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27 December 2013

Digital marketing trends for 2014

Combining memes and predictions from blogs and marketing fora all over the world with hands-on working experience as a digital marketing consultant in different types of companies in various industries lets me take an objective look at recent evolutions in the marketer’s landscape. Based on these findings I identified 5 key topics for marketing professionals to watch.


Marketers will become marketIT’ers and focused data analysts, but mostly interpreters. Marketing as a business discipline will become extremely number-driven. On the one side facts and figures are of the utmost importance to base your strategic marketing decisions on. Of course management is asking for accountability in these turbulent times. On the other hand technological innovations allow us to capture and store consumer data in amounts that have never been seen before. We are now producing and storing the same amount of information in 15 minutes as people created from year 0 until the 17th century. No wonder technologists are telling us that ‘big data’ is here. It will be the way in which your marketing department is prioritizing this big data trend that will determine its future success. The era of data capturing is gone. Interpreting this information overload, structuring it, attracting the correct resources for doing so and deriving actionable marketing plans will be the key discriminator.

Contextual marketing is king and content curation is queen. Brands can take two approaches to outperforming the competition: do better or be unique. Speaking about content creation there is little option to do ‘better’, because there already is an enormous amount of qualitative content being produced every millisecond. The competitive advantage in 2014 will be to provide proof to your consumer that you as a brand understand their situation and context in which they are in. Consumers want to receive personalized, tailor made content. So it’s not about creating new content, it’s about selecting, combining and presenting content in a SMART and targeted way.

The way you’re organizing for digital marketing directly impacts your business results and therefore your competitive position. Until now I encountered three types of organizational structures and thus different ways to embed ‘digital marketing’ thinking throughout organizations. The first typology is the ‘stand apart’ organizational format. Next to the marketing department this type of organization has a dedicated ‘digital marketing department’. Typical job titles are ‘digital analyst’, ‘digital customer service manager’, ‘online pricing specialist’, web analysts, etc. The second typology is the ‘fully integrated’ format. The word ‘digital’ has left job titles and marketing managers are approaching digital just as another ‘channel’ in their communication mix. Brand managers are expected to be digital natives here. Or at least they are trained by external consultants. This is a kind of learning organization. The third typology is the hybrid format. Per team there are typically a few expert functions that feed the teams with relevant information and knowledge. Also they will take the lead in different projects with a mainly digital component. Agencies play a big role in this format, especially in executing the operational strategy. Of course the type of industry you’re in will determine more or less the organizational format. The way you organize for digital integration has the biggest business impact if you’re in a ‘not digital native’ context (e.g. FMCG orginizations) compared to a digital native company (e.g. online retail, e-commerce). Strategic decisions about outsourcing to agencies, hiring extra FTE’s, training your current team or calling upon external consultants directly impacts your cost structure, short or long term. In my experience the most cost-effective solution for ‘not digital native’ companies is initially to outsource digital responsibilities to digital native agencies or to call upon external experts to help you develop a digital strategy and to prepare for digital integration. The next step is in developing internal expertise centers that detect trends and formulate strategies accordingly. Then comes the moment of truth: integration of digital efforts in traditional marketing thinking.

Mobile’s revolution era is long gone. Mobile is big and will become bigger. Adoption rates in Belgium were at 22% in 2012 and have risen to 34% in 2013. It’s about first mover advantages in 2014. Brands who are early adopters and vast believers in real-time marketing will gain competitive advantage in the mobile playfield. Many trendwatchers believe mobile RTB will change instant advertising enormously. Also the continuously evolving and expanding (geo-) targeting options are driving the importance of mobile marketing. Even for small business owners this can be a trend that immediately results in extra revenue.

Personal branding and proof for “digital self positioning” will become key discriminators in staffing for executive ‘digital’ marketing positions. I firmly believe that companies in 2014 will realize more and more that promoting a marketing manager to a ‘head of digital’ position based on his previous experiences, is not the way to go. Younger profiles will enter the company and will prove to master specific skills better than senior managers do. And these youngsters should be selected based on the content quality and the intensity of their daily digital life. Whether we like it or not a lot of data about our (private) life (and thus about our behavior) is captured, often without us knowing it is the case. A nice example here is Google’s location history browser. Well, instead of being reluctant youngsters should start building their own equity in order to create their own ‘digital portfolio’ based on their own (online) behavior.

So be aware. These are the market dynamics that will challenge us in 2014. Let’s not see them as a threat but as a major opportunity for marketers to position their brands and organizations. To conclude here’s a little piece of actionable advice in tackling this rapidly changing context:

  • Love data put your efforts in data gathering and actionable analyses.
  • Steal with pride in times of content overload you do not need to act as a content creator (which probably is far away from your core values anyway), but as a content curator.
  • Structure follows strategy if you put “digital” in the front of your organization because it drives value for your customers, then organize accordingly and dare to make this strategic decision.
  • Be mobile and start defining what this exactly means for your business. And more importantly: when does your customer want you to be mobile?
  • Be proud and start creating your ‘digital self’. This will be the key discriminator for recruiters anno 2014.
  • Don’t talk, just ACT.