfaces.

 

Our interaction with different interfaces as a means of experiencing the world is changing.

 

According to Ray Kurzweil, change – social change, cultural change, technological change, all kinds of change – and the rate at which it happens can only do one thing. Get faster and faster and faster.

 

We seem to have hit ‘peak social’, evidenced by the shift to chat-based messaging such as WhatsApp and community-orientated platforms such as Twitch, and away from news feeds and posting.

Meanwhile, voice continues to grow – smart speaker penetration has doubled in the past year. Tech brands continue to launch new hardware, competing for the highest share of our homes, and our wallets. The likes of Alexa are moving into integrated appliances, cars and our devices, as well as screens. Combining voice with screens (and other interfaces) drives greater uptake of services, especially shopping, as users can see what they’re buying.

The Crest Chompers skill for Alexa turns a chore into a something kids look forward to.

Contrary to expectations, Amazon don’t plan on selling the ‘top voice spot’ akin to paid search. Instead an algorithm driven by price, usage and reviews will select the top three choices and give them out in a random order. It is important that brands start testing and adapting to the algorithm so they can get onto the Choices shortlist and feature in the most frictionless way possible.

When it comes to taking photographs on your phone, after selfies and other people, ‘reminders snaps’ of things you need to remember are next. A billion photos a day are utility pictures. This is why ‘visual search’ is poised to take off in 2019. Google will finally make their Augmented Reality lens available, turning the smartphone camera into a device that can ‘read’ objects, text and the world around us.

Use cases for AR include as a ‘realworld browser’ (think browsing the menu of a restaurant by pointing your phone at it) and identifying similar products at the best possible price (recognising the clothes worn by a celebrity in a magazine and helping you ‘get the look’). Mercedes used AR to scan their dashboard, acting as a pocket manual, inspired by the insight that 70% of features in a new car go unused.

The Mercedes AR app scans dashboard to act as a pocket manual.

Any clear picture or text can trigger content anchored to visual search, from brand advertising to products, and data (such as the individual user journey, demographics and location) can be used to serve relevant messages. Expect to see websites anchored in the real world, such as products unlocked by smartphone camera.

So, while change is afoot, really we are seeing new interfaces fit into long established human needs of communication, sociality and expression.

The Seven Trends 2019: #5 The Future is Gaming

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The Future is Gaming.

 

It feels like we say the same thing every year, but 2018 really was the year that gaming blew into the mainstream.

 

Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V became the most financially successful media title of all time with an estimated $6 billion in revenue, far surpassing bestselling films such as Star Wars or The Avengers. The release of Red Dead Redemption 2 sold 15 million copies in its first eight days since release.

 

Gaming also entered Hollywood with Ready Player One, the cult gaming novel, released on the big screen courtesy of Spielberg.

And Fortnite happened. The cultural phenomenon is over 125 million players strong. When pro-gamer Ninja was joined by Drake to live stream the game, it became the most watched Twitch stream in history with 628,000 viewers.

So, people are playing games, but they’re also watching. Twitch has a 2.7m UK reach with a 25 minute average dwell time and five out of the Top 10 earning YouTubers post content centred around gaming. These have naturally opened up opportunities which brands are making use of, but does bring us to question of where 2019 is heading.

Ready Player One, a film by Steven Spielberg earned $560m globally.

 

2019 will see brands play catch up to the mainstream adoption of games. This will be in part be across ad placements within games and video content on the likes of Twitch and YouTube. But the more exciting opportunities to access that younger, hard to reach audience are through partnerships.

eSports is forecast to double its audience to 600 million people in 2020, and generate revenues of more than £1bn globally. Some brands, like Coca-Cola and Snickers, are already capitalising on these audiences. Xbox and Sony are head sponsors of tournaments across the globe. As eSports’ popularity rises, and avenues to watch grow, we will see more marketing opportunities here too.

Five out of the Top 10 earning YouTubers are streaming live gaming.

 

But the impact isn’t limited to brands with a gaming angle. The technology honed will seep into mainstream marketing. AR and VR have both been most popularly adopted within the gaming industry, making gamers comfortable to consume content in that way. This paves the way for marketers in other sectors to use the same tech. Currently these have been more PR-led experiences rather than wider marketing campaigns: 2019 could be the year where gaming ‘normalises’ other realities.

The Seven Trends 2019: #4 Media Mergers

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Media Mergers.

 

Big players may move slowly, but these slow moves and mergers will create big waves.

 

2018 was a year of media consolidation. In broadcast it could be argued that this was in part a response to the rising growth of the over the top (OTT) new kids on the block. If it’s true that size matters, then the existing players look to be making strategic alliances in readiness for the fight.

Netflix has already muscled in and established itself as the entertainment TV portal in the UK OTT marketplace. If DAZN realise their ambitions to be the similar destination for sports, the likes of Sky, Disney and Turner may have to innovate to stay ahead.

Comcast, the largest cable TV provider in the States, acquired Sky for $39 billion. This gives them a significant European footprint and made them the biggest private sector provider of pay TV, with 52 million customers (Knowledge Wharton). Content, data, subscriptions and global expansion are reasons behind the acquisition. Content between these two will be leveraged globally, and it will be interesting to see what happens between Comcast’s 30% stake in Hulu and Sky’s NowTV – or will they develop a global online video service to combat Netflix?

Comcast, the largest cable TV provider in the U.S. acquired Sky for $39 billion.

Disney, for one, will be launching a competing online streaming platform, Disney+, later in 2019. Following its previous purchase of 21st Century Fox, Disney removed all content from Netflix in preparation for launch. TV’s new global giants will compete in content to retain customers.
Ad-free subscriptions are a popular business model for entertainment, offering a wide variety of quality content, readily available on smart platforms.

U.S. broadcaster DAZN put the UK sports broadcast market on notice with their commercial tie up with Matchroom Boxing.

However, ad-funded business models must focus on scale to attract more advertising spend when competing against Facebook and Google. It does seem that size and scale matters, so we are seeing non-TV media owners consolidate too.

Trinity Mirror merged with Northern Shell to form Reach. Now the third largest newspaper group with 21.1% share of print circulations (Statista.com), Reach is a more effective challenger to NewsUK and DMG Media. As the name suggests, the merger offers greater scale to advertisers, but also a greater robust revenue mix across print and digital on top of the efficiencies from reducing duplication within the business.

Global (owners of national radio brands such as Capital, Heart and LBC) made a surprise move by acquiring not one, not two, but three outdoor media companies. In 2019 they will become the 2nd largest outdoor sales house in the UK – just behind JCDecaux. This creates a huge cross-media selling opportunity for Global, agencies and advertisers alike.
Both these give the opportunity to be more effectively ‘local’ at scale in two key broadcast channels. If coordinated through one sales point then the interplay between out of home and radio can be managed far more effectively. Or at least that is the theory.

Doubtless we’ll find out as the mergers reach maturity in 2019.

The Seven Trends 2019: #3 Political Correctness

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Political Correctness.

 

We are increasingly creating an echo chamber of our own opinions online. When we see something contrary to our sensibilities, offence ensues.

 

Political correctness is a sensitive but crucial topic – arguably it restricts freedom of speech, but should offence be tolerated? Have we gone too far to be afraid of not saying what we think so as not to offend anyone?

26% of UK adults and 42% of 16-24 year olds are reluctant to express their opinions because of fear of being seen as offensive (Foresight Factory, 2018). But no surprise that there is a disconnect between our words online and our actions in real life.

In 2018 there were more than 12,000 mentions of the word “problematic” on Twitter. Topics such as Kleenex Mansize tissues and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” – which prompted 36,700 Google News articles – were amongst the offending items. Social media has embroiled us in the culture of offence.

 

‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ proved problematic’ on Google News has 36,700 articles

 

Recently some brands have embraced potential polarisation and run the risk of consumer backlash. It’s a risky tactic as 28% of adults and 42% of 16-29-year old women have boycotted a brand because it offended their own belief or culture (Foresight Factory, 2018).

On the other hand, there’s a danger of becoming too ‘offence averse’ and stripping out all sense of self and individuality: to become ‘wind tunnel’ brands which have no spiky edges or interesting shadows in the face of political correctness.

We contend that political correctness can be managed as a calculated and balanced risk, but when brands shoot from the hip or are tone deaf to the degree of offence they may cause, things can go dramatically wrong.

 

The latest advert in the refreshed British Army recruitment campaign, ‘This is belonging 2018’, shows a Muslim soldier taking his helmet off and kneeling down to pray on the battlefield

 

As the idea of political correctness is turbo charged in the digital age, brands need to draw a line in the sand, using it as leverage for a strategic purpose, whilst not obliterating that line completely.

The Seven Trends 2019: #2 Plead for Certainty

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Plead for certainty.

The group of people born after 1980 are experiencing the greatest levels of living uncertainty since the post-war baby boomers.

 

As a descriptor for a group of people, the word Millennial must be approaching the end of its useful life. Some ‘Milllennials’ are 39 this year. Possibly older if you care to argue over the precise dates of their birth. What is clear is that the term itself is decrepit. They have adult concerns and pressures, yet continue to be treated like children.

Access to free higher education, affordable housing and, potentially soon, healthcare are being restricted; it seems that the state is downscaling social structures by stealth. In response they seek a sense of certainty from people and brands, far more than Generation X before them.

What about the generation after ‘Millennials’? Generation Z are already in maturity, and have been thrust into a world without the structures needed to benefit their post university years. Career paths are far less certain, and many are thrown into the gig economy, leading to a further sense of insecurity in employment.

Against these day-to-day anxieties, it’s no surprise that 62% of Millennials want more control over their future, preferring to be independent and not to rely on others (Foresight Factory). 40% side hustle to support themselves (Henley Business School). Using free resources, such as video tutorials and online learning, they are adapting their skills for the modern workplace. Increasingly they are building their own close networks of people and brands which can help them work, learn and earn.

 

Where can brands fit in? For one, banks who take a modern view of the gig economy, and design accounts and services for this, will benefit. Those who choose to sell bank ‘products’ and old-fashioned business accounts with eye-watering charges, probably won’t.

Monzo has rewritten the rules of banking.

 

Gen Z will move on, and there is no shortage of ‘second generation’ banks like Monzo or Metro who will adapt to their lives and offer them the certainty that established financial institutions will not.

This sense of uncertainty isn’t restricted to those with the benefit of higher education. In the service sector, the looming spectre of zerohour contracts becoming a normal part of retail work adds to the sense of uncertainty and undermines the ability for many to plan ahead.

 

A playful ad from Toyota, which invites you to break the glass “in case of apocalypse”.

 

Against these anxieties, the backdrop of a government squabbling over Brexit gives the sense that politicians have lost the plot. There is little wonder that the generations born after 1980 are feeling uncertain. They don’t LOOK to brands to solve these problems, but brands have a onetime opportunity to step up and be part of their infrastructure for years to come.

 

 

The Seven Trends 2019: #1 Stand For Something

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Stand for something.

As we trust institutions less, we crave what we think they lack
– a social voice.

 

Over half of us now think it is important for brands to have a clear and transparent view on the wider issues in society (YouGov), something we expect to increase in 2019.

In 2018, Nike threw down the gauntlet and supported sportsman and divisive civil rights activist Colin Kaepernick. After the explosive tweet “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything”, Nike’s stance on America’s institutionalised racism was clear. Nike saw a huge increase in social chatter – but not all was positive, with #justburnit famously tweeted by disgruntled patriotic Americans (YouGov)

The move was disruptive, but as they picked an issue their target care deeply about, they saw huge gains in brand values. Nike chose carefully what – and who – to stand with. In this instance, a specific subject in a game they share a long history with, not the broad topic of human rights. And so they continue to avoid issues (such as labour rights) which are farther from their stomping ground.

This side of the Atlantic, Iceland took on a less controversial but equally emotive issue: environmental concerns. Their banned Christmas ad – originally made by Greenpeace – featured Rang Tan, a homeless Orangutan. The palm oil protest video helped the retailer dominate the Christmas conversation – with over 70 million YouTube views and not a penny spent on TV.

But purpose marketing isn’t just about upper-funnel brand building. It translates into purchase too.

Nike’s provocative allegiance saw a 31% increase in sales (YouGov). And overall, 57% claim to be belief-driven buyers – up 20% year-on-year (Edelman).

A similar number (58%) are more likely to buy from a brand that expresses a view they agree with. Validation, rather than a challenging world-view, is what consumers seek from purposeful brands (YouGov).

Nonetheless, success isn’t simply a case of parroting back consumer opinions. It comes down to authenticity: credibility of commitment and relevance to join the conversation is key.

Iceland’s support for Rang Tan wasn’t a savvy marketing stunt: removing palm oil from own-brand products followed a series of market-leading environmentally concerned changes. This gave the campaign credibility. Iceland moved outside category conversations on product, price and promotion – and made an unexpected partnership, with Selfridges stocking their mince pies.

67% of Gen Z believe being true to your values is what makes someone cool; brands who win at purpose in 2019 will have to be equally woke.