Marketing Trends for 2014

CMO posts their perspective of the Top 11 Marketing Trends For 2014


CMO EXCLUSIVE | December 18, 2013

By Mercedes M. Cardona, Contributing Writer,

Could the digital dust be ready to settle? After the explosion of mobile and social media during the past two years, 2014 is shaping up to be a year of recovery, reaction, and backlash.

Marketers, media, and agency pros see some of the past trends—the mobile shakeup, evolution of content marketing, and launch of programmatic ad buying systems, among them—reaching a more mature stage next year.  Some of their predictions for 2014 are the natural progression of past trends; others are a reaction.

Also setting the stage, Zenith Optimedia projects media spending worldwide willgrow a healthy 5.1 percent in 2014 as the ongoing Eurozone recovery stops depressing media spending worldwide. Meanwhile, the Winter Olympics and the World Cup will add fuel to the global marketing engines. And in the U.S., the year kicks off with the annual marketing carnival of the Super Bowl, this year occurring within driving distance of Madison Avenue.

In the middle of everything, consumers will begin rebelling against the excess of electronic connection in their lives, and marketers will begin dealing with the deluge of data without human connection that has accumulated in recent years. The result will lead to a focus on personal interactions, qualitative research, and a pushback against regulations that hinder progress.

And because Top 10 lists are so last year, here are 11 trends to look out for in 2014.

(For even more predictions from 70-plus heads of marketing and other digital-marketing leaders, read “2014 Will Be The Year Of The : Marketing Leaders Fill In The Blank.”)


1. The End Of The Desktop?

Reports of the death of the desktop may be greatly exaggerated, but in 2013 it lost its place at the top of the e-commerce heap to the combo of smartphones and tablets. “Mobile-first design” caught on as one of the year’s buzzwords. “No longer an add-on to the marketing mix, targeting mobile users will become top-of-mind to a campaign’s success,” said Jud Bowman, CEO of mobile ad network Appia, in an interview with

While consumers still primarily go online on a desktop (either at the office or at home), mobile commerce is gaining fast, and marketers are shifting their attention to making everything mobile-friendly. Zenith projects mobile advertising spending worldwide will grow 51 percent in 2014 and make up 31 percent of the spending growth for the year.

“While we have laughably heard that ‘this is the year of mobile’ since the StarTAC debuted, I really think it’s here,” said Darren Herman, chief digital media officer of The Media Kitchen, in an interview with

2. Prime Time For Real Time

Real-time marketing existed before last year’s Super Bowl, but once Oreo caused a sensation by tweeting about the blackout during the game, all bets were off. “Brand newsrooms” have been sprouting like mushrooms at marketer headquarters and ad agencies, all looking for a repeat of that moment.

In 2013, we saw marketers tweeting about everything from Shark Week to the “Breaking Bad” finale. Some efforts succeeded, while others—including some unfortunate 9/11 anniversary tweets—did not. The first early test of massive real-time marketing might will come with this year’s Super Bowl—with or without power outages.

“As marketers compete to achieve the real-time success of Oreo in the 2013 Super Bowl, there will be a great deal of experimentation and risk taking–it will be really exciting and inspiring to witness,” said Catherine Davis, president of agency Vizeum Americas, in an interview with

3. Filling Up On Snackable Content

With the ascendance of mobile, content had to scale down to fit the smaller screen and shorten to fit the attention span of consumers on the go. Infographics, image-based social media sites such as Pinterest and Instagram, and short-form video platforms such as Vine took off in 2013 and will continue to drive mobile viewership in 2014 as mobile continues to drive ad growth.

“Long-form videos, microsites, and complex branded apps that lack utility are losing the battle. If consumers can digest a brand’s content quickly, they’ll engage and share at a higher rate,” said Stacy Janicki, director of account management at agency Carmichael Lynch, in an interview with “The good news for marketers is that this content is often more affordable to produce. Agencies need to embrace the new norm to populate year-long content calendars with easy, quick, affordable, and disposable content.”

4. Wearable Tech Catches On—Kind Of

Google Glass and smartwatches made a big splash in 2013, but consumers are still not sold on some of the pricier wearable technologies. Some, such as the Nike Fuelband, did catch on, so a sweet spot exists, but marketers are having a devil of a time finding it.

“As a concept, it may well hit some kind of stride next year, but, in truth, we’re a long way from mainstream acceptance,” said Toby Southgate, CEO, Americas of Brand Union. “For brands to capitalize on this trend, their products need to seamlessly integrate into our lives in way that meets a direct need.”

Nike’s Fuelband did a great job, and Jawbone continues to push its UP wristband, so someone will crack the code, but “we shouldn’t expect consumers to embrace whatever cool new gadget is released for the sheer thrill of feeling like James Bond,” Southgate told Brands will have to develop wearable tech that does something relevant to the consumer.

5. Lighting Up The Dark Assets

Anything from weather data to geolocation is fair game for data management in 2014. “Dark assets” that have not been used to reap consumer data before, such as in-store video of shoppers moving around the aisles, will increasingly get the spotlight as marketers try to sort terabytes of data in real time, instead of merely looking backward.

“Trying to run your business on data that’s in the past is like trying to drive by looking in your rear-view mirror,” said Jon Stine, director, retail and consumer products practice, at the Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group. Marketers are adding to the Internet of Things by using tools such as RFID sensors, beacons, and mobile location data captured in real time, and combining it with performance and transaction data to get a picture of what shoppers are doing at that moment and adjust accordingly.

A lot of this is simply using data they may already have and have access to, Stine told Some stores already put some of those practices to use in time for Black Friday 2013. “The data is there. The question is: Are we willing to light it up and put it to use?” he asked.

6. Ad Exchanges Are Not A Clearance Rack

Programmatic ad buying is maturing as more publishers look for ways to leverage the buying networks to sell premium advertising. They are building packages and partnerships, and not just clearing out excess inventory at discounted rates via automation. AOL tried to push the concept along by holding a “programmatic upfront” during New York’s Advertising Week activities.

While the jury is still out, publishers are getting behind this trend, both as a way to sell more efficiently and also to bring in new relationships.

“In 2014, programmatic buying of digital advertising inventory will expand beyond standard IAB ad units into premium placements and nontraditional display units, such as in-image, native, and content marketing,” said Ken Weiner, CTO of display advertising platform GumGum, in an interview with

7. People-Based Research Makes A Comeback

Marketers are addressing big data overload by seeking more human insights. It used to be called “ethnographic” research. Now it’s “qualitative” research—asking people what they think of products and services.

Expect to see marketers invest in research that brings texture to big data next year, said Barbara Apple Sullivan, managing partner at agency Sullivan.

“Yes, analytics are great for providing a screenshot and narrowing a business’ audience—but the truth is, as more and more organizations are realizing, they paint an incomplete picture,” she told “In 2014, we’ll look for companies to strengthen this marriage by digging back into the gritty interviews and fieldwork that, while time-consuming, provide essential insights.”

8. Fighting The Man

Prepare to see pushback against regulations, especially regarding consumer data, following the revelations of the National Security Agency’s snooping on data. Just as the FAA relaxed the rules on electronic devices on planes by popular demand, “brands in the digital world are going to look for ways to break down barriers that seem nonsensical to consumers,” said Andrew Speyer, VP/managing director of Hispanic agency Wing. Heavily regulated industries such as pharmaceuticals, which are bound by old-media restrictions, will seek new, digital-friendly rules, he told

Conversely, consumers will also start to push back as their tolerance for data sharing and government monitoring drops, he said. “We seem to be at a tipping point with these issues, with the great acceptance that the price of digital communications is some intrusion on privacy being replaced by a more cynical, or at least aware, attitude toward what is actually happening,” Speyer said. “Tools and providers that allow people to feel more protected and insulated from prying eyes of any kind will get traction.”

9. More Maker Fairs And Meet-Ups

As consumers get overloaded and begin unplugging and masking their identities online, marketers will need to create more events and situations to give them a reason to interact with their brands in the real world.

When an ecosystem is under pressure and splits open, it’s known as “squealing,” and consumers will “squeal” in 2014, explained Sarah DaVanzo, chief cultural strategy officer at sparks & honey. More consumers will “hide” online via encryption and emoji-speak, such as glyphs and new typographies that confuse text recognition tools, as well as offline with surveillance-jamming wearables, cloaking fashion, and make-up and goggles that fool facial-recognition systems.

“Consumers are expressing a weariness from being online all the time,” DaVanzo told “This debate will gain momentum in 2014. This will drive renewed interest in pure offline analog experiences, such as old-fashioned, human-to-human real time interactions from meet-ups to maker fairs.

10. Crowdsourcing Everything

If collaboration in-house was the trend for 2013, in 2014 collaboration will go outside of the organization. Whether it’s through partnerships with publishers or a surge of user-generated content, marketers will be surrendering even more control over their brand messages.

New social media developments—such as new privacy policies at Google and Facebook, and the rise of ratings, such as Klout, which add value to the connections and likes online—are driving a new appreciation of human recommendations.

“The question ‘who I am,’ ‘what I like,’ and ‘what I think’ will have increasing value, said Fritz Desir, SVP of experience planning at agency RAPP. “Data will be increasingly recognized for what it is: currency.”

As consumers begin to realize the full value of their personal data and resenting its use by social networks and brands, marketers will have to react, he told “Smart marketers will get in front of this by providing opportunities for co-creation, catching people doing [a brand] good, creating brand advisory boards, and facilitating people to tell stories,” Desir said.

11. Strike Down The Banners

The desktop may not die, but online video will rule over banner ads in 2014. The tablet has already become established as the “second screen” at home, and increasingly consumers on the go are turning to mobile media as their main channel. And as consumers move their activities to their mobile devices, video will move with them.

“As original content becomes a more viable commodity, we’ll continue to see an increase in digital video advertising across mobile, desktop, and tablet devices,” said Chuck Brymer, CEO and president of DDB Worldwide, in an interview with

Many experts eulogized the banner ad in 2013, assuming the static banners will die off as mobile platforms continue to get better at serving videos. The winnowing out of mobile platforms can only help accelerate the trend, say observers, as designers find they need to develop for just Apple and Android systems rather than dozens of platforms.

“As mobile advertising spend increases in 2014, brands and marketers will continue to discover and explore more creative mobile ad solutions, and banner ads will be on the decline. Marketers will gravitate more heavily to video and other new media ad forms,” Appia’s Bowman said. “In 2014, mobile marketers who forfeit banner ads for mobile-first ad strategies will ultimately engage more users and have a larger return.”

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