Must be fashionable and code….

Top Trend overclaim NO’ 1: Marketers will become coders…


The other day I stumbled across an infographic which claimed that one of the Top 10 trends for 2015 would be marketers becoming coders…


Admittedly my personal ability to learn coding is probably more likely than becoming a designer (drawing was never my forte) but equally the entire make-up of a person who is driven by marketing, and a person driven by code is entirely different. You only have to stumble through any agency and you can easily transition from design studio, to development studio, to marketing team and instantly see the difference in ambitions and personality by the desk space alone…!

In my mind the trend we will see over the next 10 years (so lets not jump the gun here) is that coding was always seen as a bit of a dark art. The creative you can judge, the marketing plan you can query but the code… Well god knows until you’re testing it and jumping up and down when you realise functions are missing.

The education sector is driving a new generation growing up constantly plugged in to understand and know the basics – this will be the biggest drivers of change. Companies like Barclays with their code playground look a darn site more interesting than the Amstrad blinking green-screen I once tried to create basic code for at the grand age of 10. Kids will feel more compelled to learn as its a faster, more immediate output suiting their “want it now” demands,  and equally their peers will be able to do it. Who wants to have the latest social page if it hasn’t been customized and you’ve had to resort to (shock horror) default settings. elephant

As these kids come through the system they will be more critical of coding decisions and more able to contribute to the debate, in the same way the average “marketer” can critique a design approach).  The pressure of this on management will be to learn and understand more to kep up with the new generation rather than it being something left for other people to understand. And yes – there will be the marketers who dabble in code, WordPress blogs, even manage to build the odd page template or code up an email but by no means do I think these disciplines will converge in the same way. There is a clear line between marketing and design, there will be a line between marketers and code.

2015 wont be the year that  marketers become coders. It will be the year that they start to place more importance in understanding itand start to decipher what’s involved. Coding for brands will be left to the experts and if a marketer can add value to discussion and have an understanding of what’s involved with “code” then that will be a big enough leap for me in 2015.



Google + – brand pages have arrived

Penetrations at 40 million (worldwide) and with Google+ still being pushed at us with a pretty hefty PR campaign and an assault from some celebs (Britney Spears and, and now from brands, it appears that this social network from Google is here for at least the short term when consumers will ultimately decide who survives.

The brand pages posed an opportunity for Google to give a superior offering to Facebook. At first glance they’ve failed to deliver with no unique functionality that a brand couldn’t be leveraging in another social channel.

So what can a brand do. …

The same as the rest of us. They can upload photos, videos, status updates, start a hangout (The muppets launched one at 4:30PST today) but the issue still is the lack of consumer penetration which means the numbers just aren’t there. All of this is evident from the small followings that brands are picking up, with even Kermit the frog failing to achieve big numbers!

There is also the key issue that any brand needs to consider ” How does a consumer truly see me”.

The whole premise of Google is based on circles. You HAVE to place anyone you want to follow into a circle.  Consider this…

Your mum joins – you add her to your family circle. Your Best mate joins – you add her to friends. A one night stand joins – you create and add them to a circle called “Ex-boyfs”. You see Toyota and create a circle called…. “Brands”.

In no way will brands be able to connect in the same emotive way because consumers will simply put you in a sales / marketing / product / brand bucket. It’s auto-pilot and that’s the whole point of circles. You don’t have to think to use it, it’s intuitive. And intuitive isn’t great when you’re trying to be disruptive or get under the skin of the consumer who’s given you a “marketing shit” label. Yes – until people have organised their feeds you will show up in their central thread but, after then, you are unlikely even to get exposed to your consumers updates and, be honest, how interesting is that? (I’m sure Toyota isn’t interested that I’m drinking a cuppa and eating a hobnob? Nor can glean any insight from it) Where as Facebook clearly got consumer penetration and it then took a while for brands to get on board, brands and consumers are adopting + in tandem and, as yet, the benefit (or opportunity) for brands seems to be limited.

So what should brands consider as useful for Google+ right now….

– Inexpensive market research. The ability to recruit individuals for online, Live streamed, focus groups using hangouts – despite only 9 people being able to interact at any one time, this free service definately has value for quick and fast research.

– Advocacy programmes: Being able to classify, and then market to consumers, based on actions you want them to perform and even talk directly to them – truly being able to differentiate your brand fans from brand consumers. Only snag is you have to know who they are and then create the relevent circles!

– YouTube: It’s massive and it’s inevitably going to have to be THE channel for Google getting this to all work. Video content (and capabilities) are far superior to Facebook’s offering and, as Google+ continues to evolve, and becomes integrated into YouTube’s service, it will become critical to how consumers adopt and use the service.

– Watch and learn: Yes, it’s going to get press but, at the moment it hasn’t got the numbers or reach. A bit of “watch and learn” and a slice of budget pushed aside for if it does hit mass in 2012 is the cautious marketers option….

The digital agency of 2015: Scenario 2, The specialist surge

So whilst my first scenario looks at the possible rise of true integration the 2nd scenario looks at the fragmentation of the digital space and a surge in specialists…


  •  Marketing becomes tailored to specialist channels and agencies as a dawn of ‘high maintenance’ marketing commences 
  • Agencies have retained a digital / traditional split with more coming to market to deal with the specialist requirements  
  • Consumers are significantly more digitally able and helping to shape communities, channels and brands 
  • Clients are resourcing their digital team to deal with the multiple channels but agencies are still in charge as they lead clients through the space  


‘New Media’ continues to be an over-used term as fresh challenges, and demands on marketers continue to present themselves in the digital space –constantly evolving and therefore always perceived as new and unknown.

The constant stream of new technologies and communication channels create a constant reliance on digital specialists, across a plethora of niche topics, to keep clients up to speed and help shape the industry for marketers.  The constant battle to stay on top of change means that the lead agencies driving a client’s digital strategy are leaned heavily upon to lead them through the space.  

With recommendations being stemmed from the agency, rather than initiated by the client, digital agencies are constantly adding new specialist individuals and departments to cover off new requirements as they evolve. Small specialist agencies also pick up business as digital agencies outsource some of the more ad-hoc skills (not wanting to pick up the overhead) and clients go direct for one off tactical campaigns.  

Consumers are steadily increasingly their consumption of digital media – seeing it as a necessity in their lives. Social media has reached it’s peak in terms of penetration– with consumers tiring of peaking at other peoples lives and, instead, using it as a space to share and play with their closer friends, as well as create new connections with individuals who share similar specialist interests.

Technology has continued to expand rapidly amongst the big platform players with many adopting an open source development approach as they see the value in the power of crowds. Brands are also beginning to see the value of this as a method for reducing their production costs and welcoming creativity, and development, from new sources for both ideation and production alike.


Taking a deeper look

Consumers are heavy (and saavy) digital users

Consumers of 2015 have more options available for their technology needs. Personal computer prices have fallen but costs have remained comparable to 2009 as processing, hard-drive storage and applications demand higher spec machines – outweighing demand for low cost (and lower spec) products.

These higher specs are in part needed to drive online gaming and virtual communities as we see the demise of the console (with individuals fed up of the constant battle to upgrade hardware) and the rise of online gaming sites that stream games on a subscription basis, or within a community structure, direct to your PC or through a TV box.[1]

The use of online subscription accounts is increasingly common with individuals hosting data virtually[2] putting a trust in external partners to manage their music, photos and data. This move has been caused by a general acceptance amongst consumers that they don’t need to have physical products. This acceptance has been caused across the last 5 years by the increase in MP3 downloads, digital photography (and photo-share), the kindle reader[3] and virtual data storage, all working to increase the value consumers place on ‘digital’ ownership of products. This move has driven computer literacy further as consumers start to have to expand their knowledge to use new hardware and manage their digital content. This thirst for personal knowledge continues to help drive the industry further as digital partners are able to add more functionality and tools to their spaces – allowing users to help develop sites and apps as the younger audience in particular begins to master basic CSS and programming skills.

The government have successfully continued in their mission to create a “digital Britain” and successfully met their objectives. Most importantly they’ve managed to develop the nation’s digital skills at all levels and secured universal access to broadband, increasing its take-up and using broadband to deliver more public services more effectively and more efficiently[4] (Digital Britain, 2009).

Landline phones have begun to decline in ownership, particularly amongst younger households, as the growth of VOIP continues to offer a low cost alternative, with providers like Skype being the big winners. In addition to this, mobile phone penetration and tariffs have dropped to a point where 2015 sees mobile phone ownership (by household) exceed fixed telephone line ownership[5] (Euromoniter, 2009).

The growth of mobile phone usage for web access in particular has meant that personal mobile data is being shared more frequently between consumers and third parties. The early days of email is beginning to repeat itself as the government struggle to regulate data protection on mobile devices, and spam becomes a recurring handset nuisance.  

Specialist and niche sites are on the rise

As consumption of digital rises users are on the look out for new ways to spend their time online. Consumers become driven by seeking out like minded people with like minded interests and we see a surge in communities and sites tailored around specific topics and interests.[6] With specialist communities forming we also see a move in the number of sites being managed by groups of individuals – for both personal, and professional interest, with a growth in the number of bloggers.

This growth in special interest sites has created challenges for brands as they become unable to create large-scale integrated campaigns. Audiences have become fragmented, and whilst there are still high reach spots available on sites like YouTube and Facebook, brands have to seek out tailored campaigns in order to hit ROI objectives. The addition of also being able to understand specific interests within your brands remit also warrants additional budget. The ability for brands and agencies to enable campaign messages to be tailored to very specific audiences and ensure maximum audience engagement guarantees a better ROI (at a production price).

With specialist communities and interests cropping up a whole new requirement for digital specialists to understand the online behaviour of particular audience segments is in demand. Specialist digital agencies and freelancers begin to take advantage of this, looking at common audience types (Over 55’s, 18 – 24’s, Under 16’s) in order to monetise this understanding of digital behaviours, with brands and agencies tapping into them in order to ensure the space is used correctly.

Digital knowledge is concentrated to agencies

This fragmentation of media and sheer volume of channels, audience segments and engagement contact points means that the amount of knowledge needed is immense. Clients aren’t able to physically keep up with channel developments, their audience movements and subsequently place a heavy reliance on the agency to steer them through the space.

With a gradual loss of control (client side) as well as the increase in the number (and type) of campaigns being run by anyone brand, at anyone time, has seen an increased pressure put on the client resource. Brands have begun to resource up their team, dedicating specialists to areas that they see as critical to their strategy (mobile, web and social media are commonly having their own brand managers). Client side these brand managers work closely with each other, and each agency, in order to deliver the digital strategy.

The increase in resource has also led to an increase in the importance placed on getting the digital marketing right as increased investment places an even bigger demand on ROI. Senior marketing staff client side are forced to get involved, increased their understanding, and getting hands on in the decision making process in order to deliver the results back into the business.

This is having a positive effect on the digital agency as technical ignorance begins to disappear. Development, hosting, purging, bugs and virus’ begin to be terminology with problems that occur day to day now seen as something created by the channel, not agency excuses. Clients are forced to deal with these issues and explain them to senior staff making them understand the explanations rather than see it as technical jargon being palmed off on them as excuses.

Growth of specialist agencies

The industry overall is similar in terms of types of agency to 2009 with a range of traditional, digital and specialist agencies co-existing and vying for clients digital investment. The biggest change though is the growth in the amount of competition in the specialist sector with an array of small specialist individuals and agencies springing up to deal with and offer services within the digital area. Services vary massively with reputation management, social media, community generation, social gaming, mobile application development (Android / iPhone and Blackberry specialists) and content specialists pitching within the marketplace.

This continued increase in agency numbers has kept prices down. Smaller specialists can afford to work on lower rate cards with freelance and / or ‘one man band’ mentality and less overheads enabling them to win projects based on price. This competitive pricing also gives clients a reason to deal with the inconvenience of splitting business across multiple agencies.

To retain all elements of the larger client accounts, the larger digital networks and traditional agencies with digital offerings are forced to cut prices or tag on added value ‘free’ services to compete and retain ownership of their clients business.  

The amount of agency choice in the marketplace leaves clients broadly sitting in one of two camps. The first that sees adequate resourcing and expertise at the client end to conduct and lead a number of agencies within the digital space enabling them to benefit from competitive prices and carefully juggle multiple communications. The second sees a stretched client resource relying on working with one lead agency, aware of other services available but unable to take real advantage from these, leaning heavily on the agency to master the skills or outsource specialist work when appropriate.

Brands begin to open up their platforms to give consumers more control

With a vast amount of specialist skills, channels and audiences available brands are beginning to feel braver about opening up their brands for consumers to control. Open source, whilst not a new concept is beginning to move into the public space as an area previously used mainly by developers[7] or for feedback[8] begins to expand out further.

Brands are beginning to use crowd sourcing techniques to help the agency create the right digital ideas.[9] This use of panels and / or a section of the public to help shape the brand is increasingly important in areas where the brand, and even agency, hasn’t been before. Using sophisticated reputation monitoring tools brands are able to identify key contributors and influencers in target niche subjects, and areas, and use their power to successfully launch an appropriate campaign to the target market.

Agencies are opening up their planning departments to allow for research into these niche areas and admitting to clients where areas are unchartered. Clients, rather than being nervous about moving into new areas begin to embrace these as it leads to them being able to gain competitive edge (by being first to market). Digital agencies continue to be exploratory but, by now having the experience into how best to enter new areas and channels, the client feels more secure because the methodology of ‘entering new channels’ is now tried and tested even if the solution isn’t.

[1] OnLive launhing in 2009 give a snapshot into the possibilities for the future:

[2] Services like livedrive become common:

[3] Kindle launched in 2009:

[4] Digital Britain:

[5] Euromoniter: Technology, communications and media report Oct 2009.

[6] Specialist social community sites:

[7] Linux is still heralded as the biggest breakthrough in collaborative development (1991):

[8] Dell rely heavily on a community of users to help shape their product offering

[9] Brands pitch open creative briefs for display on sites facilitating the idea process: