What Marketers Need to Know for 2016

In two weeks time I will be a keynote speaker at an event titled, Foresight 2020: Setting the Marketing Agenda of Tomorrow. All content is focused on the marketing landscape in 2020. Looking out five years is a tough exercise when it is difficult even to predict one’s next quarter performance. Strategic planning and forecasting are based on process and science but any positive predictions seem more like magic these days.

In preparation for the event, I did some good old Google research. Once I had glanced over the reams of unsubstantiated ideas of where our world is going, I was left with a handful of credible pieces of work. Credible means they came from a reputable source, employed solid research, andAAEAAQAAAAAAAAYLAAAAJDI0OTIzZDk1LTQ4ZjItNDgyMy05OTBkLWQ1NDhiYTBmODRkMA arrived at substantiated insights. In all of this, I was struck by a trends and insights report from The Ford Motor Company (Ford-Trends-2016).

The PR folks at Ford boiled down the report to this pithy summary, “Ford’s new 2016 trend report reveal a renewed sense of inspiration and ingenuity among consumers striving for a better quality of life in the New Year, motivated more than ever to make the world a better place.” Lofty stuff and a bit hard to interpret until you get into the meat of the matter.

The report speaks of an “underlying sense of disillusionment” among consumers. However, these down and out people will be “more inspired to defy the odds and use innovation to embrace new platforms for change”. In reading the report, I was surprised by the ambitious response it suggests will take place. Ford believes there is a coming combination of “technology, sustainability and collaboration” that will “help create solutions to improve how consumers live, noticia9881hwork and even travel in the future”. Of course, we have to note that Ford has its own agenda and it does not take a marketing degree to see that this preamble serves its purposes rather well.

Still, this underlying sense of budding optimism is worth noting as is the upending of traditional ways of thinking. The report notes that, innovation and technology will continue to rapidly transform culture and consumer behaviour. What follows below are the chief findings with my commentary on what it means to marketing.

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What Longer Books Mean to Marketing

When The Wall Street Journal was redesigned using color and added the Weekend Journal and Personal Journal, a colleague of mine thought it was going the way of USA Today. That is, to a dumbed-down publication meant to appeal to the broadest demographic. Personally, I thought the design was attractive and layout inviting. My concern was with the quality of content and the length of the written work. That concern has only grown.

In the past fifteen years, information has been beaten, shrunk, diced, and sliced into bite-sized easily digestible trifle. We too readily accept headlines and “top ten lists” as gospel without a b38a8360-6c45-11e4-8636-37ecb50f6f81_2014925fc206807887c4466156647d8b802c3a5eproper assessment of facts, logic, and argument. Books are so highly prescriptive that they have only the barest minimum of practical application. Once author credibility was sacrosanct but no longer.

We live in a world of grammatically challenged texts and tweets where millions of blog posts are poorly written and mostly irrelevant. Self-publishing has enabled a mess of thinking rife with typos. On the one hand, we claim this is great, as it has given voice to many. Sadly, the proliferation is just horribly bad.

Democratization of thought is a rich illusion. Technology and social media allows us to share but does not ask the questions, should we? Is the content worthy? Writing and reading are meant to be a challenge, a challenge to both the writer and the reader. Conveying compelling ideas that evoke new emotions and thinking and even prompt behavioral change is the goal.

With this goal in mind it is interesting to learn of a new study from Vervesearch. It shows books are getting longer. According to the study, which looked at 2,500 books from The New York Times best seller list and Google’s annual surveys, average book length has increased by 25%. In 1999 books were 320 pages. In 2014, they averaged 400.

It now seems that people who love to read have a preference to a long and immersive narrative. This is an encouraging development and gives hope for all humankind (I am being only slightly dramatic). Life is complex and denying such is much more than a disservice. Unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening in marketing. Where marketing once informed in detail and credited consumers with intelligence, it now focuses too much on over simplified entertainment suggesting that consumers are lemmings. Marketing has lost meaning by being so demeaning.

Marketing has lost meaning by being so demeaning.

Longer books signal a critical change. People crave more information. This does not mean longer for the sake of length but it certainly means more substantial. People want to weigh the pros and cons to more accurately satisfy their needs and wants. That means marketers have to fight the instinct to be fleeting and slight. Branding has always been a relationship that marketing is meant to nurture. Longer books are indicator that consumers want relationships with brands to be deep, meaningful and predicated on mutual respect. In other words, they want more.

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2015 Top-Drawer Business Books

Welcome to the 8th edition of Top-Drawer Business Books

Too many business book lists are narrow in definition. As Robert Weider said, “Anyone can look for fashion in a boutique or history in a museum. The creative person looks for history in a hardware store and fashion in an airport.” The Top-Drawer list is less traditional and duplicative to others. That is why the list includes, and is sometimes dominated by, books not categorized purely as “business”.

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 12.55.48 PMWe always avoid books promising four-hour workweeks because they are fables, over-simplified and prescriptive how-to works that are vacuous and dangerous, and so-called inspirational books that are trite, lite and ineffectual. These are all tossed aside when one experiences the blunt adversities found in actual commerce.

There are no shortcuts or magic panaceas in business. We have to do the work even when reading. As John Locke stated, “Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.” We encourage you to read the selections here and make the Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 12.57.16 PMknowledge yours.

The list includes books released in 2015 that are top-of-mind, notable, relevant, well written, applicable, thought-provoking, and innovative. Our last bit of criteria makes the selections tougher to determine and that is timelessness of content. We love sharing the Top-Drawer list because so much of success in business is predicated on great storytelling and these selections exemplify that skill.

This year 13 make our list, 4 more than last year, and are presented in no particular order. For the first time, fiction efforts are included for the amazing lessons they carry if one is open to the education. For fun, we have included a separate list of 8 timeless business novels.

Remember, life is too short to drink cheap scotch or to read books that are not Top-Drawer. So keep these selections within easy reach for repeated reference. Access the list here, TopDrawer2015Final.