2015, the Year of Speaking Human


2015 promises to be an exciting (and disruptive) year. Everything is changing fast … especially the way consumers interact with their online environments. Paradoxically, the digital age is requiring branding and marketing to become more human.

In reviewing what the branding and marketing gurus are expecting to happen in the New Year, we see some inspiring trends. Put on your helmet, and fasten your seatbelts. Here we go.

The Vernacular of Human

In 2015, we will need a new language, a vernacular of human. We need a standing-in-the-grass-barefoot dialect that connects us to our global system. How we communicate, co-act, collaborate, innovate, interplay, interrelate, and live with our customers depends upon it. Are we using language to force, manipulate or trick others to act? Or are we using language to share understanding and knowledge so that everyone can understand and feel empowered to act — to draw closer together?

"2015 will be the year of HUMAN for digital marketers. Gone are the days of corporate-speak messaging and dull, boring campaigns. Instead, we’ll begin to see more marketers incorporate human-speak into their messaging – videos, pictures, humor, and human!"
DJ Waldow, Digital Marketing Evangelist

It’s impossible to address human-speak without addressing listening, because this common language of human is a language of listening. It has a lot of space between the words. The Vernacular of Human is a language of invitation, curiosity, playfulness, respect, care, and clarity. How are you listening to your customers? How are you learning from them? Listening and learning from your market needs to be built into your brand's strategy, and social media provides the perfect platform for tuning into this conversation.

It’s Time to Actually Care

As Tim Sanders wrote in his internationally best-selling business book, Love is the Killer App, “The old, loveless ways don’t work anymore.” Customers want to know you care.

"Marketers who do nothing but sell, sell, sell, are gonna get ignored, dismissed, and overlooked by consumers and prospects. Get cracking folks, it’s time to actually care."
Mike Stelzner, CEO, Social Media Examiner

From personal brand to company brand, it’s your care for your customers that’s going to build loyalty. Care can be expressed in many ways, from personalizing the customer experience, and creating meaningful content to providing a seamless experience across platforms, and beyond. Your imagination (or ours, if you’ve hired us) is the limit, and nothing less.

Mark Schaeffer, Executive Director of Schaeffer Marketing Solutions asks, “What does marketing look like when the internet surrounds us like the air that we breathe?” Just imagine. Innovation is in the air.

The Social Revolution Is Real

In an interview on Robert Thomson’s Leader Inside Out podcast, thought leader, Tom Peters, said that “being a social organization is no longer an avoidable topic. We must talk about this. It’s incredibly for real. It’s a revolution.” Peters mentioned that MIT Management professor Douglas McGregor’s futuristic take, “Empower or die!” (circa 1940s) is now the name of the game. Branding strategies must include the design to become a social company that empowers the underserved. Although this is tough, gritty work, an art, and a balancing act, it’s no longer optional.

Peters also said that the use of social media to this end is an electronic form of his well-known creed, MBWA or "manage by walking around," i.e., “being in touch with the action.” And everyone has got to do it. In 2015, there will be many more ways for people and their companies to be “in touch with the action,” as new social media platforms and advertising opportunities open up. What's more, it’s going to be important to mix it up.

As well, it will be increasingly crucial to be a participant in your customers’ lives, rather than communicate ‘at’ them as a disparate entity. How are you going to empower your customers to act? Yes, 2015 is The Year of Participation … the year of a being a truly social company in every way. It truly is the time to empower or die.

Social media maven, Tara Hunt, talks about the importance of being an active participant in customers’ lives and offers 5 key principles for doing just this in her book, The Whuffie Factor: Using the Power of Social Networks to Build Your Business. Miss Hunt's key takeaways include:

  1. Stop talking, start listening - focus on individuals, and understand the needs of a community
  2. Become part of the community you serve
  3. Create amazing customer experiences
  4. Embrace the chaos - communities are made up of people, and people are not predictable
  5. Find your higher purpose - what can you give to the community, and still be profitable?

Content Your Customers Will Thank You For

Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs, shares her approach to digital marketing in 2015. “We’re taking the notion of ‘brands are publishers,’ and pushing the boundaries of that further,” she said. “We’ll focus on enormous empathy, and customer experience … We’ll focus on more relevance, and new inspiration (rather than just the tried and true). And we’ll focus on being generously useful. 2015 really will be the year we create and curate content our customers will thank us for.”

Ardath Albee, CEO of Marketing Interactions, stated, “The days of preaching to customers, rather than exciting and informing them, are rapidly coming to an end. And marketers that can effectively connect with prospects will win.”

Words As Currency

Social content is the rising marketing star. Excellent content can be used in many different ways, but content must be outstanding in order to be dynamic, flexible, and useful. Words are thoughts first. Furthermore, thoughts are the substance of every brand. They can be molded, carefully crafted into just the right words, and then those words shape worlds.

"Our words are our currency — they tell the world who we are. They can make us look smart or they can make us look stupid—and so being able to communicate well in writing isn’t just nice; it’s a necessity."
— Ann Hadley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs

According to Ann, writing matters more now than ever before, and this is especially true in the video/podcast/Instagram world. “Good writing is like an iceberg — use your best words to convey the depth under the surface. That means you’ve got to choose those words well, and write with economy, and the style, and the end reader in mind. (There’s that empathy thing again!)”

Longer Copy, Too, in 2015

An interesting phenomenon catalyzed by Google, is taking place in this world where everything seems faster and shorter. Copy needs to be longer. Longer, really? Yes. As David Wells states in his Inbound Now article, 10 Online Marketing Trends and Predictions for 2015, “Over the last few years, marketers increasingly appreciated a long copy over short one, and we’ll see this trend blooming in 2015. The length and value of the content will be more essential than ever for effective SEO – Google already labels content of less than 200 words as "thin content," and [the search engine] has two special algorithms in force, Panda 4.0 and Pay Day 2.0, that are specifically aimed at reducing the ranks of low quality content.”

Visual Storytelling Will Take Off As Never Before

Ekaterina Walter, CMO at Branderati, said in TopRank Online Marketing’s blog post, 21 Digital Marketing Trends and Predictions in 2015, “In the age of infobesity and increasing digital noise, visual storytelling will continue to emerge as a strategy for not only standing out, but also for nurturing and growing vibrant and engaged communities. The ability to craft visual stories that inspire emotion and spark the movement will help companies get noticed, and amplify their message throughout those communities.”

Additionally, the use of short-form video is growing exponentially. Facebook videos have exceeded YouTube in this regard, but visual storytelling will increase everywhere across media platforms. There are already many fabulous apps for visual storytelling, and we’ll see more of this in 2015.

More Mobile

Some predict that mobile will supersede the use of desktops in 2015. Whether this will actually come to be or not, mobile usage will continue to grow, and along with it, marketing opportunities targeted to consumers on the go. The beauty of mobile for marketers in 2015 is that it will allow for a more intuitive, human-based interaction with customers.

"... the continual removal of barriers between message and action that mobile gives us (for those who begin to think that way) will begin to restore the balance of the Force for attribution, and digital marketers can start to get away from channel-based thinking, and move towards a more human behavior-centered model, with mobile serving as the unifying principle to unite offline and offline marketing."
— Tom Webster, Vice President, Edison Research

"Pay to Play," and the Math Behind It

Free advertising is going away. Free ad space is dwindling, and it’s no longer a free-place market. 2015’s Pay to Play environment will require more money allocated for online ads.

And marketing analytics will bloom. 2015 will be the year of hyper-segmentation and micro-targeting. Jay Baer, President of Convince and Convert, said in TopRank’s Online Marketing blog, ”It’s already happening, but 2015 will be the year of paid amplification. With content marketing reaching near-ubiquity, the success pendulum will swing toward boosting consumption of content. That will put a new focus on math, testing, and optimization as content production and content distribution become equally important.”

Back to Basics

Pam Didner, Global Integrated Marketing Strategist for Intel Corporation, said, “Digital marketing will continue to morph, and promotion channels will be further fragmented. The major change for 2015 is NOT about digital marketing. The major change will come from marketers going back to basics: Reevaluate the target audience. Determine what works, and what doesn’t. Reprioritize and be smart about resource allocation and investment.”

So, while the tools are rapidly changing, the marketing basics remain the same, and are essential to guiding all marketing efforts.

Time Trumps Money

There has been a growing trend of companies outsourcing their marketing. William Aruda reported in Forbes that “time trumps money,” and that 2015 will see this trend continue as companies realize that outsourcing can be much more economical, efficient, and effective. If time truly is money, then it might be time to outsource your branding and marketing so that your internal time and energy can be focused on what your company actually does.

You probably have a lot of questions about what 2015 will hold, and what you need to be doing with your brand and marketing initiatives. Give us a call, and we can talk about designing a brand strategy that yields the greatest return, based on the above insight, as well as our own successes.

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