Posted by Hannah Smith
You heard it here first: Burritos are the new bacon.
Bacon is *so* last year.
Not so long ago if you wanted to create content to capture the hearts and minds of the internet at large, bacon would be your topic of choice.
However, today, dear friends, you might be better off working burritos into your content. We’ve seen runaway successes like Tiny Hamsters Eating Tiny Burritos, Classic Love Scenes Improved by Burritos, and when burritos are made incorrectly (yes, apparently this happens) we see an outpouring of rage like this.
Dear reader, I am of course kidding. Sadly, the future of marketing is not burritos.
In truth, dear reader, as much as I’d love to tell you the future of marketing is as straight-forward as a particular foodstuff, I’d be doing us all a grave disservice.
I got to thinking about this particular topic a few months ago when prepping for SMX Munich. I’ve been working in this industry for about 7 years, which makes me a comparative youngster, but nonetheless, during that time we’ve seen huge changes.
Remember when keyword density was a thing?
You’d see these sites which huge, apparently empty footers. You’d hit ctrl+a to reveal the densely packed keywords in text the same colour as the background.
Remember how strongly weighted anchor text was?
It was so strongly weighted, we were able to do stuff like this:
Over the years there have been many updates, and some of the most interesting include:
- 2009: Vince saw big brands get a boost
- 2010: Caffeine saw a new web indexing system
- 2011: Panda saw a crackdown on “thin” content
- 2012: Venice saw localised results ranking for general or broad queries without a geographic modifier
- 2012: Penguin saw a crackdown on low quality links
- 2013: Hummingbird saw a move from indexing to understanding
All of which means that, today, search queries which shouldn’t work do in fact work:
This is the sort of query my dear Mother has been typing into search engines for years. Historically these sorts of queries simply didn’t yield the results she was looking for. Today, with increasing frequency, they do.
These sorts of developments are unquestionably good for users, however they may not be quite so good for publishers who rely on ad revenue, and indeed for brands.
A search like this will yield the result directly in the SERP; there’s no need to click through to a website. There are many other examples of this:
Try queries like “how many calories in an egg”, or “how tall is Jason Priestley”.
But it’s not just informational queries that have been affected by changes to the SERPs. A search for “flights from London to Munich” sees the first organic result pushed way below the fold:
It’s fair to say that it’s getting a lot tougher out there. But it’s not just search that’s changing…
Wearable tech is causing a stir
Not too long ago, a woman named Sarah Slocum claimed to have been attacked for wearing Google Glass in a bar in San Francisco. There have been many conflicting accounts of what actually happened that night, and I’m not in a position to comment either way. However, what I think is interesting is the backlash which has ensued against this technology.
As a result, many establishments are banning customers from using Google Glass in their premises.
Just to be clear, I’m not necessarily saying that Google Glass usage won’t ever be accepted, but it’s important to understand that when humans and technology collide, things get complicated.
Regardless of the future of Google Glass, device usage is changing
Mobile used to mean “away from your PC,” but today, 77% of mobile searches are completed in a location where a PC is available (source).
We also multi-screen:
- 57% of the time when we’re using a smartphone we’re also using another device
- 67% of the time when we’re using a PC we’re also using another device
- 75% of the time when we’re using a tablet we’re also using another device
- 77% of the time when we’re watching TV we’re also using another device
TV doesn’t mean *on* a TV anymore
5% of homes in the US don’t have a TV, and this zero-TV group is growing. The US had more than 5 million zero-TV households in 2013, up from 2 million in 2007. But that doesn’t mean they’re not watching TV: 67% just get their TV content on other devices.
Traditional TV scheduling limits people who don’t want limits. They want to watch TV whenever and wherever it suits them.
This means TV advertising is also changing
As audiences continue to fragment, the reach of TV advertisements is becoming a problem. Many are simply switching and showing their ads online; YouTube ads, for example, are becoming more prevalent. However, I think this fails to take into account the difference in consumers’ mindsets.
Now I don’t love watching ads on TV, but I’m reasonably comfortable with it. Most of the time when I’m watching TV I’ll put up with the ads because I figure that the ads are the price I pay for watching the shows I want to watch.
However, when a friend sends me a link to a YouTube video, at the point at which the pre-roll ad starts playing I don’t know for sure this is a video I *really* want to watch. As such the pre-roll ad maddens me. Many others also feel the same. I sit, primed to skip the ad as those 5 seconds crawl by.
Right now, advertisers have failed to take into account these different modes of human behaviour. Pre-roll ads on YouTube are not the same as ad on TV. We react differently to them. I think in the future pre-roll ads either need to change, or they won’t survive.
It’s not just TV; the way we consume *all* content is changing
Mitchell Kapour once said “Getting information off the internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant.”
To combat this issue we all uses filters (to some degree) to get our content. We may filter by publisher, i.e. we’ll only consume content from certain sites (as opposed to trying to consume *all* the content). Or we’ll have trusted curators feed us content (this is what’s often happening on Twitter; you’ll read the content the people you follow and trust recommend).
However, our technology also protects us from unwanted content:
The algorithm which determines what appears in your Facebook feed is based on your previous interactions. As such you’ll see more content from those friends who’s updates you like and comment on than those you never interact with.
Similarly, if you’ve previously “liked” a brand page on Facebook, but then never interact with any of their content in your feed, you’ll stop seeing that content.
But it gets worse. Ogilvy predicts organic Facebook reach is destined to hit zero.
It’s not just Facebook, since Gmail launched the tabbed inbox, unsurprisingly, open rates are down.
Permission marketing may no longer be enough
All of this leads me to believe that permission marketing may no longer be enough. All of those permission assets we spent years building—email lists, active Facebook pages, etc.—are likely to become less and less effective in terms of reach.
Wait, what are you saying here?
Don’t panic. I’ve not tricked you into reading yet another “[insert your marketing tactic of choice] is dead” post. But things are changing, and they’re changing rapidly.
Here are some trends which I think are interesting:
Power out? No problem.
— Oreo Cookie (@Oreo)
February 4, 2013
In the write-ups we saw hyperbole abound:
“The message was retweeted and ‘liked’ a bajillion times” ~ Brad Tuttle,
Close to 16,000 retweets = a bajillion?
The real success was around the amount of press attention this received. In real terms the tweet itself was not that successful.
Nevertheless it’s an interesting trend because it appear lightning doesn’t just strike twice – it strikes over and over again:
— Arby’s (@Arbys)
January 27, 2014
And as if we could forget:
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow)
March 3, 2014
Many of the most successful pieces of content we’ve seen online actually existed offline first. So we’ve seen many examples of ads created for TV do well online; examples include Old Spice, and Evian Rollerbabies. But I think we’re seeing an interesting trend toward content that was created specifically for an online audience.
Dear reader, allow me to introduce you to the only pre-roll ad I’ve ever elected not to skip.
Now clearly, I can’t get it to run like a pre-roll, but you can do this for yourself.
- Click play, then position your mouse over the pause button.
- Watch for five seconds.
- Let me know if this piqued your interest sufficiently that you wanted to watch the whole thing
We’re also seeing a wave of films that don’t feel like commercials:
Perhaps the most interesting trend: brands with values
By values, I mean brands that stand for something.
When you stand for something like that, you get to create things like this:
There’s also evidence to suggest that standing for something can translate into real business benefits.
Brands which are “meaningful” outperform the stock market by 120%.
So what does the future hold?
I wanted to round this up by making some predictions. Some are “safe,” some are less so. But where’s the fun in telling you stuff you already knew?
- We’ll see more devices being adopted which will lead to more technical challenges as we’ll need to ensure everything we create works across these devices.
- We’ll be under even more pressure to measure everything more accurately. We’ll need to track people, not sessions and figure out multi-channel attribution properly.
- We’ll be even less reliant on organic search than we are today. Being overly reliant on one channel is too risky.
A “less-safe” Prediction
- There will be a deluge of content. But no content fatigue. Filters will become so sophisticated that people just won’t see it.
Somewhat “out there” prediction:
Only brands that stand for something will survive.
In Europe and the US people wouldn’t care if 92% of brands disappeared (source).
In search we’re perhaps more keenly aware of this than other marketers. We’ve seen many affiliates fall thanks to changes in the algorithm, never to return. Only the affiliates that were also recognisable brands survived.
Well people would think that Google was “broken” if major brands didn’t show up for relevant queries; that’s why major brands make it back into the index fairly quickly, even if they don’t play by Google’s rules.
But it goes deeper than that. Consumers are more savvy today than they once were. If they actively dislike a brand, or what they stand for, they have the tools at their disposal to easily go elsewhere. If your brand doesn’t stand for something, or people don’t like what it stands for they are easily able to find alternatives. Technology has empowered people in ways previously unimaginable.
But being ‘big’ isn’t enough. If you want to ensure your brand retains visibility in the future I think the only way will be to ensure people love your brand enough to search for you by name.
Contrast these two searches:
The search for “BBC weather” doesn’t yield a summary of the weather direct in the SERP. Instead, BBC weather, quite rightly, ranks first.
Now of course there are no guarantees for the future, but I’d suggest that a branded search is unlikely to yield a result where said brand is pushed below a Google property.
Only time will tell.
When we think about the future of marketing it’s easy to slip into the trap of thinking purely about technological challenges. However, the truth is that marketing isn’t changing
because of technology. Marketing is changing because consumers’ expectations are evolving.
Consumers expect brands to deliver a seamless experience, regardless of their location or the device they’re using.
When they speak, they expect brands to respond.
They aren’t interested in your self-serving messaging, or your attempts to be ‘down with the kids’, but they’ll happily be entertained.
Most of all you need them to love your brand and love your marketing. So much so, that they’ll actively seek it our for themselves and share it with their friends.
I believe that as an industry we will evolve.
I’ve only been in the industry for 7 years, many of you have been doing this for much longer than me and I *know* how adaptable you are.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the future, and your thoughts on my predictions.
For those who are interested, you can view my full SMX deck below:
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