Which Marketing Trends Dominated 2016

In an age of post-truth and fake news, wouldn’t it be great to have insight into marketing masterminds’ thoughts on what trends will take hold in 2017? Lucky for us, we’re in no shortage of guesstimations of marketing trends for the year ahead.

The problem is, with prediction after prediction (after prediction) made by some of the smartest people in our industry, how do you know which one to trust? We almost never look back to forecasts made years ago, so in most cases, you choose an authority on an educated whim.

To help you untangle the prediction webs, we’ve looked at three major marketing blogs: Hubspot, MarketingProfs and Content Marketing Institute. They’re the sources we look to all year for advice, inspiration and guidance, and so it only makes sense to see how their predictions faired last year. Who predicted 2016 best?

But here’s the deal, this analysis is completely arbitrary. We took a look at each prediction and decided whether we thought it came true or maybe not so much. There is absolutely no scientific value to it whatsoever. It’s just our own evaluation.

A note: The horseshoe category

You know how they say almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades? Well, I like to think almost fits in a few more gray areas. Not every prediction made was black or white. The almost-trends of 2016 have laid a foundation for this year. They got half way (or more) to becoming the next dernier cri of marketing, then shifted – either falling flat or taking on new, but different than predicted, life.

Nailed It

Here are the predictions that hit the mark square on the head in 2016:

Relationship marketing, Hubspot

Hubspot predicted an influx of personalized, data-driven marketing. All solid relationships, they said, are built on trust. And adding another layer of transparency between customer and brand has proven both popular and profitable.

Invest in content, MarketingProfs

Companies earmarked an average of 28 percent of total marketing spending for content marketing in 2016, according to the Content Marketing Institute. The most successful brands are allocating 42 percent of their budget, up from 37 percent last year. And while MarketingProfs was right on their prediction that content will hit the mainstream, more than half of B2B marketers still think we’re investing too little in content.

Broad-picture marketing, Content Marketing Institute

Brands want to enhance the entire audience experience, so they’ve prioritized user experiences online. This year, we’ve spent more time and resources to study the metadata and taxonomies and we’ve found our voice – making a consistent and cohesive tone and brand across all mediums.

Content distribution, MarketingProfs

Marketers spent 2016 finding new ways to get their content noticed. We can have the greatest piece of work in the world, but no one will care unless they can find it. With an influx of paid and earned media already on the terrain, owned channels, like email signature marketing, have come into focus as a differentiator. (<<shameless plug, but it’s true!)

Native advertising, Content Marketing Institute

CMI predicted native advertising would be trendy, but hard. And that’s exactly what happened in 2016. Every brand wants to try it, but few are really making a splash with it yet.

Organizational structure, MarketingProfs

More companies invested in content marketing in 2016 than ever before. Teams with valuable managers have been implemented in the most successful B2B brands. And they’re investing time and resources to strategize and produce. Businesses have seen content marketing’s cost is around 62 percent less than outbound marketing, but it generates more than 3X as many leads, so it’s finally getting the respect it deserves (<<says the content marketing manager).

Missed It

These predictions fell a little short:

Digital overload, Content Marketing Institute

CMI, we love you, but people just aren’t sick of digital yet. While a disconnect is appreciated every now and then, we’ve been trained to want what we want and want it yesterday. We need to work faster than ever. And we need to use the plethora of resources available in digital format to get the job done. Sure successful brands have cut their social presence to focus on creating only the best content to be distributed on their most important channels. But it’s because there’s so much information out there, we need to put more effort into making sure ours stands out. We do love your optimism for an uptick in publishing, though!

Search beyond search engines, Hubspot

The prediction of a 2016 shift into an all-in-one platform on social media is a step too far. Hubspot claimed advanced search would bring a more integrated social experience, but we’re just not there yet. We’re getting there, sure, but it didn’t take hold in 2016. Internet users still prefer to use Google, Bing and Yahoo – in that order – to find what they’re looking for.


Here are the predictions that became our almost-trends of 2016:

Ephemeral Marketing, Hubspot 

Snapchat is now the second most powerful social platform in the United States.  It has more users than Twitter – and grew as much in one year as the Twitter did over the last 4. Yeesh! More than that, a whooping 10 percent of the entire nation’s population of social media-using 12-24 year olds have moved away from Facebook and onto Snapchat as their platform of choice. There is absolutely no doubt the ephemeral movement is real. But marketers are still trying to figure out how to use it. Some brands tried it in 2016, few succeeded. Maybe this year.

Slow marketing, Content Marketing Institute

Marketers have been so excited about the content marketing movement that we’ve jumped right in. We made all the content but put little thought into the strategy behind it. Content Marketing Institute said last year the brands who continued on this path would crash and burn. And while some have, most haven’t. But that’s not going to last much longer. With so much content flooding our industry, we need to think first, then produce. Strategize and be patient. Take time to create authentic, valuable content.

Internet of Things, Hubspot

Internet of Things has been couched as a tool for personalization. Marketers are saying it’ll be a platform for engagement and a way to create a new customer experience. And as much as this trend started to take hold in 2016, the foundation has only just been laid.

Measurement and ROI, MarketingProfs 

So much of me wishes this were a trend right now, and we’re almost there. But 2016 was not the year of ROI. It was a year to learn how to measure, setting the groundwork for 2017 to be the year we use the data we’ve collected.

Virtual reality, Hubspot 

Hubspot said virtual reality would undoubtedly cause some kind of shift in marketing ideology in 2016. VR is all about delivering an experience. From the second you slip on a VR headset, you’re immersed in the virtual experience. It has the potential to disrupt the entire marketing landscape. But that didn’t happen in 2016. Instead, augmented reality took strong hold with apps like Pokemon Go blending virtual experiences into the real world.

So who do we entrust as our trend-master in 2017? We’ll just have to wait and see.

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