Digital trends brands should look out for in 2017

David KoAs sure as night follows day, the digital world will continue to evolve as marketers look for ever more innovative ways to reach and engage consumers. In this guest post, Daylight Partnership founder David Ko, now senior vice president of RFI Studios Asia, looks ahead to 2017 and beyond.

Dark Social:

First coined by Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic, Dark Social refers to social sharing not on semi-public platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, but messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and WeChat.

This shift to person-to-person and closed group sharing is a massive trend, with some estimates claiming over 60% of people share exclusively in Dark Social. Anecdotally we’ve all seen it happen: I now share much more with friends and family on WhatsApp than Facebook. It’s more intimate, you’re not bombarded by sponsored messages, and there’s no danger that your personal conversations are stored and analyzed on a server somewhere.

End-to-end encryption will be the norm, ensuring that private conversations stay that way. Content marketing will rely less on social platforms and more on private sharing, using tracking codes similar to UTM to track every piece of content as it is passed around, whether it’s a blog post, whitepaper, magazine article, or online video.

Immersive Storytelling

It seemed every year was going to be the year VR took off, but in 2016 we might have finally seen critical mass, with the launch of Oculus Rift and the Samsung Gear VR.

Sino Group became the first property developer in Hong Kong to create a VR mini-movie, VR@SaiKung, and Digital Domain began sending out tens of thousands of Google Cardboard VR viewers to fans.

As VR becomes more mature and accepted, we will see it move in exciting new directions such as short-form dramas.

In 2017 we expect to see Augmented Reality (AR), or Mixed Reality (MR), come to the fore with Microsoft Hololens coming out of development, and while the jury is still out on Magic Leap, it is indisputably one of the most well-funded stealth startups at US$4.5 billion and counting.

Brands will continue to dabble in holograms for campaigns, following the VR model, beginning with OOH activations, gradually moving to individual headsets as they become more popular.

Chatbots

In the same way that robots have taken over much of manual labour, software is gradually taking over white collar fields as well, including digital marketing.

Chatbots, first made popular by Facebook’s launch of their chat API in April 2016, will increase in prominence in 2017 and beyond. Customer service, e-commerce – even Facebook fan engagement – will be more than adequately served by chatbots.

This month, Pacific Place, one of Hong Kong’s most premium retail malls, debut their Christmas Chatbot on Facebook Messenger, answering fan enquiries about their Christmas campaign as well as playing simple games.

I’d hate to add another buzzword by calling it Conversational Marketing, but this is a trend we cannot afford to ignore.

Social VR

VR as a way to share unique, real-time experiences with tens of thousands of individuals will start to take off, aided by native support for VR viewing in platforms such as YouTube and Youku.

Digital Domain will broadcast the world’s first real-time VR concert next week featuring Chinese pop superstar Faye Wong. Other events will follow, including sports.

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With data rates at 100 megabits per second for mobile users, 5G, expected to start rolling out in 2020, will accelerate Social VR even further. We will soon see social chatrooms and completely virtual concerts where each spectator may be hundreds of kilometres apart, yet share in an experience as if they are in the same room.

Micro KOLs

Influencer marketing has risen in importance and become a key part of any social strategy, but engagement rates are steadily falling. Many Instagrammers and YouTubers have been shills for hire, eroding their influence and fan enthusiasm.

In 2016 we will see the appearance of Influencer Mapping tools adept at discovering Micro KOLs, who are influencers within niche areas with followers in the hundreds or thousands, instead of hundreds of thousands or millions.

Replacing the brute force approach of paying huge dollars for celebrity KOLs, marketers will migrate to Micro KOLs with a passionate and loyal following within a specific niche.

Predictive Analytics

Analytical tools will emerge that finally achieve the Holy Grail of predicting a shift in consumer sentiment as soon as they happen, giving brands a head start in managing events with a significant impact on their reputation.

While sentiment analysis is nothing new, Asia, with its multitude of languages and geographies, has made it challenging to develop sentiment detection with acceptable accuracy.

With the maturation of Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology combining AI and linguistics, aided by large corporations like Google making their NLP tools available to developers everywhere, we expect to see predictive analytics become an essential part of every marketer’s toolbox this year.

Emotional Conversion

We constantly talk about the necessity for brands to have an authentic voice, but in this post-truth era of media, is that enough?

The story of the year in marketing, of course, was the rise of fake news and how it can lead to individuals making decisions and forming opinions that defy logic and reason.

Facebook

Emotional conversion is a form of halo effect that leads to perceptions of an individual or brand not correlated with reality. Marketers have pursued emotional conversion since the dawn of marketing; you might even say it’s the essence of advertising.

What’s different today is how social media has polarized opinions via its echo chamber effect. In 2017 we will see a backlash against fake news and its effects. Online tools will emerge that enable consumers to verify the authenticity of any content, on the fly.

Comments


  1. ASIT GUPTA
    28 Dec 16
    6:11 pm

  2. Good list. 2 comments

    1. Micro KOLs has been around for some time now. It is just another paid tactic and bound to become less effective. Brands need to supplement it with real consumer advocacy . In the money they spend on one micro KOL post they can get 1000 real users to sign up (voluntary ie opt-in) for an engagement which will generate grass roots and authentic advocacy and content

    2. Isn’t the last point more about ” Rise of consumer skepticism and Fact checking” v’s Emotional conversion. Preying on consumers’ biases and basic instincts cannot be a sustainable trend. It will and should be nipped.

  3. Amit Gundh
    6 Jan 17
    12:29 am

  4. Well covered, David! Exciting times ahead as social media media begins to deliver newer dimensions to users. Brand story-tellers surely have an adventurous journey coming up!

    On the privacy spect of Dark social, it’s hard to believe Facebook is keeping its hands off the intel it is getting from whatsapp conversations about users for its ad-targeting (to “there’s no danger that your personal conversations are stored and analyzed on a server somewhere.).

  5. Donald
    6 Jan 17
    9:33 am

  6. Hi Amit Gundh what is brand storyteller? Is it same as “curator of holistic brand experiences”?

    Also, i am happy facebook is not using my whatsapp conversations to show me targeted ads….otherwise i will be receiving a dozen ads everyday for 4 legged animals dressed in sexy costumes.

  7. David Ko
    6 Jan 17
    4:01 pm

  8. Thank you for the comments! For micro KOLs while they have always been around, I see the trend as more of new tools emerging to discover, map and engage these new influencers. Ditto for fake news, it’s about the rising consumer demand for realtime verification tools, and marketers should be savvy about how to support that.

    Whatsapp did recently announce that user’s information and usage patterns would indeed be tracked, but there is a way to opt out.

    Finally, the news about Medium today also got me thinking about whether there is a way for high quality, non-clickbait content to rise to prominence in this era of sponsored content and social echo chambers. We’re caught in a vice of needing to cherish and support our trusted news sources (NYT, etc.) while allowing social media to crush them economically. The beginning of the end was when Twitter and Facebook became news sources in addition to social sharing platforms.

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