You can’t predict the future. However, if we’ve learned anything over the last few years, we know marketing will continue to evolve in unexpected ways. The problem is you can’t do anything about it, the changes are out of our hands.
The only thing we can control is to build upon and around the things that won’t change.
Jeff Bezos built the most valuable company in the world, and became the richest person in the world in the process, by "focusing on the things that don't change." That meant building around principles that will stand the test of time, despite any changes in the meantime. So here are top four marketing principles you can focus your business around.
In February, electronic dance music (EDM) star Marshmello made a surprise appearance in a video game. Fortnite players' games were temporarily interrupted with an in-game concert — all digital and virtual.
The games developers reported that 10.7 million people attended the event. People watching the live stream on other platforms drove that number up even more. The Verge reported that YouTube views of the event reached over 27 million.
An in-person event would be lucky to reach that many people, and it would probably cost tens of millions more to actually pull off. Now, think about how easy it would be to incorporate branded sponsors into something like this and you can imagine the potential.
The underlying trend here is interactivity. Consumers want to engage and interact with one another. Facilitating that is the best way to get your message across and to get it to stick in an overcrowded, noisy marketplace.
You can see this same underlying trend in other forms, for example, the best lead-gen tools online are calculators, quizzes and other recommendation engines where people can interact with your site over a period of time.
Over the past year, I've spent less on blogging and more on buying free software tools because they can drive more views and more engagement. For marketers, that means more nurtured prospects who will be easier to convert or more likely to recommend your stuff to other people.
Related Article: Agile Marketing Your Way Through the Next Recession
2. The Marketing Funnel
At INBOUND last year, HubSpot's CEO Brian Halligan made the bold statement that essentially the "marketing funnel is dead." His point was marketing is now a flywheel, where investments in things like customer delight and advocacy create momentum that snowballs into massive growth.
This marketing flywheel idea isn't new and it's largely accurate. However, I disagree that the funnel is dead. Here's why.
Flywheels are a helpful way to illustrate compounding growth. Like any investment, digital marketing returns are small initially and then grow substantially over time. But when you only have 100 customers, you can't invest in customer delight and advocacy because you'll go out of business.
Your problem at this point isn't necessarily customer happiness. They're probably happy. Your problem is you don't have enough of them!
Practically, that means your top of the funnel needs work. After growing multiple companies, I've learned over the years that it's often easier, faster and cheaper to grow awareness and acquisition in the early years. We then organize strategies, tactics and even teams around each funnel stage to constantly look for 80/20 discrepancies to exploit.
So the idea that the marketing funnel is dead seems a stretch. The marketing funnel is very much alive and will continue to be alive for years to come.
I don't think there's been another marketing strategy or tactic declared "dead" as much as SEO. It's true that SEO has never been more complex or difficult than it is today, but that doesn't mean it's going anywhere. In fact, it's even more important today than ever before.
Google is still ground zero for researching new purchases. Offline branding plays might help with recognition. However, when it's time to buy, you go through Google, researching product comparisons, prices and alternatives. This has been true for at least a decade now.
But what about Amazon? Maybe you skip Google entirely, pull up Amazon, and type in "best 50-inch TV." The results come up and are ranked by sales, reviews, their product descriptions and more.
This is SEO.
The same underlying principles apply to Expedia when booking a hotel and even Amazon Echo when using voice search.
We live in a world where more information is being created every day than the day before. All of these technologies, then, focus on finding, classifying, retrieving and displaying information.
SEO is the way you take advantage of that. And for that reason, it's not going anywhere.
Related Article: Why SEO Efforts So Often Fall Short
The New Yorker is an amazing periodical, but not so great at marketing.
In 2014, staff writer James Surowiecki wrote in "Twilight Of The Brands" that brand importance was dying. He cited examples like Lululemon, which has since gone on to put a store in pretty much every mall around the world (or so it seems). And five years on since that prediction, it's hitting record highs.
We live in a world where over 4 million pieces of new information are being created online every single day. As noted above, SEO is one way to help filter results so consumers can find what they're looking for. The other way is through brands.
The best brands are like a shorthand message. Countless studies show that greater brand recognition often translates to more sales. Why? Because people trust brands: they're a safe, consistent bet. Consumers know what they're going to get.
So as the marketing world gets more complex and crowded over the next few decades, brands will continue to be a simple shortcut for consumers to make an easy decision, no-brainer decision. Consistency is the base of every great brand.