Is Your Marketing Agency Ahead of Market Trends or Falling Behind? How To Stay On Top In Times of Crazy Changes
Maybe I’m dating myself here, but I remember back when a market forecast was something you could rely on at least through the rest of the year.
It’s clearly not the case anymore. As of now, the rate of change in trends and market demand is so fast that what worked well just a few months ago might no longer apply at all. Like Apple said in the iPhone 6 launch, “The only thing that’s changed is everything.”
As digital marketers, how do we stay ahead? Marketing isn’t exactly a field where you can afford to wait and see what everyone else is doing. Success in today’s online world is going to take courage, creativity and immediate response to new forms of data.
Why is it so hard to keep pace?
Several factors are colliding to make it harder than ever for a marketing agency to stay ahead of the curve of pop culture.
Accelerating rate of technological innovation
Scientific discoveries and technological developments are accelerating like never before. Every new wave of inventions makes the next wave come faster. The world of a person born in the Middle Ages was almost the same as the world they died in, but a person born in 1910 was been born to a world with no useable cars, airplanes, computers or phones: very different from the world he would leave behind if he made it to 2000. And that barely holds a candle to the internet age.
The digital world is evolving at a mad pace, and unlike the world of cutting-edge scientific innovations, which only elite scientists can access, it’s open to anyone with a WiFi connection. Almost everyone today can come up with a new idea or trend that affects the market. And communication between participants in this digital space is so fast, changes in style or opinions that could take weeks and months in the normal world can happen overnight.
In his highly acclaimed and bestselling book “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind,” historian Yuval Noah Harari explains that different systems have different levels of predictability. You can think of the weather as 1st-level chaos. If you understand atmospheric patterns and have a strong enough computer, you can predict the weather with better and better accuracy. However, human behavior as it appears in marketing trends, stock markets and revolutions doesn’t work like that. It’s 2nd-level chaos. The whole system is changed by anything within it, including attempts to predict its changes.
If someone predicts that a stock will go up tomorrow, and enough people believe the prediction, it will actually affect the market and create a change in that stock trade today. So now tomorrow’s market will behave in a totally different way than it would have. Digital marketing is definitely a system of 2nd-level chaos. That’s why if your marketing agency is conservative, basing their strategy on fundamental principles learned in business schools 5 or 10 years ago, you’ll find yourself lost at sea without a compass.
Millennials can step aside. The current generation of tweens, teens and young adults who are now primed to drive pop culture – sometimes called Generation Z – is even more fluent in social media and the latest technological advances. They are the first true digital natives. Their sensitivity to shifting trends and branding strategies is almost immediate.
This generation of consumers is developing a whole new level of collective intelligence. In this climate, it’s almost suicidal to release half-baked, out of date or simply unsophisticated, over-marketed content.
How to stay one step ahead
Today’s marketing agency needs to be in tune with their audience’s changing point of view, language and attitude – more in tune than their viewers are with themselves. What was cool and authentic two months ago might look ridiculous today. A marketing Agency must connect its clients’ brands with their relevant audience over a multitude of social and digital platforms. Snapchat, Twitter, LinkedIn, Vine, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, and please add any which have emerged in the time between writing this article and posting it – all of them have a role to play, and each offers a unique way to access different slices of the audience.
Videos, images, infographics and text are all part of the picture. Your marketing needs to deliver an effective message through all formats to reach viewers where they are. It’s easy to see that successful brands such as Nike, Apple and Disney make huge efforts to keep their content coherent on different media channels.
Nike, for example, crafted a sleek, elegant and provocative visual style to make their brand instantly recognizable, conveying their product’s elite quality in every image. They weave their story across several platforms and brand initiatives: @Nike, @Nikefootball, #justdoit and #nikewomen to name a few.
Branding agencies and lone marketers must go a long way to develop a brand persona that the client will identify with and connect to. Building a brand’s identity and skillfully adjusting it to cultural changes is a highly costly and (usually) relatively slow process. But we don’t have any extra time here. As I see it, this is what marketers will need to stay ahead of today’s culture.
- High market alertness: Tuning into the pop culture dialogue at its most up-to-the-moment, to the level where the marketer can predict new developments before they even occur to the people at the heart of cultural change.
- Combination of skills: Bringing together diverse skills such as content strategy, data application, visual design and creative storytelling. Whether in a marketing team or within a single talented individual, these different skill sets must be integrated and applied with speed and boldness.
- Courage to seize opportunities: Remember Oreo’s “You can still dunk in the dark” tweet during the Super Bowl blackout in 2013? That’s the level of courage and responsiveness that’s needed to take advantage of marketing opportunities and consumer trends for this generation.
- New planning models: Our age demands the effective application of adaptive design principles. Marketers and media agencies must be able to access live data signals, analyze them in real-time and immediately apply the results across integrated campaigns. This requires making full use of new technology.
- Influencer marketing: Reaching influencers on social media will allow brands to gain instant loyalty from the influencer’s field of connections. This is clearly the most efficient way to promote the brand to a wider audience, and many believe that influencer marketing will be the next dominant model.
Coming up with effective campaigns today takes fast thinking. Marketers have to take a hands-on approach with diverse media channels. We need to be ever exploring better and more flexible design and content writing just to catch up with culture changes. We live in a time where creative and bold marketers with high market sensitivity can do better than big agencies with a complicated administration and slow reaction speed.
It all comes down to thinking less in terms of isolated campaigns and more about integrating different platforms, presenting a unified face for their brands that has a purpose and reaches the most important viewers at the right time.