Thoughts on digital trends for 2018

(Originally posted to LinkedIn)

Last week I was asked by Holmes Report (paywall) to pen some thoughts on digital trends for the year.

While I could quite have easily said ‘everything’, because all of my work is ‘digital’ in some sense now, I gathered my thoughts in a more pragmatic way and have shared in full below.

Notable absences; video (seriously, nobody needs to be told this again), VR (see previous point), live (I’ve touched on this below in part, but it’s been important for years), chatbots/messenger apps (more service-led than brand-led IMO, which doesn’t make them unimportant – just disinteresting to me)

Data overload

If 2017 was about big data, 2018 is about data overload. To put it simply, we’ve just got too much of it. Monocle’s Tyler Brûlé once said of content: ‘Brands must learn to edit’ – but this is also incredibly relevant when it comes to data. We’ll see consolidation of tools, increase in spend on hiring analysts that can make sense of them, and increasing questions from clients about smarter, impact-led reporting that shows how we link comms & social to sales.

TV splits, and so does content

In his 2018 Media review, the BBC’s Media Editor Amol Rajan spoke of the TV industry’s separation. On one side are the high-end, big box productions (Netflix style) and on the other, faster, live news. We’ll see this happen to content as well, in that clients are going to be more focused on video than ever, from both a long-form, documentary perspective and shorter, less-planned snippets or moments.

Quality over quantity

Finally, we’re seeing less interest in ‘filler’ content for social on a larger scale. Hooray! Yes, there are still clients that want to have an opinion on every seasonal moment going, but generally we’re seeing a move away from this. Now that we’re in the age of algorithms, having a drumbeat of social content doesn’t make sense any more. It’s more important to focus on impactful content that can be promoted and rise to the top of algorithmic feeds.

Experiences are king

Experiences are still the hottest property around; be it real-life ones that create opportunities to post that all-important Instagram, or digital ones that are just as memorable. On the latter point, there’s something really interesting in ‘virtual experiences’ (see, ABBA’s upcoming virtual tour) that throw open access to a more diverse range of people, and at a far larger scale.

Digital play

The dominance of eSports is now well and truly here, that’s no longer a ‘trend’. But the excitement around digital play doesn’t end there. AR has become more interesting as a method of putting interactive functionality in to, well, anything really. Shazam’s sale to Apple for $400m signals integration in this space, and virtual gamification is still really important when it comes to building relationships in a fun, accessible way.

Influencer marketing finally grows up

The last few weeks has seen further backlash to influencers acting irresponsibility. Logan Paul’s quite-dreadful filming in a Japanese ‘suicide forest’ and the release of a bookdetailing an Australian influencer’s faux ‘survival’ of cancer through healthy eating are just two big industry moments that reflect that the space is changing.

People are more-savvy to the ‘con’ and more open about saying when behaviour isn’t ok. There’s a direct line between social uproar and media coverage, and all this will lead to better filtering and expectation of the types of people brands will work with. Less focus on big numbers with no substance, and a desire for relationships with credible creators that are longer and reflect shared values.

Artificial intelligence

Yes, everyone’s talking about robots, but what’s the actually real-life impact on the world of brands? The most obvious? Making research really, really good and really, really quick.

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