Mistbreaker’s Critical Evaluation of Forbes 2015 Marketing Trends

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Management featured in the popular press is often filled with endless clichés and marketing is for sure no exception from this pattern. A problem often featured in trends’ lists is that the author generally strives for novelty and sensation, whereas real trends by definition are phenomena occurring over several years. Sure, when it comes to marketing it is one of the more agile fields of management and adaption is crucial. But does “trends” for one particular year make the same “trends” redundant for the next one?

Trendwatching.com seems to have grasped this issue correctly; their annual list features more or less the same trends as the previous years – but with changes occurring within these large trends. As a consequence of the opposite behaviour, striving for novelty, the lists might still be very valid but the terminology becomes faulty when pasting some widely known phenomena on to a specific year. However, it is a good way to make people read the actual articles since it implies that you would have to read the advice now in order to avoid becoming obsolete. This is not critiquing as such, but merely a reflection or an observation.

In any case, Forbes recently featured a list of 11 marketing trends to watch for in 2015. All great advice, but some points seem unavoidable to not be aware of even as a marketing student. Here is a bulleted version of the full list with short comments:

  • Transparency Will Become the Most Important Marketing Tool |”Brand stories will matter less as consumers want an accurate and real time picture of what the brands are doing” | Actually quite interesting. No one would believe that storytelling would actually die from one year to another, but it is good that marketers themselves finally realize what Harvard Business Review conveyed in a special issue four years ago.
  • CMOs Will Become Chief Simplifier Officers |”CMOs will begin to put silo busting on the top of their agenda and begin to think holistically about the company’s overall value proposition” | This statement insinuates that this target has been overlooked, which frankly put would imply a real scandal. Coherency is key in most companies, thus one begins to wonder if the (implied) generic CMO has read any literature on business strategy the past 30 years?
  • We Will Witness the Emergence of the Marketing Technologists |”The best marketer in a digital world would be the marketing technologists, people with heavy digital DNA and technology acumen” | Well, this is probably true but is this statement not only some kind of a euphemism for employing younger people in general?
  • The Winners Will be Adept at Agility Marketing |”The best marketers will have ever more consumer data, capable of faster adaption, shorter lead times, and always-on, real-time marketing” | Common business jargon in the repetitive mantra in the path of “the speed of change becomes faster, and faster, and faster, and…) yes, we’ve heard it for a long time, can’t we just agree on that the world is a place where speed is (and probably always will be) crucial?
  • Media Agencies Will Step Up and Lead |”Uniquely positioned at the intersection of technology and the consumer, they will become their clients’ key strategic partner, even more so than creative agencies, as big data and technology make “Math Men” the most important asset of marketers” |This is a very valid notion and something marketers should listen to. The future of marketing will probably rest upon a combination of mastering large amounts of data coupled with a creative edge, not only strict automation or creativity as isolated from each other.  
  • Hispanic Agencies will go Mainstream |”Hispanic purchasing power in the U.S. exceeds $1 trillion and is expected to grow by 2017 80% faster than non-Hispanic” |This is a good example of an important trend, kudos! Marketers should use data more often in conveying predications similar to the ones on this list. Important numbers, but what about the segmentation itself? Is “non – Hispanic” a valid comparison? Great spotting in any case.
  • Marketing Will Shift from Globalization to Personalization |The world is more connected because of technology these days, but marketing is becoming more regionalized, and more localized, even more individualized, as consumers resist homogenization |Another good point. One can ask the question though, if this approach wouldn’t always have been in the favour of consumers, and that we merely now have the technological means of achieving this target from centralized places?
  • Procurement Will Become More Powerful |Procurement will partner more closely with the CMO, CIO, CTO and CFO to remove internal roadblock and it will become more focused on agency operations and improving efficiencies there, not just fee negotiations |Again a valid comment in the sense of being a recommendation, but does it really imply that this will happen or that it should happen?
  • There will be a Growing Focus on Internal Communications |”Companies will be focused on internal communications as a marketing asset. They will look at it as a key challenge and opportunity to create brand ambassadors and make sure that employees and vendors understand and live “the brand,” as well as the vision and strategy of the company” | Relates heavily to the coherence issue mentioned in point two. This notion must have been around for at least ten years; hopefully some still unenlightened individuals will realize the importance this year.
  • Holding Companies Will Start Divesting Assets |”With growing pressure on their bottom line and with fewer opportunities to grow via M&A activity there will be pressure to divest non-essential assets” |If this statement is true and backed up with real validated signals, it is one of the most important additions to the list. If the market of marketing itself is changing we ought to see increased innovation and disruption from unexpected places.
  • The Economics of Marketing in a Digital World Will Challenge Marketers |”Because smart content creation should be native to the digital channel that reaches the audience, the single biggest challenge that marketers will need to solve is how to scale content in an economic way” | Finally, we have this again valid notion backed up by some of the points and signals above. This is evidentially a challenge but the terminology is faulty. The real trend in this case would be digital marketing, no matter how obsolete this term might sound to many individuals. It has been a challenge in the past years and will continue to be for more, it is a part of everyday work for marketers and economics have always been the foundation of business.

We can conclude that the list is full of valuable advice from a truly initiated author. The topic of discussion would rather be if these are really the trends of 2015 or if the points are merely good recommendations for the generic marketer? Mistbreaker salutes an original and valid list with great points; we just could not help ourselves not reflecting on the trend terminology. Read the full list at Forbes.com

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