7 Digital marketing trends to embrace NOW


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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  • SM

    What has 3d printing got to do with a digital media trend? Are you suggesting one should adopt 3d printing?

  • It’s an important trend that is going to dramatically alter the retailing business, manufacturing, eCommerce and other industries. If this is relevant to your business, then it would be wise to stay on top of the opportunity.

  • jennifer lehner

    I enjoyed this blog post. This was a particularly well-crafted sentence: “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.” I couldn’t agree more.

    (It’s amazing to me how much original, interesting content you are able to produce, btw.)

  • Ha! Thank you Jennifer. I seem to be in a particularly creative period. I literally do not have enough time to explore all the ideas I have. So many interesting things going on!

  • Great post Mark! The ones most relevant to me are 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6. A trend I’ve noticed with these five points, is that they’re starting to work together more and more.

    Influencers are shifting their content to smaller posts, images, videos, etc. Influence Marketing is starting to be more prominent – more native advertising, sponsored posts, sponsored content, etc. Companies are starting to shift some of their budgets towards influence marketing, but also the tools that will help them understand. Tools like Traackr, Tellegeance, TrendSpotrr, Measurely, Lymbix, and InNetwork are starting to be adopted by both agencies and brands. Also, these tools are designed to make sense of big data – make it easier to understand what you’re looking at.

    It’s definitely an exciting time in the social space, and I’m looking forward to the next 12-24 months, and seeing how all of these trends play out 🙂

  • MaureenMonte

    Hi Mark! great blog post, and as an IBM employee, I thank you for sharing your wisdom with us and with the world. Your ability to look at the present and connect it to the future is so helpful (that must be a strength!) 😉 I couldn’t agree more with you about the power of social media tools in an internal collaboration movement. It’s so much more effective than a top down, “You will collaborate” message.

  • I like your mid-year synopsis Mark. Relative to items 1 and 2, I’m finding that
    as messages become smaller sound bites and take on different forms such as
    “native advertising,” greater emphasis needs to be placed on integration
    to drive results. Each message, regardless of form or channel, must support the overall story that companies are telling. A cohesive message helps produce better results.

    As for item 5, I agree that the real winners in social media
    will be the enterprises. I’m seeing evidence of this in larger companies where social tools provide the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues that one would otherwise not have known. Social enterprises are breaking down silos as teams of colleagues form communities based on various topics that often cut across functional areas. Social media in the enterprise is also effective in knowledge management and leveraging an organizations subject matter experts.

    These are exciting and overwhelming times for businesses that leverage the trends you mentioned.

  • Hi Mark, what’s coming down the line that excites me is the transformation on how we search for content. The traditional world of SEO has changed so much that SEOMoz is now caled ‘Moz’ ! It’s going to be interesting to see how Google Faces up to the challenge. Facebook will continue to develop Graph search over the next year or two and LinkedIn, Twitter and other social networks will also invest significantly in search. Will we go to google.com to find things in a couple of years time? We certainly won’t go there for all searches!

  • Crystal Richard

    Great piece Mark! From an agency’s perspective, I think you hit the nail on the head with a lot of these. In terms of getting your information heard – I agree that smaller and digestible is the key. Think of how many people merely skim content rather than read it in its entirety. One item I believe is missing from the list, is to embrace personalization. We recently started using a platform by Evergage to add behavior-based personalization to our website/blog and have already noticed a spike in conversion and retention rates. When competing with a world of static messaging – having dynamic messaging in your corner is crucial.

  • Thorbjorn Liell

    Still reading – however, I’d fancy a piece of code in your post(s) in order to view links in a new browser window and not loosing track of the originating window. I could always right-click, but you know how it is 🙂

  • Chuck Kent

    I think it applies in the sense that it 3D printing will change the way people source / resource their solutions.. and so much of content-driven digital marketing is about first helping people find solutions to problems. It also speaks to the need to take a wider view, acknowledging digital marketing and media as core elements of daily business and life, impacting and impacted by our overall environment, and not as siloed specialities (I appreciate JDamico calling out the need for integration above)

  • Kristine Allcroft

    Thank you for listing the emerging trends. But because I’m a “late adopter” in almost all things digital, it almost gives me panic attacks to imagine the implementation of these emerging trends. However, I can respond to your advice about hiring a statistician: only if they are also acquainted with qualitative data analysis too. The problem with “big data” is that it needs interpretation and context in order for it to “mean” anything. That can only be done by integrating qualitative along with the quantitative data analysis.

  • Good stuff, Mark. I’d bet short on augmented reality in “Glass” form (novelty) and long on social/content advertising (only if we can agree that advertising is “actionable”, as it mostly/only be seen in brief moments, often “mobile”, and must be tasked with immediate conversion).

    I’m also excited to see agencies, full-service and boutique, build out true real-time departments and teams. Advocacy, rather than influencer marketing, will become the new norm as real-time is taken more serious.

  • Really smart observation Daniel! Thanks for sharing that today.

  • Thanks Maureen. Actually did an IBM workshop just moments ago : ) The momentum is definitely there.

  • I agree with you Joan and am confounded actually as to why we are not seeing more integration. I keep waiting for it. I think there is some momentum around “social TV” so we’ll see where that goes. I think integration probably should be the 8th trend if I had to write the post over so thanks for sharing your wisdom today!

  • Love this. Yes. Add that to the list!

  • Sorry, I normally try to do that but I guess I miss it now and then. Thanks for the reminder and I will try my best to keep hold those links together.

  • Well said Kristine. I have a blog post coming soon on that topic!

  • It remains to be seen whether Glass has traction but I think the overall AR trend is unstoppable. It is just too cool, and cool trumps everything in the end! Maybe it will be the Apple version?

  • MaureenMonte

    I’m with Kristine on being a late adopter of all things digital – but it’s never too late for a brilliant new beginning. I’m working on it and you can too! Plus there is so much support here at Mark’s wonderful blog.

  • MaureenMonte

    Heading off to see what Evergage is and hope to not go hide my head in the sand afterwards. 🙂 Working on a new website. Thanks for sharing. Maureen

  • Craig Lindberg

    My head just exploded 🙂 And I’m more than just a little curious about your header photo with the word “retrofuturism”. Inquiring Minds Want to Know; is it Back to The Future? Did I miss something? It did prompt one thought on trends in our digital maelstrom; emergence of the inbound helmsman or marketing navigator for lack of better terms. Someone whose support role is maintaining awareness of what I group as the new marketing navigation instruments ie., mobile apps, CMS, CRM, MAS, etc., and evaluating how or whether it should be a part of a company’s marketing dashboard to facilitate the mission. The pace and volume of new products would almost seem to beg for this type of specialization especially in larger organizations. Maybe they already exist and I just haven’t heard this role explained in these terms. My impression is the same as you’ve alluded, and supported by the studies like IBM put out on CMOs; alot of execs are bewildered by the speed of change and growing number of options, and need a go-to person for this kind of advice.

  • Hi Mark, we met at Social Media Marketing World. I love your work on influence. Your book was fantastic! Can you expand on #4? What do you mean specifically when you say borrow someone else’e pipeline. Are you referring to guest or sponsored posts that can be put in front of that audience? Paid media? Once you identify those who have the pipelines, what are some suggested strategies for capitalizing on this trend. I’d love to get more from you on this one, perhaps it’s another blog post. Thanks!

    Stephanie Sammons

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  • What I’m most excited about is 3-D printing. We are moving slowly but surely to the StarTrek future I’ve been hoping for years to experience 🙂

    But in the more immediate future, I’m interested to see how companies will try to smoosh influencer marketing together with content marketing/advertising. I see folks doing it amazingly well, and others doing it in the same old traditional media way: wallpapering the internet with content in your favorite places, so that you just can’t avoid the message.

  • I agree with your trends review. I would add a few: (1) mobile everything, (2) global e-commerce, and (3) changes in education.

    Digital marketing is growing faster than most professors can keep up with. Fortunately, the social media bloggers, such as yourself, are there to assist us. Thanks for that.

    I recently read your books on Twitter and Blogging and highly recommend them. Marketing educators now need a good book on digital marketing strategy and planning.


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  • Kristine Allcroft

    Looking forward to seeing that blog post . . . maybe a series? Some folks think in numbers; others in pictures. The former usually end up as statisticians; the latter as qualitative data analysts. It takes a unique person to be able to do both; companies may need to hire a team.

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  • Jack Silverman

    Hey Mark I agree with other readers that this was great content. We’ve been big into social influencer marketing for some time. It also seems like you just cant kill “augmented reality” so will continue to be interested in your opinions on this. I too would like to know what retrofuturism means to you?

  • First the photo. This was simply graffiti on a wall in Tallinn, Estonia. I thought it was interesting and playfully posed for my wife who took the photo.

    I do think this type of specialization will be occurring but probably outside of the company walls. I think it would be more cost effective that way. The costs could be spread to multiple companies.

  • I would love to hear about the people doing it well Jillian! Have not seen too much of that! Most of what I witness is a mess : ) Great seeing you in Montreal. That was a delightful surprise!

  • Many thanks for that kind validation professor! Splendid additions. I would also add (4) Internet of Things.

  • See the comment below where I responded to @craiglindberg:disqus. It was graffiti in Estonia : )

  • Craig Lindberg

    Thanks very much Mark!

  • Virpi Oinonen

    I wonder if simple, compact visuals that have a narrative element (cartoons, online comics etc) are another rising trend. Comics are increasingly used for internal communication (or should I say internal marketing). And then there’s the rise of super popular online comics like The Oatmeal and xkcd. I was so excited by this comic trend that I wrote a blog post titled “Online comics – the next big thing in visual content marketing?” (http://www.businessillustrator.com/visual-content-marketing/online-comics-the-next-big-thing-in-visual-content-marketing/ ). But I’ve seen so few examples of marketers using comics that I’m beginning to think my prediction might be wrong..

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  • Photuts

    Hey Mark, nice article and great catalog pose in the photo! I am especially interested in the trend detailed in the ‘let’s get small’ section. I read somewhere (possibly here!) a while back that the way we are heading with mobile devices etc is more white space and snippets of information.

    I see this increase almost daily in the sources I use each day for content, inspiration etc.

    As we get busier and more information is thrown at us, the less time we have for each ‘bit’ of info and the smaller our attention span for these packets of content.

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  • Mark, Maureen, and Crystal, Thanks for this blog and discussion. I’m one of the co-founders of Evergage.

    I went to a leading company’s homepage last week. The whole top of the fold was devoted to getting me to go to a webinar. I signed up for the webinar. Then, I came back to the homepage. Nothing changed. The whole top of the page was wasted trying to get me to sign up for that same webinar. That shouldn’t be and yet it is standard. I should have been engaged in a next step or given more relevant information.

    As I move through a website or webapp, the more relevant the experience is to me, the more likely I am to stay and convert.

    I think this kind of behavior-based personalization is actually a combination of 6. User Friendly Big Data, 2. Let’s get Small, and 1. Content Marketing or Content Advertising (just applied to your own site/app).

    Mark, I have a bunch of ideas about ways to leverage this kind of personalization on your blog site. Ping me at kwirth at evergage dot com or let me know and I can post some of the ideas here.

  • Thanks Mark! 🙂

  • Hey Mark, nice article and great catalog pose in the photo! I am especially interested in the trend detailed in the ‘let’s get small’ section. I read somewhere (possibly here!) a while back that the way we are heading with mobile devices etc is more white space and snippets of information.

    I see this increase almost daily in the sources I use each day for content, inspiration etc.

    As we get busier and more information is thrown at us, the less time we have for each ‘bit’ of info and the smaller our attention span for these packets of content.

  • Cool, it is, indeed. The challenge for heads-up displays (especially continuous) is that only the market 30+ (they who matured in the desktop/television age) cares or wants to have that type of experience.

    It is simply not “human” to constantly consume display/screen content…

  • I like the idea of making packets of information smaller. I notice sites like Business Insider do this, creating a multi-page post, driving pages per visit, and pageviews at the same time.

    Btw Mark, what is the wordpress widget you’re using for “you might also like” thumbnails there at the bottom?

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  • So be it. : )

  • Oh you’d better believe I’ll be keeping an eye out for the ones doing it right. I think brands would tattoo their logo under people’s eyelids if given the chance…however there is a shift in how people are accepting marketing. And it’s fascinating to see where the boundaries are being set and the surprising ways people are inviting brands into their life experiences.

    Montreal was TOPS. I’m glad I also got the added bonus of visiting the jazz festival!

  • Sandra Isaac

    I just blew my boss’s mind with this one. There was literally an article in the local paper about how Princeton University just 3D printed a bionic ear! Also we have been trying to “steal” another employee to be part of our Marketing Department just to do research and crunch statistical numbers. Its nice to see that our thinking is along the similar lines as your. Now IMPLEMENTATION… that’s a whole other ball game!

  • Ross Quintana

    Great post Mark, The world will first change around communication. When those changes evolve us enough then the second wave of actual innovation will kick in. Technology is moving faster than adoption and the speed is gaining. I love it but hope instability is not the outcome.

  • Most of these seem to indicate a closer and closer relationship of technology and marketing. There is virtually no gap anymore between a new social or technology platform and marketers getting involved in some way.

    I would also add SIRI and its siblings to the mix. As soon as we can have a conversation with our phone and figure out where to have Pizza tonight, marketing will take a whole new form.

    On another note – Big Data is deceitful. It shows what was and what is… not what will be. Behavioural and predictive analytics are a long ways from being reliable. As soon as it goes mainstream, someone will figure out how to manipulate it.

    Great thoughts here Mark 🙂


    A great post that sums up the latest trends in digital marketing. Definitely agree with the point about hiring a statistician! 🙂

  • Very good point Ian. I think it will be more personal, more relevant and more Facebook : )

  • Hey Stephanie! Good to hear from you.

    Let’s say you have been trying to get some message through on your blog but your “pipeline” is limited. If you did a guest post on {grow} suddenly your ideas would be spread to a large global audience. In that way, you would be successful by “borrowing” my pipeline. Brands are trying to do the same thing in various ways.

  • Wonderful point Virpi! Thanks for adding to the discussion (and of course I have cartoons every Friday!)

  • Let’s keep on the look out for this. I think we will see more and more of this.

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  • Really superb points Ernest. Love this comment!

  • Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  • I’m glad somebody noticed that photo pose. I don’t often put myself up there in the post!!

  • Linked Within. It rocks.

  • Yay for you!! Glad I am making you look like a genius Sandra! : )

  • Wow that is a very powerful point. My concern too, Ross!

  • Thx Mark. Found it.

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  • Nice piece Mark. My two favorites are #3,and #7.

    Wearables with sensors and lower cost computing devices are accelerating the growing influence that the internet has on nearly every facet of our lives growing from shopping entertainment, social interactions and directions, to monitoring and tracking our health in real-time. I really like the “new electricity” analogy.

    The implications of 3D printing will become universally evident as 3D printer price points drop to a point enabling the technology to go beyond early adopter into mainstream. The broad reaching implications and applications of this transformational technology will be truly astounding.

    Thank for sharing.

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  • Ann Daniel

    Good evening,

    for the great information. I would like to emphasize on one of the main Trends
    in digital marketing for 2013, Mobile Marketing as now 13% or more global traffic
    is via mobile phones & 30% of search query is through local internet by
    phones that made 42% of internet marketers plan to increase their spending on
    mobile marketing by the end of this year.

    Sincerely Ann Daniel

  • Madhukar SV

    The digital marketing is becoming more and more challenging day by day. Thanks for sharing.

    UDI System

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  • Your digital marketing trends should be totally focused on customers, otherwise you’ll spend time by doing unnecessary things.

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