Digital Trends and Ends 2013

2012 saw the rise of Pinterest, the end of Hotmail, and the utter failure of Apple Maps. As we enter 2013, the Hill+Knowlton Strategies Digital team looks ahead to identify what will be trending and ending this year. 

AGENCIES
Andrew Bleeker, Digital Practice Director, Washington D.C. 

Trend: Digital is no longer so complicated and scary. When digital first arose, companies supplemented their traditional marketing agencies and PR firms with one company for a website and another for online marketing. Then came one for search, SEO, and two kids in Brooklyn to offer sage advice on social. Increasingly, companies understand digital and don't believe a single tweet will crash their stock price. And as such, they don't need digital agencies to pretend to be wise strategists (or at least they think they don't). In 2013, we are going to see a digitally savvy generation of CMOs seeking integrated solutions from fewer agencies. And as more understanding moves in-house, the role of agencies will be to provide the services small internal teams cannot: content production for a growing number of channels and the promotion to ensure an audience. Ironically, this is what agencies always used to do. 

End: So long, social agencies. There may still be some space for these - particularly in smaller markets. But as clients demand integration, new waves of consolidation will see power move back to larger shops that already understand a client's business, can provide scale, and can best measure results. 
 
BRAND CONTENT 
Candace Kuss, ECD, Interactive Labs, London  

Trend: Brands have been content publishers long before the internet was born. The first infomercial was broadcast on the radio in 1922. I don't know what the storyline was, but I'm guessing it didn't go viral. Yet if I make just one prediction for marketing in 2013, it's this: Brand content will compete with top shelf entertainment. 

Like most yearly predictions, this is, of course, already happening. And the reason is that brands are competing for the limited attention of the very same people that go to the movies, play video games, and follow their favouritesports. Sticking ads in and around the entertainment is giving way to producing content good enough to be the entertainment. 

End: 2013 will see an end to the infographics that aren't really infographics, but decorated stats in an obnoxiously long PDF format. In their place we will see more proprietary brand data visualisationsthat are interactive and actionable. 

DESIGN
Allison Knaupe, Senior Vice President, Austin  

Trend: We all agree that the Internet has become a treasure trove of engaging, fascinating, even intriguing digitally produced content. There is so much...almost too much: Video. Infographics. Stories. Connections. Celeb tweets. And of course, cats. 

I see the pendulum swinging. Now, it is handmade art - non-digital creations that demonstrate talent, time, and originality - that capture people's attention. Observers are awe-struck by the visible detail of the pieces and the amount of time artists devote to their creations. It is this type of one-of-a-kind, awe-inspiring work we will see more of shared online. 

Even Facebook understands: http://www.fastcodesign.com/1671050/

End: Goodbye to hot Neons and Pastels - Pantone's 2012 color trends are a thing of the past. This year? Lots of soft greens with pops of the primaries here and there. 

INFLUENCERS
Kim Stokes, Senior Vice President, New York

Trend: In 2013, I suspect we will see the rise of the new tools that truly measure "organic engagement." Also, cooler, more innovative words will (hopefully) emerge to replace overused terms (I feel like a broken record, but they still hold true as the bulls-eye for successful public relations.)

End: Abuse of the term "influencer." People talk about identifying them, but more often than not the so-called "influencers" are not at all relevant to the brand. Engaging these individuals is usually pay-to-play rather than true advocacy. 

MOBILE
Rick Foote, Senior Vice President, Los Angeles

Trend: What we know as "mobile" today will become the primary way people engage with the digital world. The mobile device will no longer be a "second screen," but a first one. In a mobile-first, mobile-everywhere world, the user experience will be seamless and uninterrupted across screens. "Digital prime time" will be extended as more and more people remain connected during their commutes, workouts and bedtimes. 

End: The mobile experience as an afterthought. Smart companies will need to take advantage of a mobile-first philosophy to perfect the consumer experience. Website design will need to consider the touch experience as well as the way in which users consumer content on smaller screens. While not dead, the desktop ("big") screen is becoming less essential, especially as a consumer device. 

MOBILE APPS
Josh Hendler, Chief Technology Officer, New York

Trend: We're not living in an augmented reality world...yet. But when walking around during the holidays, it's easy to notice that consumers have their heads down. Why? They're shopping with their smart phone and comparing prices against online competitors. And both competitors and the retailers themselves are making tools and apps that make this incredibly easy - whether it's an app for finding something located in a store or mall, or a tool for scanning a bar-code to find competitive prices. In 2013 we're moving beyond augmented reality towards a focus on mobile apps that compliment and enhance real-life experiences. 

End: Ahhhhhhhhp! 

As smart phone penetration grows, so too does the number of apps consumers download to their mobile devices. And as the number of apps on a device increases, the overall experience and ease of use of the smart phone tend to suffer. 

Is this the end of the app economy? No. But the major players have already started to challenge the traditional phone-of-a-million-apps paradigm - starting with Google's new product. 

SEARCH 
Murali, Director of Digital Operations, Washington D.C. 

Trend:  Over the past year, we've seen search become an increasingly important tool for brand reputation. Beyond just being a resource for information, search engines are the first place people go when researching a company or a product. Favorable TechCrunch mentions, negative reviews on Yelp, and false content on Wikipedia can all appear on the first page of a company's search results. Consequently, a brand's search reputation plays a large role in shaping public perceptions of the company. This year, brands will begin to treat search results as a brand asset alongside social media and websites. 

End: Traditional SEO. With changing algorithms, technologies and the rise of mobile search, the traditional model of simply generating keyword rich content will be rendered obsolete. Modern search engine optimization will involve not only producing content, but also developing detailed linking strategies that leverage traffic and links from high-value websites. 

SOCIAL RESPONSIVENESS
Nicole Yale, Digital Strategist, New York

Trend: "Content marketing" was inarguably one of 2012's digital buzzwords. Brands became publishers with highly creative content. And while that's admirable, isn't the point of social media to be social? Conversations are two-sided, which means the majority of brands are just pushing content and counting likes, retweets and repinsas dialogue. While a hard feat for the brand Goliaths, social authenticity is being what you say you are, and that includes conversing with fans and followers. Bottom line: 2013 will be about putting the emphasis back on the consumer. 

End: Broadcasting has seen its glory days. Brands who insist on relaying their social messages top-down style, brand to consumer, with no room for interaction will suffer. Look at how people interact with customer service handles for top brands on Twitter and Facebook - much of their initial commentary stems from feelings of alienation, as if the brand doesn't care about them. In 2013, we'll see a greater brand awareness of strategic social participation. It will become painstakingly obvious which brands aren't proactively listening, monitoring, responding and incorporating feedback. Brands owe it to their devotees to either be social in online communities or embrace more passive forms of communication. 

STORYTELLING
Gary Goldhammer, Chief US Digital Strategist, Los Angeles 

Trend: Yes, "every company is a media company," but that doesn't mean every company can tell a story. Look for "storytelling" to resemble journalism and journalistic principles: Narrative, cultural relevance and emotional relevance. The best storytelling - the best journalism - is an invitation to encourage conversation, not a ploy to encourage consumption. 

End: "Content marketing" sounds impressive, however, most content marketers are more concerned with getting your clicks than earning your trust. Consumers are demanding more and won't be fooled by PR pabulum disguised as a "story." Infographics may look cool, but an infographic filled with crap is still, well, crap. Marketers need to get real or they will get lost. 

VISUAL IMAGERY
Tyler Moore, Interactive Art Director, Chicago 

Trend: In 2013, the ability to alter the world around us via the Internet will become more widespread. A prime example is The London Eye during the 2012 London Olympics. Twitter users could immediately influence the design of the Ferris wheel's lights by simply spewing a 140-character thought into the Webisphere. We can turn the lights in our homes on and off with our smartphones. We can trade fractions of fractions of pennies worth of stocks in microseconds effecting global economy. Where the Web used to strictly be a place for gleaning information, its ubiquity now forces us to become a part of it. 

End: Pinterest meet MySpace. MySpace meet Pinterest. Although photo sharing tends to drive a large amount of engagement in social media, Pinterest hasn't done enough to separate itself from the pack. The platform is already seeing a declining user-base and still hasn't figured out how to be profitable. Meanwhile, Instagram is becoming more popular as a photo-sharing site, and it isn't plagued by the copyright issues (recent gaffe notwithstanding) that Pinterest faces. Eventually, looking at a bunch of pictures that don't tell a story will go the way of the dinosaur. Get off the bandwagon now before you're put in the same category as Friendster users. 

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To learn more about the H+K Digital Practice, please visit hkstrategies.com/digital.