1. future-of-digital-marketingWearable Technology. Apple’s iWatch, FitBit, Oculus Rift have already arrived but society is just at the beginning of the “wearables” The question marketers need to ask themselves today is this: What will iWatch 2.0, FitBit 2.0 and Oculus 2.0 look like? My prediction is that the Internet will soon come directly to people in the way of persuasive visual information and subtle beeps and vibrations. Ironically, it may also include some not-so-subtle nudges—aided by powerful new artificial intelligence technologies—that help people do everything from monitoring their health to saving money by counter-acting the impact of new, aggressive marketing techniques. In short, marketing is about to become tougher as a result of consumers leveraging these new anti-marketing technologies.
  1. Neuro-economics. In the next five years, our understanding of the human brain will double and, perhaps, quadruple. What will marketers do with this enhanced understanding? The savviest ones will use these new insights to help customer overcome cognitive biases and scratch psychological itches they didn’t even know they had.
  1. Demographics. The average populations in western nations are getting older and in many emerging countries they are getting younger. No surprises here. The trend that marketers need to consider is this: The acceleration of micro-generations. It is easy to lump people into broad categories such as “Boomers,” “Gen Xers,” and “Millennials” but to do so is not only intellectually lazy, it’s dangerous. The acceleration of technology is fueling the rise of micro-generations. Using social media as just one example, consider how differently Millennials between the ages of 12-18 think about Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. New platforms are undoubtedly on the horizon and the earliest adopters are more likely to be young. As the trend proliferates, marketers will need to figure out how to overlay these new mobile/social/communication platforms on top of their already growing portfolio of platforms to reach different micro-generations in different ways.
  1. Big Data. Among the most over-used and over-hyped terms in marketing today, the field of data analytics will transform marketing in the future but not in the way most marketers expect or hope. To them, Big Data promises a future of hyper-personalization and one-to-one marketing. In the coming years this trend will, in fact, come closer to being realized, but the customer of the future will likely use Big Data to do a jujitsu-like move on marketers and begin turning Big Data’s focus on them. If you think the customer of the future won’t care about how sustainable your global supply chain is or the wages your company is paying its workers in Asia or Africa—think again. Not only will they care, they’re going to use Big Data to hold you accountable. If you aren’t transparent and trustworthy in all of your actions you are, in a word, screwed.
  2. The Freelance Economy. In the near future, the most successful marketing agencies will come to resemble Hollywood movie production teams. Highly skilled freelancers working under the direction of talented “producers” will quickly come together to develop marketing solutions for clients on an “as needed” After the project is done, the group will disband and each party will move on to his or her next gig.
  1. The Sharing Economy. Uber, AirBnB, WeWork and Yerdle are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg in regard to the “sharing economy.” In the near future, healthcare, consumer products, education and various other services will be “Uber-ized.” The implication is that the field of marketing will need to create an entirely new ethos in an era where consumerism—and the idea of owning physical assets—doesn’t hold the same cache it once did. Furthermore, the sharing economy is likely to go into overdrive once businesses and consumers begin to figure out how to leverage Blockchain. Don’t know what Blockchain is? Begin studying up on it because it could transform just about everything marketers do.
  1. Mobile Video. Amazon’s new MayDay app and the company’s $1 billion acquisition of Twitch suggest the retailer is attempting to leverage video in order to connect with customers in powerful new ways. Marketers wishing to stay relevant also need to contemplate how to harness the power of mobile video.

Three Macro Trends

  1. Social Media is Dead. Long Live Social Media. When speaking of a physical television no one refers to the device as a “color” It is simply a TV because every console is now just assumed to be a color TV. In this way, the phrase social media is going to go away not because social is no longer relevant or because it has been supplanted by another trend but rather because all media will simply be assumed to have a social component.
  2. Global and Local Will Merge. As mobile technology and worldwide high-speed Internet access continue to proliferate, the differences between global and local marketplaces will blur. To stay abreast of this reality, prudent marketers should keep a close eye on Africa. Not only will Africa be a growing market but consumers on that continent will be at the forefront of exploring new ways to harness the mobile internet to transform virtually every segment of society, including healthcare, education, banking, retail and entertainment.
  1. Doing Well By Doing The Right Thing. Without getting all “feel good” on you, the overwhelming majority of people around the world want to do the right thing for themselves, their family, their community and the world. In turn, they want the companies they do business with to adhere to the same simple principle of “doing the right thing.” To this end, however, they will demand “deeds not words.” The best and most effective marketing will come from doing the right thing–be this paying workers a fair wage, creating a more sustainable world or reinvesting in their local community. If you only think of marketing as contributing to “maximizing shareholder value” you will miss the mark. The bottom-line is this: The most successful companies of the future will succeed by spending less on marketing and more on corporate citizenship and community stewardship. In fact, the latter is all the marketing the best organizations will need.

Jack Uldrich is a business-selling author, global futurist and popular keynote speaker. In September 2015, he will be delivering two keynotes on the future of marketing in Chicago and Sonoma.