Digital democracy to the power of trust: marketers reveal their 2015 predictions

January brings with it the promise of new beginnings in a time of relentless innovation, writes Nicola Kemp.

With this in mind, Marketing has brought together the brightest and best brains in the industry to share their own business resolutions and the things they will focus on and challenge in the months ahead

Sally Cowdry
Sally Cowdry

Sally Cowdry

Marketing and consumer director, Camelot

To continue having inspired ideas and keeping abreast of all the new possi­bilities that ever-accelerating technology developments present, we need to keep looking up from the day-to-day.

We need to be aware of what’s going on outside the company so we can learn from the amazing things other brands do, as well as focusing on being the best we can.

As part of this, throughout 2015 we’ll be involved with the Collider programme, which brings together digital start-ups and brands for mutual learning and development.

We have just launched a search for 15 employees from across the Camelot business to become mentors, and it will bring an inspirational new element to what we do.

We are dedicated to constant innovation at Camelot – in proposition and game develop­ment, marketing approaches and new ways to engage our players.

We are planning some exciting new ‘firsts’ next year. To achieve these, we will need to keep looking outside our organisation for inspiration as well as continuing to encourage the team to seek out best practice.

Another drive for 2015 is to continue to tell the great stories of the millionaires that the National Lottery creates and the National Lottery Good Cause projects it supports, with increased focus on content marketing, bringing to life what play makes possible in authentic and engaging ways across owned, earned and paid-for media platforms.

David Pemsel 
David Pemsel

David Pemsel
Deputy chief executive, Guardian News & Media

My priority for 2015 is simple, yet ambitious: to establish The Guardian as the world’s most-trusted media brand. We are starting from a strong position – for two years running, The Guardian has been rated the most-trusted news source in the UK. We want to continue to build that on a global stage.

As one of the first legacy media brands to embrace the enormous opportunities afforded by the internet, we will also continue to invest in our now famous – and much replicated – digital first approach. We recently unveiled our redesigned website to our US audience of 27m unique users and will introduce it to the rest of our readers around the world over the coming weeks and months. 

The new site has been built to give our readers the best possible way of discovering, engaging with and sharing Guardian stories, and give our journalists the best possible tools with which to tell their stories. We have developed the site entirely in the open and continue to gather feedback from our readers with the aim of improving their experience even further. The site is also fully responsive, meaning we are better placed to create lasting relationships with readers, regardless of device or screen size.

We will continue to innovate in other ways to deepen people’s engagement with, and trust in, the Guardian brand.  In fact, we’re already doing this: in September, we launched Guardian Membership in the UK, a community that encourages our readers to exchange ideas and opinions, and brings our journalism to life through an agenda setting programme of live events. Membership brings our readers closer to The Guardian, increasing their loyalty to our journalism and brand, and opens up new revenue streams, which will help allow us to invest in our future.

Ben Carter 

Ben Carter
Marketing director,
Not on the High Street 

As a purely digital business, we are not short of data but now need to improve so that we are scrutinising it and using it in a more sophisticated fashion to improve both our targeting and customer engagement.

To kick it off, we’ll roll out our attitudinal segmentation modelling, which we’ve been working on in the latter part of 2014. This will be implemented across the business
to ensure that every customer-facing team knows who the target segments are, what their motivations are and where we will find them.

We’ll also start to introduce data learnings across our cross-channel activity; whether it’s analysing the value of an individual TV spot, to map the optimal time to buy TV, or building our segmentation model into Facebook Custom Audiences, to target lookalikes and drive customer frequency, data will be at the heart of those decisions and strategies.

I want online data to be more accurate while not intruding on consumers’ privacy.

Saj Arshad
Saj Arshad

Saj Arshad 
Marketing and strategy director, Bupa 

Next year I’m going to spend more time talking to people face to face. We know that if we want to be the most customer-focused health and care company then we must work really hard to understand exactly what our customers need, and develop products and services that really match those needs.

This means I’ll spend more time on the frontline with the people who interact with our customers every day. They’re the ones who know them best.

The very best ideas come from spotting what customers need before they know it themselves. So we’re creating a culture where we can bring these ideas to the fore.

One of the things that most excites me is an online crowdsourcing tool that we’re piloting where our people can share, comment on and ‘like’ ideas from others on the frontline. This is a great opportunity to test whether we can capture all the best ideas from our collective ‘Bupa brain’ in a fun and engaging way, so that we can provide an even better service. 

Bruce Daisley
Bruce Daisley

Bruce Daisley

Managing director, Twitter UK 

We have all seen how social media – including Twitter – helps connect people instantly and without barriers. As we enter 2015, we’re presented with a colossal opportunity for social media to prove its worth in this regard: how can Twitter and other platforms help build bridges between disaffected voters and the people who want to represent them in Parliament? 

Of course I’m interested to see how the brilliant brains in digital marketing turn their attention to the 2015 election - whether that’s directly with political campaigns, via brand initiatives, lobbying campaigns or pressure groups in the run-up to the vote. 

But I’m most excited by organisations such as Bite the Ballot, which use digital media to engage young voters in the democratic process and highlight that they can shape their own future via the power of a vote. 

In Brazil last year we saw Twitter being used in innovative ways to bring the democratic process to life. Take #PretoNoBranco (#FactChecking) – a team of journalists assigned to verify what candidates were saying. They reported back in tweets just a few minutes after a speech or even during a debate, and it was common to see the candidates engaging with the tweets in real time – an incredibly powerful way to use digital media to hold power to account. 

The election in Brazil was the most disputed in 25 years and social media gave the campaign a global audience. US actress Lindsay Lohan declared on Twitter that she supported Neves because "his platform brings positive change in Brazil". Actor Danny Glover, a Rousseff supporter, wrote: "Brazil is the largest country in fighting poverty and in the past 12 years has set an example for humanity." The challenge for all of us is to ask how we can bring that sense of excitement and debate to UK politics in 2015.

In India there were 56m election related tweets, with between 540,000 and 820,000 on each of the nine poll days. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now followed by more than 7.7m Twitter users. During the 2009 Indian elections there was just a single politician active on Twitter, with 6000 followers.  

How will political parties transform the five minute party political broadcast into a six second Vine? How can we all use the power of digital media to move people and fill the polling stations in May? How can Twitter make the voices of disaffected Britons matter? These are the big challenges ahead of us in 2015, and the team at Twitter can’t wait to get started. 

Heather Smith 
Heather Smith

Heather Smith
Marketing director,
Aviva UK 

Like many marketers, I have to be careful not to wish my life away planning for the future. Reflection is an equally important part of the planning process.  

Over the past two years, I’ve seen major changes at Aviva - not least of which was the appointment of new group chief executive, Mark Wilson. While new leadership invariably means change, it’s a change for the better for marketing – with a strategic shift toward a forensic focus on customers and a digital agenda.

A fundamental part of the new strategy is the re-prioritisation from a traditional product focus to customer orientation. It’s in the interest of any marketing function to act as the conscience of the organisation, as our success is intrinsically linked to customer satisfaction. 

This couldn’t be more important right now. The social media revolution has created a whole new channel for consumers to share their experiences; the good, the bad and the ugly. Gone are the days when customers who had bad service just told their mates. Now, they tell the world, via Twitter.

While this makes some organisations nervous, we see it as an opportunity – to be better. We’ve given customers free rein to tell it how it really is through our online Ratings and Reviews service. It’s transparent – we don’t edit the ‘ugly’ ones. In fact, we contact customers who’ve given us a poor score to find out what went wrong, fix it and make sure it doesn’t happen again. The cyclical nature of our ‘learn and improve’ model is helping to create a consistent customer experience. 

It’s far from easy, though. We’re one of the biggest UK insurers, meaning change takes time and effort. However, I can already see from our metrics and performance that we’re gathering momentum. I can also feel the change in our people – a renewed passion and commitment to doing the right thing for our customers.

My priority for this year is to continue to ‘learn and improve’ using customer feedback. And, with our omnichannel communications strategy – telephone, email, live chat, apps and social media – 2015 is set to be the year of the ‘digital customer’. Wherever our customers have a voice, we’re listening. 

Alex Aiken
Alex Aiken

Alex Aiken

Executive director,
Government Communications

Top of our 2015 agenda is to ensure our campaigns continue to deliver key priorities for the current government and the next administration. Work on superfast broadband, pension reform and armed forces recruitment
is likely to dominate the early part of 2015.

There is more work to do to raise the standard of our core work. The first phase of improving the Government Communications Service is completed. In the New Year we will move forward on the second phase of our plan, developing more integrated marcomms operations, setting strong and stretching targets for our leadership teams and further professionalising our workforce. All of this will help us deliver value for money – driving down costs for taxpayers, while maximising the quality of our campaigns.

I want to continue improving marketing across government as it has the potential to make a big difference to the lives of millions of UK citizens.

In many areas, it already does so cost effectively. Look at how we’re now recruiting more teachers with targeted campaigns and smaller budgets.   

I will focus on ensuring that the best public service marketing campaigns become the standard. We need to take the world leading work that is done in certain areas and set a new bar for government marketing. That means more rigorous insight, targeted execution and honest evaluation.

We’ll need to draw inspiration from the past to bring new ideas to areas like Army recruitment, public health and business campaigns. I want us to professionally challenge agencies, be more forensic on costs and able to celebrate and share the credit when campaigns work brilliantly. 

Iman Ramani 
Iman Ramani

Iman Ramani
Head of agencies EMEA, NewsCred 

Last year content marketing exploded in the UK, with brands like Virgin and Visa prioritising content; 2015 will be the year in which content becomes the connective thread of all marketing, and every UK brand puts content at the heart of their strategy.

But if 2014 was the year of content, it wasn’t necessarily the year of great content for everybody. Consumers were inundated with clickbait style headlines promising ‘You’ll never believe what happens next’ – and clicked through to find articles that were more puff than quality.

Not only do these articles rely on empty headlines rather than compelling content, they’re also unlikely to keep working much longer, as audiences are savvier than ever. Consumers 10 years ago were inundated with clickbait in the form of flashy (and annoying) banner ads – and we all know how successful those have been. Brands need to look beyond headlines and create genuinely compelling content audiences want to read, or risk going the same way.

Clickbait style content may work to gain views and reach, but marketing now has to focus on the metrics that matter: how long people spend with a brand, how many pages they view, and, perhaps most importantly, how many are going to come back and even make a purchase. This tangible link to sales is something we’ll see more of.

In 2014, brands branched out into content from longform journalism to viral video, and the use of multimedia is only set to rocket in 2015 (in the UK, 62% will engage with content that includes an image, and 52% will engage with content that includes a video, according to eMarketer).

Last year may have brought a scattergun approach to content – jumping on every channel that promised to be the next big thing – but brands have wised up to tactics that truly deliver ROI. In 2015 marketers will become more accountable, making strategic decisions that fit their brand’s goals and what their audiences want, and hiring the right people to do it – trained journalists.

This year won’t just be about creating content – it will be about creating the right content, for the right audience, at the right time, and engaging with audiences instead of trying to trick them.

Chris Hirst
Chris Hirst

Chris Hirst

Chief executive, Grey London 

Our job is to produce famous, culturally resonant work for our clients. The business challenge is outperforming them in
a market with no barriers to entry. Agencies are just buildings full of people, but some are clearly better than others. Why? The answer is culture and talent.

First and foremost, we are in the talent business. If we have a powerful and effective culture, and are able to hire more than our fair share of the most talented people, we will be better than everyone else at developing big ideas and creating great work. We will outperform the market in the long run.

This is easy to say and hard to do.
It requires a leap in thinking, the most important aspect of which is to always be switched on to people’s potential.

Most people look to hire when they have a vacancy, but I’m starting to think about it the other way round. It’s about being more fleet-of-foot, bold and imaginative; hunting out brilliant people and then, when we find them, snapping them up and ironing out the serious issue of detail later.

It’s also important to have a plan. Putting talent first requires cultural change, trusting our senior team to move quickly when they find exceptional people. It works. Each time we’ve found an outstanding individual they are so busy within a few weeks that we’re already asking where the next hire might be.

This approach helps us address the fundamental issue with communications: that there’s apparently no magic formula for great creative work. But build a great, open culture that unlocks the potential of people within the com-pany, and you’re more likely to deliver it.

Great creative ideas also come from a fantastic relationship between the agency and client. So we’re looking for talent that is brilliant internally, but also with clients. With a clear sense of shared ambition and a group of super-talented people, we can achieve more as a team.

Bringing in people from diverse backgrounds and disciplines is important, too. In London, we have access to an amazing pool of varied talent. Not just people from the usual routes into advertising, but from different cultures, international markets and with varied outlooks on life.

All of which supports our ultimate goal: creating work with a clear cultural resonance, locally and globally. We couldn’t achieve this without an ‘always-on’ focus toward talent. Great work and business success follow.

Ian Pearman
Ian Pearman

Ian Pearman
Chief executive , AMV BBDO 

It was Russian dolls a decade ago; campaigns were bigger, or smaller, but basically the same shape. Modern comms is more like Morph, that 80s icon of plasticine entertainment, malleable and constantly changing.

Coping with something so amorphous brings major new organisational challenges that very few marketing departments are set up to deal with.

With digital now the marketing equivalent of oxygen, aren’t roles with the ‘d-word’ in their title arcane?

When a brand’s YouTube channel has the regular attention of millions of subscribers, where does that leave a traditional CRM role? When everything has the potential to lead to purchase with just a click, what use is a departmental split between consideration and conversion?

Reconfiguring around the new methodologies will increase thrust behind marketing efforts, or, at least, reduce the drag. There will be no one model – and definitely not the old one.

Programmatic methods will start to really shake the production economics of marketing. Systems such as AdSmart will offer ever greater opportunities for personalisation, but that will need to be balanced with the cost of creating huge inventories of individually tailored ads.

No one has worked out the point on the chart where the line of effectiveness uplift crosses the cost line, but learnings will come thick and fast in 2015.

Videoproduction methods will help, disrupting the traditional production industry and providing many more options for clients and agencies alike; of the 250 pieces of YouTube video content we’ve made for clients in the past six months, 75% cost less than £20k.

That dramatically changes the economics, and risks, of marketing, and, combined with the power of earnedmedia channels, renders debates about ‘working vs non-working’ irrelevant.

The challenge will be to resist using old frameworks such as these to judge the new methods. It’s not just the answers that have changed, it’s the questions.

And with ever greater power to personalise messages, there will come a broader question: how personal is too personal? At what point will consumers become uncomfortable with marketers using the vast amounts of data available to address them by their first names and whisper sweet nothings into their ears?

I read recently that the code-crackers of Bletchley Park in World War II faced the existential challenge of trying to use as much information as they could to disrupt German forces, but not so much as to give away their intel and cause the opposition to change their codes.

Marketers will need to find their own line with consumers if they are not to unwittingly create a generation of marketing rejectors. That balance will be tested in the next 12 months. 

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