Pour a steaming mug of hot cocoa and drop in a handful of marshmallows, kids! It's that special time of year when Justice takes a look at the many facets of branding, marketing, social media, cultural trends and related offshoots, and tries to sound smart by prognosticating on what we can look forward to in 2013.
I may very well be shooting myself in the foot when I say this, but I think many of the “grandfathered” social media channels will gain strength and open more doors to organic growth inside of their channels. I will also say that I think it's doubtful we will have another Pinterest on our hands next year. I don’t anticipate anything with such a meteoric rise. Furthermore, with Pinterest opening its API, I think you will see a countless array of third-party relationships trying to exploit external business opportunities based upon its primary platform.
So let's begin. The following list is in no particular order. Nor do any of these come with Vegas odds. Though maybe they should. We could make it like fantasy football for the future of business and technology.
Jesus, I hope I can draft "mobile" in the first round!
Mobile commerce growth
The major disappointment in 2012 was the iPhone 5 launching without Near Field Communications (NFC) inclusive to its operating system. Many of us within the industry have anticipated this as the primary backbone to the future of mobile commerce.
Let me make some clarifications about what we refer to as “mobile commerce.” It is not simply the act of making purchases on your phone within a pre-established Web-based environment; we've been doing that for many years. You have to think on a grander scale.
Think of walking through the mall and approaching a vending machine that senses your phone and then serves up a menu of its contents. “Hello Justice, Now that you're thirsty from that slow, lingering stroll past Victoria’s Secret, how about a refreshing Coke Zero?" I click my phone. My account is dinged for a buck-twenty-five. And I’m rewarded with 16 ounces of cold, refreshing sweetness.
Winner-winner-soda-dinner! <dances hoedown style>
App development becomes more inclusive
It should be a relative no-brainer that there will be increased app development for mobile and tablet devices. Due to the capitalistic nature of business, a lot of developers want to create the “lottery app,” enjoy a long ride in the Top 10, and reap the rewards. I didn't refer to it as the lottery for nothing – the likelihood of this occurring is very low. Besides, there are only a limited number of these swanky foyer sets available for new millionaires.
That being said, watch for developers to collaborate resources and create bundled apps. The reason an application such as Photoshop is so popular is that it is an all-inclusive application for photo manipulation. Would you rather buy five apps at $.99 that each performs only one task, or one application with 10 functions for $2.99?
Education will become digital and diverse
Education and social media are stepping away from the punch bowl and becoming less awkward at the school dance. Long gone are the days of listserve e-mails and regrettable “reply all” situations. We have now been taken into a world of online education with an endless array of tools, security levels, moderation techniques, forums and resources for the students. This is a brave new world for educators. Not simply because they have the world literally at their fingertips, but they also have an opportunity to rethink how to educate their students.
Once a week, or so it would seem, I read an article about a traditional educator utilizing digital resources in order to convey storytelling as an interactive medium and allowing students to make positive conclusions based on distinctly non-linear approaches. What does that mean? Well, the best applications in the world give you the ability to come at a problem from 10 different ways.
I'm certainly not saying the textbook is dead, but more that the conventional structure of education has been sent aloft for interpretation. Educational applications for tablets, increased virtual student attendance, social media channels and an endless repository of educational data could result in a revised interpretation of how we interact and learn.
Responsive design becomes the rule
Clearly you haven’t been hiding under a rock or spending too much time watching “Gangnam Style,” or you never would have found my site and invested the time to read my overly verbose pontifications.
God, when will I ever shut up?!
That being said, “responsive design” will be the new law of the land throughout the Internet kingdom from here forward. For those of you not familiar with responsive design, it is by its very nature one design that fits three platforms. The design is coded in such a way that when interpreted on the website it looks one way, then on a tablet it is formatted in another way, and it is reformatted once again for a mobile environment. One design covers three applications. The web designers of the world are facing the truth that they're not going to get three projects out of one client. But if they're worth their salt they will keep them to build and maintain the newly revised hub.
Video Content & Podcasting comes back with a vengeance
There seems to be some great debate around the topic of “podcasting.” Some feel it peaked about a half-dozen years ago. I stand on the other side of the fence and believe that it is absolutely an infantile introduction into a new media movement. I have been a longtime fan of a podcast called “The Nerdist,” and watched it grow over the last two years from a small, heavily participative audience, to a ravenous fan base, to a multi-channel entertainment Goliath.
It is my belief that the people who think podcasting is dead are the ones who are not using it, haven't found the appropriate content to their specific interest, or simply do not understand it. What I do see, however, is a slew of entrepreneurial content creators primed to not simply establish brands and increase thought leadership within their social channels, but a new layer of intimacy within the social community and audience.
It's one thing to be conversational within a social media thread. But beyond that you can support the thread with visuals and related user-generated content. And when you wrap that up to the next level and allow content creators to establish authenticity via podcasting, vodcasting, or original programming online, you begin to create a unique space for yourself.
Watch for brands that get it to create what would be the equivalent of “cultural channels” within their social fabric.
OK, for the online editor, computer video graphics developer, audio specialist and a few other niche-dwellers who require large desktop machines, the behemoths will still be in existence. But those people will end up being the “one percenters” in this equation. The vast majority of consumers are going to give way to tablet computing. Greater mobility and consumer-driven pricing structures make this platform the chosen one for the future. It began with the launch of the iPad. And now with Microsoft's “Surface” tablet, the desktop marketplace will disappear radically faster.
One of the comments I made last year was that tablets would become larger and more professional in 2012. I think that still stands true today. Watch for an array of different sizes to be launched through 2013: the mini, the wee, the wee max, the max, the super max, and the friggin' huge!
Social Media invades the real world
I have been personally blessed to help bring social media into a real-world context. With the launch of the intellectual product referred to as “Fanwise,” we have begun to establish ways to give audiences real-world rewards for their social connectivity.
What does this mean for brands and marketers? Absolutely everything!
Gamification, has floundered online over the past few years as it rests on its laurels with the rewards of virtual currency, badges, scoreboards and useless attaboys. The New World order will be to challenge the same developers of previous games and entertainment platforms to look at how it could apply in real world scenarios. How can rewards programs benefit me in my real life?
The airlines figured this out a long time ago with “frequent-flier” programs. It's debatable whether this had any direct application to social media platforms, but it's very safe to say it is the grandfather of the New World reward. Watch integrated marketing and social media firms begin to cross-fertilize ideas with entertainment and gaming practitioners only to parlay that into consumer-driven behavior triggers.
Google+ is dying while MySpace is reborn?
This topic is almost like talking about cars. Are you a Ford or Chevy person? Dear God in heaven, do we have to go here?!?
Nevertheless, I'll just say it: Google+, had its blistering rise to fame, but unfortunately Icarus's wings have begun to melt. You're certainly going to see the platform maintain for the next few years, but if it doesn't take great strides to parlay itself into other social channels it will be lost like the original incarnation of MySpace.
And speaking of MySpace, can it be reborn? Well the beta video showing its revised user interface and breathtaking user experience is something to note. That being said, I know a half-dozen guys who can construct a beta video like that in After Effects to make you feel that the flying UIs from “Avatar” are right around the corner.
So what is real and what is fluff? Will they only hang their hat on music again? Will they go after Facebook? And last but not least, what the key differentiators that we get out of the new social media platform that we don't have somewhere else?
Real world consumerism gives way to virtual comfort
The idea of real-world consumerism giving way to a virtual comfort is not something new for 2013. Zappos.com has already shown that it can work flawlessly. But what of consumerism on even a more basic level? For example, “I need to go to the grocery store."
Businesses will increasingly look to establish offerings in an online, drop-ship capacity to not simply increase service, but to maximize on the growing propensity of users to purchase basic necessities online.
So what's next? What are you thoughts? These are just a few that aren't irrational and conspiracy filled. I'd love to hear your prognostications. HIT ME!