Top five trends to let go in 2014

As everyone eyes move to what we can expect in 2014 Bernadine Brewer shares the five trends and buzzwords she hopes are left in 2013.

Bernadine Brewer Digital StrategistIt’s that time of year again. The time when suddenly our e-newsletters, our favourite blogs, our Twitter timelines fill with predictions of the future.

Although I’m not averse to speculation and even idle rumour (after all, it’s nice to have a little daydream about what we might work on next year), I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I loathe trends articles. As in cartoon-level steam-out-of-the-ears loathe.

So this year, I’m doing exactly the opposite. I’m calling it Reverse Trends, the stuff I dearly hope we’ll stop hearing come January. I’m talking about them one last time, so you don’t have to.

1. Can we all move on from Big Data now please?

Perhaps the biggest buzz-term of 2013 was Big Data. It blasted onto the scene to suddenly become every executive and consultant’s watchword. Articles began springing up from every imaginable source asking, ominously, ‘Are YOU ready for Big Data?’

The only problem is that most companies don’t actually have to deal with Big Data.

Most companies don’t even have enough data to classify as ‘big’. The majority also don’t have the internal resourcing, infrastructure or business priority required to make sense of any of it anyway.

So if your brand is sending regular emails and you’re not looking at the data generated by or around those campaigns, it’s rather too early to start thinking about Big Data. How about we all deal with small data first?

2. Let go of the Grim Reaper

I know, I’ve heard. TV is dead, email is dead, Facebook is dead, blah blah blah. But come on now.

All our traditional channels are in a period of flux, they’re transforming faster than we can keep up with them and they haven’t stopped yet. Until the pace slows, it’s still  largely ebb and flow. TV, as it was in the 1980s, is dead, yes – but one look at Twitter when #Redwedding took over proved that yes, people are still loyal to their telly.

Email, as it was in 2008, is dead, yes – because brands and marketers alike have spent the past five years bombarding everyone’s inboxes until we frankly stopped listening. Not dead, just overwhelmed.

Facebook is losing its cool with the teen set, yes – but that’s because everyone’s Mum rocked up and teenagers go where their parents are not, it’s the law of the universe. (But tell me honestly, does 728m daily active users sound like death to  you? I’m pretty sure if your website was delivering that, you would not be thinking it was dead…)

You know what? Saying stuff is dead is dead. Let’s just rein in the hyperbole a little. Nothing’s dying. It’s just those sure-fire bets aren’t so sure-fire any more.

3. Please stop saying “digital” like it’s a thing

As a digital strategist, I am left a little aghast by murmurs I hear in corners of our industry. I’ve repeatedly heard a call to incorporate more “digital” thinking into our work. Do agencies and marketers really have to be asked to embrace what the world already has?

What is all too often ignored is that “digital” (a term wholly inadequate for the breadth of channels, devices and experiences it has now come to encompass) is driven by people.

Like most people, I spend all day using digital technology – laptop, smartphone, tablet. I do my shopping and banking online, I got my news online, I have apps that tell me if me if I’ve done enough exercise or eaten enough vegetables, lets me find out what that song on the radio is, or finds me a date.

If you develop ideas that actually really reflect how people interact with brands, they have to include “digital”, but they can’t be just digital, or social. One lens isn’t enough. Holistic is where it’s at.

So maybe it’s time to let “digital” go, to just accept technology in all its guises as it is, new tools in our marketing and advertising arsenal. Tools that need new skills and understanding, that demand new thinking and bring new challenges, sure, but a day-to-day part of our lives as agencies and marketers whether our job title says so or not. Maybe in 2014, we’ll finally find a better way of talking – and doing – “digital”.

4. Content is not king

The downside of being in our industry is that we’re amongst a lot of wordsmiths. A catchphrase or tagline takes off amongst marketers faster than a speeding bullet. (Do you see what I did there?)

If I had a dollar for every time I’d heard “Content is King” in the last 12 months, I would be a rich woman.

The only problem is, for a lot of brands, content really isn’t king. Unless your idea of a king is poor quality, devoid of strategy, barely measured and under-resourced.

Content is a bit of an after-thought. Just not as snappy, is it? I’m not blasting the value of content overall – handled in the right way, for the right brands, content can be quite simply good for business. However, branded content has been put forward time and time again this year as the panacea to cure all marketing ills.

Having lost too much time in 2013 to deathly boring branded video or limp content-led campaigns, I beg to differ.

5. Innovation and creativity are not tick-box exercises

The common theme with all of these is brands and agencies can still produce whatever they want, just as long as it’s good. Creativity and innovation are not reductive, they’re contextual. Breakaway successes like ‘Dumb Ways to Die’, that Oreo tweet and Dove ‘Sketches’, worked because they were strategically sound, well-crafted and most importantly, different in their market. They certainly neither followed, nor can be boiled down to, a blueprint.

Unfortunately for all of us, making stuff that’s good is hard. Try as you might if you want great work, you can’t avoid deep thinking, you can’t avoid having tough conversations with stakeholders or clients, you can’t avoid risk.

Do yourself a favour. The next time you find yourself reading an article, hearing a talk, listening to (or preparing!) an agency pitch and thinking ‘this is the answer to all my problems’, stop. Right there. Dead in your tracks. There is no silver bullet.

The good news is that there are brave brands, smart strategists and innovative agencies around, so ignore the chatter and just go back to basics. Really get under the skin of your business, listen to your customers and pick the right agency partner who wants to do those things too. Then work together to find a way to use the best tools available to you to really genuinely resonate with your audience and their needs.

There you have it. That’s my list of things to forget about as soon as the fireworks start bursting from the Opera House at midnight on December 31. What would you add to the list?

Bernadine Brewer is a Strategic Planner at digital strategy specialists Zuni


  1. lucio ribeiro
    6 Dec 13
    8:27 am

  2. Hi Bernardine, not sure if i agree with your argument about Big Data. Yes companies and most brands are not equipped and not correctly advised about usage but doesn’t make redundant. The absence of disease doesn’t make you healthy, ignoring because supportive corporate environment hasn’t been set doesn’t mean you couldn’t benefit..
    I’m not being the big data advocate here, indeed the name tag its terrible however there are many companies in Au utilising very basic data sets to predict buying cycles and to take decisions in moments of brand crisis.
    As per your question, what to add to the list? How about “Viral”? I could punch the next person who tells me “Can you make this campaign viral?”

  3. Al
    6 Dec 13
    9:06 am

  4. Great post Bernardine. It’s totally time to retire the term ‘digital’.

  5. slightly ironic...
    6 Dec 13
    9:18 am

  6. If “digital” is not a thing…then what is the role of a digital strategist????

  7. Adam Ferrier
    6 Dec 13
    9:22 am

  8. Using the phrase ‘(Do you see what I did there?)’

    Can we please add that to the list of trends that should die in 2014.

  9. Adam Ferrier
    6 Dec 13
    9:23 am

  10. apart from that great list.

  11. Graham
    6 Dec 13
    9:23 am

  12. You know everything on a website/campaign/app etc is content, right?

    Also, had to chuckle at:
    ” Please stop saying “digital” like it’s a thing
    As a digital strategist – “

  13. Bernadine
    6 Dec 13
    9:44 am

  14. Glad you liked that one, Graham. It’s never too early in the morning for irony!

    And Lucio, let’s definitely get “viral” on the list.

  15. Junior
    6 Dec 13
    9:48 am

  16. Points 1, 2 and 4 are spot on.

    Great read.

  17. Classic
    6 Dec 13
    9:57 am

  18. yes, then to have a by-line saying ‘digital strategy specialist’….derp

  19. harry
    6 Dec 13
    10:22 am

  20. Can I add to Bernadine’s excellent article “heritage media”. Yes that’s all the pre digital media where content providers actually get paid for their work. It is to be contrasted with “new media” where content providers are asked to work for next to nothing because it is all new and experimental. An emerging market particularly for wannabe companies to exploit hungry graduates on extended unpaid internships.

  21. mattt
    6 Dec 13
    10:33 am

  22. “Saying stuff is dead is dead” – I love it!

  23. Ex-ex
    6 Dec 13
    10:52 am

  24. ‘One look at Twitter when #Redwedding took over proved that yes, people are still loyal to their [torrents]’


    RIP Telly.

  25. Tony
    6 Dec 13
    12:02 pm

  26. The industry thrives on buzzwords and cliches in an effort to convince itself it is actually doing something of importance and consequence.

    It is nigh on impossible to talk to an agency without it beating its chest and awkwardly trying to demonstrate how much (usually how little!) they understand about big data as they don’t want to appear to be uninformed.

    TV is well and truly alive and kicking as are the many other screens that compete for our attention. The fact is that it now includes a multitude of failed programs presented under the cliched banner of content marketing (translation: blatant product or brand plug). It’s just a window-dressed ad! These often cringe-worthy and laughable attempts at shoving a brand down consumers throats have consumers switching off in droves.

    Try and view anything online and a bloody ad interrupts you creating an enormous piss-off factor that was probably sold to the client as an innovative interruption strategy

    Wholeheartedly agree that digital is channels and devices where the average consumer often retreats to selectively gather info but usually finds their space invaded by lame attempts to stick a brand in their face.

    Have we forgotten that what we do isn’t rocket science? We just sell stuff. It appears that the more opportunities we are given to communicate to consumers, the worse we have become at doing it. Fragmented feeble communication presented with columns of smoke and mirrors laced with cliches is not necessarily better communication.

    Outside the advertising bubble very few people take our industry as anything more than a slapstick business routine of creative indulgences and gimmicks. Isn’t it about time we got back to the business of selling.

  27. RR
    6 Dec 13
    2:07 pm

  28. Do you really think those people hashtagging Redwedding were watching it live on their TV sets??? Australians are the highest illegal downloader of GOT

  29. WildWest indeed
    6 Dec 13
    2:21 pm

  30. Love it. And you’re right.

  31. nell schofield
    6 Dec 13
    2:26 pm

  32. great article Bernadine you are wise beyond your apparent years

  33. John Grono
    6 Dec 13
    2:28 pm

  34. Couldn’t agree more on the word “digital”. As of next Tuesday Australian television will be 100% digital so I look forward to “television budgets being moved to digital”. Surely you mean ‘Interactive’ or something similar?

    Re “Big Data” I’m from the same school. It’s not the volume of the data you have access to, it is the quality and meaning behind that small sub-set of Big Data – and what you do with it – that counts. Virtually every marketing model I’ve worked with shows five or six key metrics drive demand and sales – the rest is either small fry or insignificant. Focus on the few and reap the rewards.

  35. Joc
    6 Dec 13
    2:30 pm

  36. Busy todayTony..?

  37. Kerry
    7 Dec 13
    4:13 pm

  38. Great article, I’d love to include the excessive use of # but sadly I think they are here to stay.
    Also, working for a data company I hear bigdata all the time, the funny thing is I don’t think people really even know what it means…. It’s not just having lots of unless data…

  39. Mike C
    8 Dec 13
    1:32 pm

  40. If content is not king then what is?

  41. ormond orlovsky
    9 Dec 13
    11:45 am

  42. big data is a beautiful catchcry and the implication is there are big profits – but why is it any different now — we have always had stats men and women crunching the averages for emerging trends for sales opportunities ?

  43. Dave
    9 Dec 13
    2:53 pm

  44. Big Data is only going to get a lot ‘bigger’ in 2014. That said, the fact that most people (in my experience) think its just heaps of data and being able to put it into pie charts and graphs is sad. Your article indicates you need data in order to engage with ‘Big Data technologies’. You don’t. Big data will be real time processing of data and automated decision making, from multiple sources (most especially mobile). You just need to make the links.

    What Big Data will actually do in 2014 is enable AI-adaptive, contextual marketing. Look out for all the geo-fencing campaigns and site-specific competitions, games and offers next year. Campaigns like the Oreos Twitter campaign will be run on an IFTTT level of automation. I know of several campaigns in the pipeline that will make Big Data a huge topic next year – with greater comprehension I hope….

  45. copyfiona
    10 Dec 13
    10:42 am

  46. At last a non-boring list. However,would like to add Branded Content disguised as lists, e.g. the ones that go: (Insert no. here) of things that (add verb of choice here) (insert phrase here).
    Every writer seems to have read the astounding fact that people read lists, and Google and Buzzfeed will love their work.

  47. barney
    10 Dec 13
    12:15 pm

  48. Content is still king, the point of that statement is that the content has to be good.

  49. Marketing Bod
    10 Dec 13
    1:29 pm

  50. Can people stop saying “reach out” ffs we are in Australia. people do not say “reach out” here!

    The Four Tops are the only way I want to hear “Reach Out”.

  51. red
    11 Dec 13
    6:21 pm

  52. You lost me at ‘one lens isn’t enough’. Because it really is. One lens is more than enough. I am wholly sick of the word.

  53. Adam Ferrier's lovechild
    12 Dec 13
    12:36 pm

  54. Do you see what i did there?

  55. Andrew
    13 Dec 13
    8:25 am

  56. Spot on Bernadine, particularly points 4 and 5. All of these are on my list – alongside the overuse of “engagement”, “holistic” and “insight” by those who clearly have no idea what they truly mean.

    I’m currently struggling with an appropriate title to print on my 2014 business card, that replaces the currently minimalist ‘Rainmaker’. I’ve narrowed it down to one of the following, for which I’ll crowdsource feedback via my proprietary 360-degree social interface dashboard:
    1) ‘Strategic Media-Neutral Curator’
    2) ‘Grand Poo-bah of Innovation Engagement & Storytelling’

    Once an appropriate nom-de-guerre has been selected, my winning title will be utilised to spearhead a fresh approach to picking low hanging fruit whilst thinking outside the nine dots, benchmarking holistic digimobile (or is it mobital?) solutions against open source legacy protocols and futureproofing brandcentric web 3.0 customer engagement.

    Alternatively, I’ll dish up more of the same.

  57. Nick Keenan
    17 Dec 13
    11:20 pm

  58. I really enjoyed reading that…. well done. A fun but insightful piece…