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Don’t wait for the latest trends to hit the mass market before taking action. Keep upcoming developments on your radar and get a jumpstart on your competitors. What’s on the horizon gives brands the opportunity to break old habits, embrace new methods of engagement, and create new and profitable futures.

In our previous newsletter, we discussed how effective branding translates into substantial profits. In today’s competitive landscape, businesses must abandon irrelevant messages and start providing customer-centric information tailored to their target audiences. To compete successfully, the best value brands must co-create with their customers, integrate social media into their product experiences, provide value-added services, and most importantly, endure through the changing tides. Brands have to adapt strategies and delivery mechanisms to match increased consumer multi-tasking. Success will be linked, not to outreach, but to brand differentiation and emotional engagement.

To further involve the consumer, many brands will start incorporating vivid imagery into their marketing campaigns. This moves beyond the vintage snaps on an iPhone to the HD-quality images shared with followers onto other major social networks like SlideShare, Pinterest, and Tumblr. Users to these sites are increasingly drawn to high quality photos and well-designed graphics that stand out from the others.

Video will move to the forefront as companies more readily respond to consumer behavior. This year, there will be a huge push for short videos (6 second clips on Vine and 15 second clips on Instagram). There will also be very brief videos artistically optimized for slow-motion viewing which may be a built-in feature on all future mobile devices. More visually literate consumers will move from text outreach to more image-based connections. Visual content will become more prominent with brands adapting to image-sharing initiatives and platforms.

The use of mobile devices to access websites and social media platforms will continue to rise. Brands need to think carefully and strategically about engaging with consumers on their mobile devices. By 2014, mobile internet is predicted to take over desktop Internet usage according to Microsoft Tag. If you’re not providing a mobile-friendly experience for your customers, they’ll retreat from your website and go to one that is more intuitively website responsive.

In addition to mobile technology, “big data” will give marketers a run for their money as they struggle to get “real-time” analytics that provide a clear ROI. For businesses, the analytic priority is heightened by intense competition on several fronts; they need to know as much as possible about pricing, strategies, customers, and competitors. Manipulating large quantities of data and turning it into actionable and measurable key performance measures (KPIs) will prove invaluable.

As more begin to understand the value of reaching people while they are walking or driving, podcasting will continue to grow in 2014. Podcast listeners average 20 minutes per episode which matches the average commute. Compare that to any other online channel and nothing equates. If your business has not considered starting a podcast, now is the time.

Beyond the world of podcasting, social media will remain a key focal point for the next three years according to a recent study by Adobe. With its 1.18 billion users, of which close to 58 percent are active daily, with an average of 20 minutes per day, Facebook is certainly not going away anytime soon. For brands, in particular, small and medium businesses are being challenged to master the platform in gaining a vibrant community.

While Facebook has reached a heightened level of maturity, 2014 will be a banner year for Twitter. Many brands already use Twitter in the areas of travel and hospitality vertical, i.e. airlines, hotels, and destinations, etc. With this in play, businesses are encouraged to use Twitter as a viable customer service platform, not to mention lead generation.

Other social media platforms like Snapshot Stories will continue to captivate consumers’ attention with its instantaneous appeal. As of April 2013, 5 million active users were uploading over 150 million photos per day! Such patronage poses great opportunities for brands to take “engagement” to the next level.

While social media will continue to escalate in popularity, content marketing will be the key differentiator. Quality content driven by smart strategies is the key to success. When delivered well, content showcases the talent and expertise of an organization. Audiences are more fragmented than ever before so sharing content across different media channels will help ensure your messages are read and acted upon.

Paramount to the endurance of these trends is the overriding ability to harness the different mediums to deliver the greatest results. How digital marketing integrates with other marketing channels will remain a big challenge. This will require the inevitable transformation needed in people, process, tools and metrics. Integrated digital marketing might not be an industry-wide standard yet, but brands are definitely starting to restructure how they manage their marketing platforms to better position themselves in the marketplace.


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