2016 - The Year the Communications Industry Gets Specific

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Brands looking to bridge emotion and fact will turn to VR, says Hotwire PR in 2016 Communications Trends Report

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2016 will be the year of setting our content free

Virtual real-life experiences, the primacy of third-party channels, and campaigns that deliver usefulness, are all set to be the major trends for marketers in the coming year, according to Hotwire PR’s seventh annual Communications Trends Report.

Launching the report today, Hotwire predicts that as people demand a perfect marriage between experience and data, Virtual Reality (VR) will become a key trend for 2016. VR lends itself perfectly to brands looking to bridge emotion and fact. Marketers need to get on board now and ensure they understand the impact the technology can make on strategy, when it can be used and who to call upon to make it work.

Next year will also see brands relinquish the few remaining areas of tight control they have over their content. There will be a growing willingness to hand over distribution to third parties, as campaigns live and breathe on the channels they’re designed for and we begin to see the end of clumsy calls to action or forced visits to external websites. Brands will then go a step further, focusing far less on selling a product or service, and instead connecting with audiences through experiences that bring real benefit to them.

Brendon Craigie, Group CEO, Hotwire PR, said: “2016 will be the year of setting our content free. Savvy marketers will publish content where the audience already is, rather than sharing a link and expecting them to follow it. We’ll focus on actual experiences rather than selling a product or service. The campaigns that succeed will either solve a problem for consumers or provide a great experience, whether through physical or virtual reality.”

Communications trends for 2016:

1. Platform wars – embracing third-party mediums
Websites will become a channel rather than an end-point. While they will still be a place for us to publish, we’ll increasingly see information spread across the web as publishing channels like Medium and LinkedIn Pulse, which have built in distribution services, become a staple of marketing campaigns.

2. Funnel reversal: marketing in the Age of Amazon
The traditional funnel model for purchases has been flipped. Consumers now go straight to the source for purchases. But where Amazon goes for breadth, brands can go for depth, targeting content and campaigns to create a brand experience that will keep customers coming back for more – building a stronger connection with the customer and reversing the funnel at the same time.

3. Our audience is killing advertising
iOS9 has enabled ad blocking – but the industry isn’t ready to respond. In 2016, marketers will absolutely need to get better at native advertising as well as explore new ways of generating top-of-the-funnel awareness – from sponsored podcasts and influencer partnerships with bloggers, vloggers and Instagrammers through to a renewed commitment to experiential activity.        

4. Death of the millennials
2016 will be the year we finally stop targeting ‘millennials’ as a single demographic. Instead, brands will look to target audiences based on a specific mind-set and certain values. We’ll see increasingly sophisticated content that targets different groups of this younger audience in an age–agnostic manner. We may even forget about age in general – it’s just a number – and focus marketing on what really motivates our audience: their passions and the life they choose to live.

5. Living in the moment
2016 will be about living in the moment. Marketers will rely less on content calendars and more on gut instincts and guidelines. Those that can free up their teams to create content in the moment and embrace the lack of perfection this moment implies, will help their brand communications feel a lot more natural.

6. Go big. Go hyperlocal.
In 2016, marketers need to go granular – creating individual messages for every section of our target audience and tying these to their distinguishing feature. In this new hyper-granular world, four or five pieces of copy are no longer enough – we’ll need to create 10, 15 or even 20 messages, each of which targets a specific subsection of our audience.

7. Be relevant. Be useful. Be heard.
The great marketing campaigns of 2016 won’t be about making noise, they’ll be about providing a service. We’ll learn from the big boys who have realized this already, whether it’s IBM providing shelter from the rain with their outdoor adverts or Samsung creating “transparent trucks” by streaming live traffic from a camera on the front of semi-trailers to a large screen on the rear to display to a clear view of the road ahead. Marketing campaigns will increasingly become an active, not passive part of daily life.

8. Virtual Reality as your channel of choice
As consumers demand more experiences and less linear communication, VR will become a key trend for 2016. The hardware will become pervasive as a result of the gaming and entertainment community, but it will be the content creators and communicators who ensure the platform bleeds into all walks of life, not just gamers. Marketers need to not just understand the impact the technology can make on our strategy, but know when it can be used and who to call upon to make it work.

9. Brands as the new activists
Values hold communities together, but they must be lived and seen in action. With consumers increasingly forming judgements based on a brand’s social and economic policies, we will continue to see brands putting further weight behind social and political issues that people care about – placing values at the core of their communication strategy.

10. Cutting the cord
2016 is the year the industry gets its act together on online video – combining experts in video production, planners, and account teams with a deep understanding of the channels on which video works best.

“For decades, communicators have prospered or perished on their ability to reach mass populations. However, technology not only affords the ability—but mandates—that communicators engage distinct personas,” said Burghardt Tenderich, Professor of Strategic Communications and PR at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication. “Above all, the perspectives shared in Hotwire’s Communications Trends Report expose the need for communicators to build community through context, authenticity, and storytelling rather than one-size-fits-all messaging.”

“Hotwire’s Communications Trends Report reveals a bold new world for communicators, powered by immense advances in the power and affordability of marketing technologies. Brands have never been able to be more human, more personal, and more meaningful in the way they communicate. 2016 looks set to be a ground-breaking year for our industry,” said Craigie.

Register here to attend Hotwire’s event in New York on Tuesday, November 17th to find out more about the upcoming trends for 2016.

Notes to editors:
Hotwire’s Communications Trends Report is crowdsourced from 400 communications professionals, in 22 countries, across five continents.

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About Hotwire PR
Hotwire PR is a global PR and communications agency dedicated to helping ambitious companies change their game, build their reputation, and stand out from the crowd. Our communications experts work in Sector Practice teams to provide our clients with in-depth knowledge and experience of a number of market categories. From Sydney to San Francisco, we’re a team, with a ‘one office’ mentality. Our international team works across our 22 locations, including the UK, US, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Australia and New Zealand, together with affiliate partners. We bring the best of our knowledge, skills and experience to all of our clients wherever they are in the world. http://www.hotwirepr.com

Hotwire PR is wholly owned by Enero Group Limited, a company listed on the Australian Securities Exchange. The Enero Group is a boutique network of marketing and communications businesses that include BMF, Corporate Edge, CPR, Dark Blue Sea, Frank PR, Hotwire, Jigsaw, Naked Communications, OB Media, Precinct, The Digital Edge and The Leading Edge.

For more information please contact Matt Krebsbach, Tel: 415-840-2799, PR4HWUS(at)hotwirepr(dot)com

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