When iMedia asked me to reprise my "10 tech trends you can ignore in 2012" piece from last year, I balked at first, as doing so might require me to own up to my past bad predictions. That sort of backward-looking self scrutiny would never have allowed me to pursue a career in marketing -- or to get past the fact that as an adolescent, I owned not one but two airbrushed Garfield the Cat T-shirts and wore them in rapid rotation for an entire summer (unfondly remembered as The Summer of No Action Whatsoever).
Looking back at last year's column, I do feel a little sheepish that I sneered at the iPad 3's Retina display approximately six weeks before I got an iPad 3 and decided that its Retina display was the greatest thing ever. But bygones on that. The important thing is that I'm willing to learn from the past. Wait, no -- the important thing is that I'm willing to set the past aside so that I can take a fresh round of potshots this year.
Last year I coined the term "trendsploding" to describe the inverse of trendspotting that I'm about to throw down. Strangely, the term hasn't taken off -- not a peep about it from those etymological philistines at Urban Dictionary. So let's try this again.
Trendsplosion 1: Do not track
I recently read an article that confirmed my long-held suspicion that the "close doors" button in an elevator doesn't actually do anything. Besides reinforcing another of my suspicions -- that the universe is an elaborate practical joke being played on me personally -- this revelation has allowed me some moments of smug satisfaction every time some Type-A wanker on the elevator jabs at the button while sighing impatiently. And now I pass that small gift on to you.
That said, I feel no such satisfaction in the elaborate prank we're playing on consumers, whereby the "do not track" button -- now a standard feature on most browsers -- doesn't actually do anything either because publishers don't need to comply with it. For all the Sturm und Drung it has generated in the press, the debate about do-not-track efforts has gone exactly nowhere in the last year.
As advertisers, we either need to make the case to consumers regarding the benefits of cookie-based targeting, or we need to give it up and move on to other tools in the toolbox. It's cynical of us to crow about our compliance with anemic "bill of rights" principles like "companies should offer consumers clear and simple choices." To any advertiser, that basically describes the noble purpose of all advertising since the beginning of history, when the Akkadians offered the Sumerians a clear and simple choice between conquest and the loss of their heads.
Government officials and industry experts are doggedly working through these issues each and every Wednesday so you can expect no progress of any kind to be made in 2013.
Trendsplosion 2: Third-place finishes
Each January, we in marketing punditry engage in ritualized hand-wringing over whether Microsoft or RIM will finally put a fresh dent in the smartphone marketplace dominated by those other two players. I am not immune to this tendency either, but I'm a little tired of saving a seat at the restaurant for the guest who never shows up, especially when iPhone and Android keep wandering over and asking if anyone is gonna use that chair.
Nope, nobody's gonna use that chair. Take it. I am sure that having market share in the low one-figure range is meaningful to some shareholders, but it's not meaningful to those of us who have to make real-world decisions about which mobile operating systems we can reasonably support on behalf of our customers.
An esteemed colleague pitched me the counter-argument that Blackberry 10 will reengage the business user as RIM's raison d'être. (That's French for "raisin eater," referring to the habit of chewing endlessly on small snacks of low nutritional value.) But RIM's business user focus is now its Raisin of Doom, as IT departments embrace the Big Two and consumers demand interoperability between their work and home lives.
Trendsplosion 3: Windows 8
I was puzzled by consumers' disdain for Microsoft's semi-bold departure of an operating system until I got my son a Windows 8 laptop for Christmas, and he and I spent the first 30 minutes figuring out how to make sure that he never has to use the infamous tile-interface start screen again.
Much as I do deeply dig the nod to uber-modern Swiss grid design from the usually stolid Microsoft, the new interface amounts to software in search of its hardware. The touch-friendly layout places a big bet on its suitability for a slew of touchscreen Windows 8 devices coming on the market in 2013, and I'm sure sales of those devices will benefit greatly from having the software's reputation trashed well in advance. In the meantime, desktop users struggle with the new Windows' lack of support for having lots of those -- oh, what do you call them -- windows open at the same time. Seems like a little bit of a miss there.
My new year's wish for Microsoft is for it to own its stick-in-the-mud status and its highly functional neo-Soviet design sensibility. Watching the company trying to bust out of its rut is actually kind of creepy -- like seeing your mom shake her hips on the dance floor. And now I have creeped myself out and need to move on. Which brings us to...
Trendsplosion 4: Instagram backlash
When Facebook snapped up fledgling photo filtering and sharing app Instagram last year for a cool $1 billion, the punditocracy collectively crouched in pounce position, waiting for Facebook to infect the beloved startup with privacy-violating zombie blood, upon which we would deftly apply an axe to the brain in the form of sharply worded screeds.
I understand that having Facebook as your corporate overlord raises special concerns about your use of customer data, but please. The controversial terms, which basically say "we might place ads around your content," are, to my ear, far less icky than the now reinstated original terms. The original terms basically say, "We might use your photos in some way we haven't decided on yet." We need more open and honest dialogue with consumers about what it really takes to monetize free online services, and this cycle of outrage, backlash, and retreat doesn't help one bit.
The bottom line is that Instagram is in no real danger of losing momentum over this flap. Several pundits have suggested that Flickr stands to gain big from consumer disgust with Instagram, which makes about as much sense as predicting a surge in lima bean sales in the wake of Twinkies' demise. Instagram will remain the dominant photo-sharing application in 2013, and marketers wishing to engage with consumers around photo-sharing should place their bets there.
Trendsplosion 5: Location-based services
Back in the heady days of 2011, I spilled a BP-sized amount of digital ink claiming that location-based services (LBS) were going to be the "next big thing." Yeah -- not so much. In my defense, I did declare myself "the unimpeachable Mayor of WTF" on the subject of Foursquare, but I believed such services would eventually crack the code on widespread consumer engagement. Instead, Foursquare is floundering at a 25 million user base; the heavily hyped Color has gone down in big, colorful flames; and services that offer more actual service, like Google search, Yelp, and Facebook, have adroitly incorporated location features into a bigger, better user experience. Watch for the standalone LBS to exit stage left in 2013.
What we have here is a failure of gamification: Users want more tangible value in exchange for sharing location info, and the promise of winning the Barfly badge ain't gonna cut it. My company, People to People Ambassador Programs, travels upwards of 20,000 people per year to all seven continents, most of them digital natives in the 12- to 18-year-old demographic, so we ought to be some sort of poster child for LBS. But we are not. Our savvy customers want location services seamlessly incorporated into familiar social and photo-sharing tools, and that is truly the way of the world. Which leads me to...
Trendsplosion 6: The social strategy
In the early days of social media, brands looked upon the social landscape as a vast, untamed wilderness, and they sought to build brand fortresses in the wilderness in the manner of the Jamestown settlers setting up camp in a swamp, with about as much success. The outdated notion of a social strategy implies that a corporate brand presence and a social presence are different, and that social strategists should be sent out to forage in the wilderness and come back with leads or satisfied customers, for which we'll pay them enough hog fat to see them through the winter.
But our customers don't treat a brand's corporate and social spheres as different, and neither should we. A 2012 study by Get Satisfaction found that most of the brand-related content that consumers discuss in social media comes from the corporate website and that, conversely, consumers want corporate sites to "behave more like social networks."
This blending of the spheres is helped by the growth of social sign-on solutions like Janrain, which enable consumers to carry their social networks with them on corporate and content sites. As my colleague Nilofer Merchant points out in her e-book "11 Rules for Creating Value in the Social Era," the old model of the buying funnel jammed full of lemming-like leads has been destroyed by the active, informed consumer, but brands still persist in using social tools without truly "acting social." Here's to the destruction of the fortress in 2013.
On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet."Signage shop sign route," "Defiant pose," "Megaphone man," and "Grunge" images via Shutterstock.