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Letter sent on Dec 15, 2016

The Three Ideas That Defined 2016

Final thoughts on this year in marketing and advertising

Reflecting on some of the most important perspectives on marketing and advertising shared on Medium this year, several key themes emerge.

Moving past transactional relationships

The first theme is about the purpose revolution, in which brands can no longer survive on purely transactional relationships with customers, and instead must create deeper, more value-centric and participatory ones. In a future in which brands optimize for customer loyalty — rather than cheap acquisition — the customers themselves become a marketing engine far more powerful than traditional advertising.

  • Richard Edelman lays out a roadmap for how brands can reach the highest level of customer engagement and loyalty: by making its customers feel part of a movement — move the customer relationship from one rooted in “me” to one powered by “we.”
  • Kirk Souder echoes this sentiment by arguing that brands can no longer communicate passively, but must rather create a participatory groundswell.
  • Thomas Oppong takes this a step further and presents a vision in which this “purpose revolution” kills traditional marketing altogether and replaces it with customer loyalty and engagement strategies.

Shrinking attention spans want complex stories

Another theme is seemingly contradictory forces that are, on the one hand, shrinking human attention spans, but on the other hand are making us hungry for increasingly complex stories.

  • Faris makes the compelling case that personalized digital advertising has brought us to the brink of attention collapse — and that the only way forward is to focus on brand-building, rather than customer targeting.
  • Nicholas Thompson makes a similar case in a different way — by showing us that despite the perceived reign of soundbites, complex storytelling is actually thriving — because people are hungry for big, encompassing narratives that they can be apart of.

The future is in new formats

A third key theme is about new marketing and advertising formats. If traditional marketing is dead, brands need new vehicles for their messages.

Finally, we revisited the top trends Linda Boff said she’d be betting on in 2016 — how many of them came to fruition?

Other perspectives from the Medium network

In Weber Shandwick’s Media Decoded, Chris Perry details the media conventions being turned on their heads by the dominance of social distribution, and the way forward for brands.

In The Cycle, Jason Stein contends that media and advertising are the same thing.

In Huge’s Magenta, Mariam Aldhahi reports on how AI may impact the ongoing cultural struggle between popularity and editorial quality — and how brands do social media.

In HubSpot’s ThinkGrowth (formerly ReadThink), Janessa Lantz envisions a future for content marketing that is more focused and more editorial in nature.

In Mixpanel’s The Signal, Parker T. reports on what radical transparency can and should mean to brands.

In WorldPositive, Gabe Kleinman shares advice from content marketing’s queen, Camille Ricketts. Spoiler alert: useful resources > customer stories.