You could put a lot of words on this list, many of which hit at the same trends related to big data, mobile marketing, social sharing, etc. The ones I've included here are those that seem to best strike at the heart of the trends that drove our industry this past year. These words will live on into 2015, but you can bet their meanings, relevance, and applications will continue to evolve. What would you add to the list?
Duh. It was hard to read an industry article this year that didn't in some way reference the overarching trend toward programmatic buying and other forms of marketing automation. That said, the tones and takeaways of those articles varied greatly depending on the writer. "Programmatic" has simultaneously been heralded as the savior and destroyer of the "art" of marketing. Ultimately, it's simply progress -- the same type of progress that so many industries before us have seen.
Like programmatic, it was hard to skim an industry event agenda this year without the word "native" jumping off the page and punching you in the face. Love it or hate it, think it's new or not, it's where the money is going. The same publishers who decry it in editorial commentaries are offering it on their own sites.
Unlike a lot of marketing buzzwords that come and go, "native" has actually hit the mainstream. (If John Oliver does a 10-minute segment on it, it's mainstream.) That means we're likely to be stuck with the term for at least a while longer.
As we knew it would be, Google Glass was just the silly, silly-looking start. All eyes now are on smartwatches. And because it's a trend among consumers, it's a headline among marketing publications. But how brands begin to play in this deeply personal space is still very much up in the air. Until someone figures out that logical brand play, we'll ferociously devour news about new devices and speculate as to where the future of mobile marketing is going.
Corporate social responsibility. It's not a new trend. It's long been a part of big-business human resource documents that no one reads. But this year, more so than any before it, marketers have realized that doing good is simply good business. As such, we're seeing a rise not only in marketing efforts related to philanthropic causes, but also in entire business models built around the concept of benefitting the world while bettering the bottom line. (Just look at companies like Warby Parker and TOMS.)
Where consumers go, marketers will follow. In 2014, people couldn't stop taking selfies. Even more so, they couldn't stop saying "selfie." It's a fun word -- selllllffffffiiiiieee. Anyway, it's no surprise that brands this year got onboard the selfie train. That train itself is long enough for me to write an entire article on it. (Oh wait. I did.)
If it didn't have a hashtag, it didn't exist this year. Increasingly, hashtags are simply how people choose to categorize their online lives, and it's a natural way for brands to participate in the common social speak -- while also enabling them to effectively monitor the reach of their efforts. Marketing hashtags are so prevalent at this point that they're now earning their own awards categories.
Content marketing. You can't escape the term. Again, like native advertising, it's not new. But this is bigger. Much bigger. Content marketing is marketing. But if you repeat a term enough and people buy into it, it's easier to garner both budget and respect for it. That's what's happening with "content" right now, just like social before it. Content marketing agencies, specialists, technologies -- you know how this goes. We'll hang our hats on "content" until a similarly all-encompassing trend swoops in to take its place.
You could swap in a handful of other words here, but I think "Instagram" epitomizes the continued strong trend toward social visuals that marketing has seen over the past 12 months. Compelling imagery has always been at the heart of advertising. But today, those images aren't necessarily originating within agency walls. The most effective marketing visual today might be the one that a teenager just snapped of her recent coffee purchase. Or newly polished fingernails. Or most coveted pair of shoes. The trick now is finding and harnessing the skills of these social photographers.
Strategies aren't just "mobile" now. They're "mobile-first." And it's about time. It means that when marketers think about a given component of a campaign, they consider the experience of the phone and tablet users up front, rather than as an afterthought. That said, while "mobile-first" is an increasingly easy approach to take with new initiatives, most brands and agencies have to confess that there are still a lot of legacy campaigns and marketing platforms out there that have yet to adapt for the mobile mentality. They're easy to spot but often hard to replace.
This ties in part to another term that probably should be on this list too -- big data. But unlike big data, attribution is a more manageable concept -- albeit a tricky one. But this year, even marketers who have no idea how to achieve proper attribution across channels at least knew they needed to pretend to be figuring it out. The C-suite is no longer content to throw money at multiple digital channels and assume that, somewhere in there, good things will happen. No. They're starting to ask smarter questions. Is our social media spending really moving the needle? What if we increase our paid search spend instead? Where are the conversions really happening? They have questions. To date, many of us have not had answers. Attribution is complex -- just like a customer's path to purchase. But we can't hide from it any longer.
"Blurred action from car at high speed" image via Shutterstock.