Marketing Trend for ever: human-centred marketing
Here are some trends that we can expect in 2019:
Food: Even more weird infused waters, oat and pea milk, fancy mushrooms, seitan, bulgar and farro, even more kimchi and fermented healthy gut things, avocadoes (because avocadoes are like black, they’re not going anywhere), orange wine, coffee beer, crickets and other bugs, chlorophyll lattes, celtuce (a bit like Kale?), lab grown meat, ugly food, and ‘sour’. We will of course continue to love extreme diets that eliminate whole food groups, turmeric, and pumpkin lattes.
How about in fashion? Apparently that will be big hats, sensible shorts, tie-die, tight pleats, fringing, neon, puffed shoulders and sequins (because sparkles are like avocadoes, they’re not going anywhere).
Perhaps something more serious then. Business and tech? There’ll be flying cars and space travel, digital insurance, a rise in ‘marketplace models’, endless numbers of initiatives aiming to capitalise on the fact that we’re destroying the planet, 5G stuff, autonomy, and ‘bendy’ devices?’
Does any of this really mean anything to you? Are you heading out to the supermarket tomorrow with a completely new list in hand, your previous favourites of All-Bran, Lavazza coffee and a nice pinot grigio now out the window? Will you be taking the scissors to the chaos that is your bedroom wardrobe, shunning your nice, conservative pin-stripe suit for one in neon with additional tassles? Junk in your current happy, stable employment to go and embark on a start-up which trades bendy, autonomous, recyclable spacesuits over a spacesuit marketplace app?
Trends are a thing that we do like to trot out at the beginning of each year, but they are spectacularly meaningless in nature. Undoubtedly, humans can get a little bit excited about new gimmicks but the stuff that sticks tends to appeal to something far more fundamental and long-lasting in us. Trends come and go, but behaviours grow and morph in a much less dramatic but much more meaningful sense. Trends are a flash in the pan, and that’s exactly what we don’t want our marketing strategies to be.
So talking of this year’s marketing trends is actually something we don’t want to do. What we do want to do is talk about how marketing activities might continue to evolve over the course of the coming year. And doing this requires us to recognise what is fundamental to marketing – the bits that are simply so core to human nature that they aren’t going anywhere (that’s right, they’re the black, avocado sequin dresses of the marketing world).
I mean, look at Forbes’ most recent effort to identify 2019 trends – even they are having to pass off fundamental, everlasting truths as ‘trends’: “People are putting more trust in others they know and reputable content, not ads” (they cite a 2015 report on this one, so that really can’t be a trend for the upcoming year). “Creativity, not conformity, will set successful marketers apart” (I mean, at this point they could just be writing ‘the sky will almost certainly be blue in the upcoming year). “Helpfulness and authenticity will combat relationships lost through tech and automation” (shock, we’re a little bit scared of computers taking over and we massively value the social connections we hold with each other). Groundbreaking stuff, eh?
We don’t mean to mock – indeed, these are good foundational pieces of advice – but dressing them up as trends is really a fairly useless attempt to be, well, on-trend.
What’s our take on the major things to pay attention to this year? Well, integration of marketing approaches will continue to be vital – but that’s hardly new. We saw a rise of specialisation for a while – especially as certain technologies started to augment (though not fundamentally change) the way in which some marketing messages were communicated. And this was very valid – specialisation can hold incredible value, and it’s exactly the reason why external agencies exist: to maximise on nuanced and subtle knowledge associated with a specific market or marketing practice.
Ultimately though, leading companies are built on departments that work together – creating engaging content that draws from all aspects of the business, and is an act of collaboration not only with the PR or marketing agency, but with the customer themselves. Seal once said in an interview that his performances were never solo experiences, but that the public was a fundamental part of the performance: ‘it is we who are performing’. Giving voice to the entire chain of the business – internal and external – is the only way to capitalise on what remains, eternally, at the heart of effective marketing: the personal connection. Integrated content that speaks to the customer experience but allows them also to speak of their experience is key.
We founded Xpresso Communications in 2012 because we felt that both PR and marketing needed to be “humanised” . We were probably too early in sharing our views but some companies grasped the potential and enjoyed this new humanistic approach that focuses on people and their stories.
Human-centred marketing like Mark Schaeffer calls it in his new book, Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins.
This isn’t a trend, it’s a fundamental truth. But hey, maybe fundamental truths can be our trend for 2019?