Lists of marketing trends are 99% worthless

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What’s wrong with lists of marketing trends?

They are the worst poison in marketing.

I say this because those lists of trends and crazes are the reason marketing has become trite, damaging, negative and invasive.

They’re always around pushing nifty trash, pushing the latest way to get masses of people to supposedly pay attention - these aren’t the way to effectively market or advertise anything.

For me, the trends lists are a lot less important than (and have almost nothing to do with) the basics, the building blocks and the research that go into an effective marketing campaign.

When you want to run an effective campaign, you need to take those into consideration more than the latest bunch of Digital Marketing Trends For 2017 pieces. You need to be considering strategies, content and channels, not just chasing buzzwords.

I want to break down one of those screeds for you. This is the top 17 marketing trends for 2017 from Forbes.

This material is laughable at best. Interactive content! Mobile video! Influencer marketing! All of these are little more than buzzwords, and barely any of them have been backed up by research or data.

And that’s really the case with so many of these trends; they’re all about what’s the latest craze, and they aren’t focused on anything that is provably positive for a marketing campaign’s bottom line - selling products.

A bunch of those items have been on the same lists since the 90’s. Interactive content is a horse so dead that its descendents have started inheriting its haunting schedule. But that doesn’t shake the faith of the dime-a-dozen marketing gurus who push this trend nonsense on us year after year. I can’t understand why we still pay attention, and I’m even more at a loss to explain why we let these trend “analyses” influence the marketing and ad campaigns we actually run.

The other issue is that the trends often have very little do with what’s working in the present, or even popular or effective or valuable in the present. For example...

Focus in on that “Influencer Marketing” trend

The fact that influencer marketing is anywhere near a list suggesting what marketers should be doing is ridiculous. And for it to still be there in 2017 is worse. Here’s a piece from last year on the topic that is pretty insightful by Dom Burch:

Is it time to call bullshit on influencer marketing?

You must be the only marketeer on the planet that still doesn't quite get it, stood looking out to sea, wondering where did it all go wrong? Fear not. I'm here to tell you the boat you missed is full of shysters talking absolute bollocks. There's no denying influencer marketing has become one of the hottest topics in the industry. Hence the huge rise in specialist agencies springing up to meet your every influencer need. Tech firms promise to find the right influencer for you to work with, then track every engagement, helping prove beyond doubt the ROI. Any good social media guru worth his or her salt is blogging about the subject regularly.

Dom talks about a lot of the issues with influencer marketing, including influencers’ lack of understanding of basic marketing concepts and regulations and advertising standards, their lack of adherence to brand guidelines, the difficult to measure ROI, the vapidity and the sheer haphazard nature of the beast of asking random semi-famous folks to spruik your crap.

All of his points have been proven by the recent Fyre Festival scandal, when influencers were used to sell a festival that didn’t exist - and in some cases were so irresponsible that the influencers have left themselves open to a class action lawsuit by failing to identify their posts as being advertisements.

So if we’re clearly getting beyond influencer marketing as being something valuable, something that actually works, why is it still something we talk about like it’s the holy grail? It’s pretty simple. It comes down to the laziness of trend following that ignores the actual craft of marketing and advertising.

Here’s the thing. Nobody’s saying you should be a luddite.

Here’s the thing. You really don’t need to be hiding your head in the sand and refusing to engage with new ideas and new tools in marketing. But…

  1. Most of these aren’t effective, aren’t valuable and aren’t worth a dime, as with influencer marketing AND…

  2. Most of them aren’t even trends to begin with!

What do I mean by that? Here’s some research and info on how to tell a trend from bullshit, from the blog Without Bullshit:

Loosely defined pseudotrends are great for trendspotters, because these hucksters can just morph the trend definition to include any new data or examples they see. For the same reason, they’re bad for you because they’re too slippery to act on. To avoid becoming a pseudotrend victim, ask these questions: 

  • Could you potentially measure it? Researchers can verify a real trend with surveys or measurements. Pseudotrends are unmeasurable.
  • Could anyone monetize it? Jeremiah Owyang makes a convincing case for the growth of the collaborative economy by measuring startup funding. If a trend falls into a market and doesn’t make a sound, it’s not actually there.
  • Can you do anything about it? Assume the trend is true. What are you going to do differently about grumpy doctors? If nobody in business or government needs to act differently, then it’s not a trend, it’s bullshit.

So many of the trends listed on these blog pieces don’t meet any measurement of an actual trend. They’re just topics the author has seen people talking about. Which means they only really wind up being echoes of what everyone else is shouting, making them practically worthless as marketing or advertising advice.

What’s important is choosing strategies and following them. Not getting obsessed with trends.

Most of the things that are actual trends aren’t strategies. They’re channels and tactics, and that’s fine, but you can’t exercise them at the expense of real strategy. Samuel Scott wrote about this for TechCrunch:

If a tech marketer creates a video and spreads it on Facebook, here is what he is doing:

  • Strategy = Advertising (one of the parts of the traditional Promotion Mix)
  • Content = The video itself
  • Channel = Facebook

If someone creates informational material that aims to rank highly in Google search results, here is what he is doing:

  • Strategy = SEO (which may need to be added to a new, modern Promotion Mix)
  • Content = The blog post
  • Channel = The company’s blog/Google search results

So the trends are just random activities without strategy. Chat bots aren’t a strategy. Influencer marketing isn’t a strategy. Interactive content isn’t a strategy. These are all content pieces and channels, and they only work when they’re a part of an overall campaign based on - you guessed it - strategy! 

Don’t follow trends lists. They aren’t worth your time, and they won’t help your marketing. I can’t say it any simpler than that.