retrofuturism

Usually bloggers write “trend” posts at the end of the year but at the speed of change in this business, maybe we should make it every six months!  As we hurtle into the second half of 2013, here are the digital trends I seem to be following the most right now. I think it makes sense to keep thinking about and studying these ideas because they are going to have a big impact on what we are doing in the next 12-24 months:

1. Content marketing or content advertising?

Advertisers are getting desperate for new ways to expose their client messages. This idea of “native advertising” or merging content and advertising is red-hot with vast implications for marketers, content creators and consumers. How do you cut through the clutter when the information density on the web overwhelms us?

2. Let’s get small

Related to this first trend — how do you get more information through to your consumer’s “pipeline” in this crowded world — one answer is to make the packets of information smaller and more digestible. This explains the rise of Infographics, Instagram, Pinterest and Vine. It seems that almost all the innovation these days is coming from “small.” I think one implication of this is that the focus on compact and visual content should be good news if you are in the graphic design or photography business.

3. Augmented reality

Google Glass is just the first entry into the wearable technology trend. We are going to have a digital layer on top of the “real world.”  The Internet will surround us like the air that we breathe. It will change how we connect, communicate, learn, discover and entertain ourselves. This is not a new trend. This is the new electricity. I really believe it will be that transformational.

4. Social influence marketing

I was researching and writing Return On Influence this time two years ago because I saw influence marketing as an inevitable and powerful trend. If the “pipeline” for your content is getting squeezed, one way to work around that is to borrow somebody else’s larger, targeted pipeline. This trend is going mainstream and I recently visited a major ad agency that had created an influence marketing department. Boutique agencies dedicated to influence marketing are popping up. This trend is exploding.

5. Internal versus external

The big money in social media is not in marketing applications that we see now.  It is in applying these tools internally to large enterprises to unlock data, enable collaboration, and resolve problems more quickly, This is already taking off at the very largest companies and eventually this will be trickling down to companies of all sizes.

6. User-friendly Big Data

There has been a lot of talk about big data but on the marketing front, there has been relatively little progress compared to the buzz. This is because most marketing executives don’t even know enough about it to ask the right questions. I’m guessing this will finally change soon because those who can distill wisdom from the numbers will win. Marketing is now math. Hire a statistician as your next marketing employee.

7. 3D printing

Imagine that you are working on a home improvement project and you are one bolt shy of completing your project. You digitally scan your bolt and within minutes your “printer” produces the precise part you need. This is not science fiction. This is happening now. 3D printing is going to transform logistics, procurement, and eCommerce. It will create entirely new business models. In the near future you won’t have to leave your home to instantly obtain many common items. I think more sophisticated devices will show up at retailers to provide obscure or out-of stock items in moments. Think of the impact on the cost of maintaining and storing parts inventories at a manufacturing plant.

So that is my take on a few important trends. Agree? Disagree? What is coming down the line that excites you?

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.
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