1) The continued shift of marketing spend towards original social media content, live experiences and mobile-first marketing was the dominant trend we saw in 2015. For us at Blend, 2015 signaled a litmus test of sorts where we witnessed first hand marketers realizing that to achieve their desired consumer engagement results they had to increase their investment in non-traditional content and technology platforms. Plain and simple. It’s a welcomed relief relative to original social content because ‘earned’ social efforts, while critical to sustainable, long-term consumer engagement, can only take a brand so far.
TV remains the most powerful spend, yes, and TV isn’t going away. But TV is TV. It’s effectiveness doesn’t translate across media channels, and I do believe that fact has finally caught up with the industry as a whole. As a result spending on mobile, social and live event engagement has increased significantly and will continue to do so in 2016.
2) We invest in talent that can service modern consumer engagement for both legacy and emerging disruptor brands. That translates to back end developers, front end developers, designers + ux pros, information architects, directors, editors and writers. Then we have to make sure they play nicely with one another, listen well to each others’ needs and see the brand challenges from a holistic perspective. On the legacy brand front, we have worked successfully for several Private Equity firms in 2015 as they seek to increase brand value and ultimately sell or flip their portfolio companies. For example, we worked successfully with the Baby Jogger brand over the course of 2 years helping them develop direct to consumer marketing assets and building, activating and self managing their first ever e-commerce platform. It was fun to help them achieve their goals and watch them be acquired by Newell Rubbermaid in 2015. On the disruptor front, we sought out and partnered with funded start ups creating vertically integrated e-commerce brands. There are a lot of cowboys out there trying to become the next Dollar Shave Club or Warby Parker. We have the talent to service those brands because we’ve made the necessary investments along the way.
3) On the legacy brand front, in 2015 we are most proud of the original social media content we’ve done for R/GA with their MasterCard and Verizon clients. Consumers expect to be rewarded with content that captures a moment of genuine fan engagement where the consumer is surprised and delighted via an experience created by the brand. This means that we have to create the experience first and then document it in real time. It’s very ‘reality t.v.’ so to speak, so you have to be nimble and transparent along the way or the consumers will not engage. You can plan to an extent, but you have to leave your options open as the experience unfolds. It’s tough to do, and a very different process from commercial production, but I think we’ve figured out a successful formula. On the disruptor brand front we have two companies launching vertically integrated e commerce products in early 2016, one in the fleet management vertical and one in the talent management vertical. We can’t wait to take them to market.
4) I think the ‘next big thing’ in 2016 will be Virtual Reality. It’s here and it’s happening now. I also think that there will be continued pressure from brands to create sustainable original video content platforms that consistently reward and engage their consumers on mobile and social platforms.