My Predictions for 2016

Ray 2016 PredictionsDespite Nobel prize-winning physicist Niels Bohr’s advice that ‘Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future’, here are my predictions for 2016.

1) Bigger Legal Problems for Google and Facebook
This year has shown an escalation in problems for Google, Facebook and other major players. European Governments seem to be getting into their stride, Governments as diverse (and repressive) as Turkey, Russia, and China are putting obstacles in the way of the hegemony that has been created by the major platforms. One judge in Brazil took WhatsApp away from 90 million users for 48 hours with a bang of his gavel. I think this will get more common in 2016, firstly with more fines, secondly with more restrictions, and possibly with jail sentences. These altercations will have implications for people using cloud services, the free flow of data internationally, and probably on the options for marketing to and speaking with people.

2) Automation
The big push is (and always has been) for Cheaper, Faster, Better, but in most cases the real winners are cheaper and faster and good enough (to borrow a phrase from Zappistore’s Stephen Phillips). How do you achieve cheaper, faster and good enough? Automation! Expect to see more and more systems that deliver processes, insight and results through the use of automation. Automation can be faster and cheaper – and that is often enough.

3) Surveys will continue to suffer
Market research surveys are increasingly alienating customers and citizens. As a consequence, response rates for commercial market research are fast reducing below 1%. This means most surveys annoy people and it means they are reflecting the views of a tiny minority. A second problem for surveys is the growing understanding of how the brain works and the limited ability humans have to explain their motivations and actions. The net position is that more and more organisations are moving their serious research away from traditional surveys, towards observation, big data, research communities, social media listening and other options.

4) More emotion
Neuroscience and behavioural economics have reminded us and quantified the extent to which most human actions and reactions are based on emotions. There has been quite a gap between the role of emotions being highlighted by researchers and the tools available for utilising emotions, but that has been changing. In 2016 we will see more use of emotion in the creation and evaluation of services, products and marketing.

5) Big data continues to disappoint
Big data is occasionally really useful and at some point in the future it will be more generally useful – but not yet. Data is growing faster than our ability to use it. Big data is great for highly specified questions, especially ones that relate to predictable patterns. However, big data is not delivering on the practical, everyday decisions that organisations need to make in 2016 and in the near future. Expect to see some very embarrassing cases where issues such as correlation rather than causality or survivor bias lead organisations to make very bad decisions.

6) Gender equality or suffer the consequences
The words of Canadian premier Trudeau on why his cabinet was gender balanced and ethnically diverse “Because it’s 2015” have signalled a change in the tolerance shown to organisations who persist in promoting and featuring mostly (or entirely) white men. In 2016, I think we’ll see a lot more ‘naming and shaming’ when organisations fail to show a more diverse face. If you organise an event and have a panel of four men, or have ten speakers and only one or two or female, expect to be roundly and broadly attacked – especially in social media.

7) Tracking: the dam starts to crack
For several years there have been more and more voices pointing to the problems with large-scale brand, advertising, and satisfaction tracking. Large organisations are spending tens of millions of dollars each on these tracking projects and are complaining loudly that the studies are not fit for purpose. I think 2016 is the year when we will see some of the large, global brands drop their $20 million tracking program and replace it with a light, agile model, costing just a few million dollars. Who will be the winners in this new model? Who will be the new Millward Brown? (note, Maurice Millward and Gordon Brown were the people who invented the modern brand and ad tracking model and scooped a leading role in the market they created).

8) Social, Local & Mobile
There will be more moves into location-based research, social listening, and in particular the use of mobile. Expect to see the proportion of online surveys completed from mobile devices approach 50%. Expect to see more tools for processing images and videos, and expect to see automation have an impact in this area too. The smartphone is the device of now and the near future, if what you are doing does not work with a smartphone it may be doomed. 

9) Training and competence building
There seems to be a breakthrough in the number of organisations who realise they need to up-skill their employees to deal with an increasingly complex world. Whilst some pundits have talked about changes in who we need to higher, e.g. more data scientists, the reality is that the key need is to train people in new ways of doing business and in how to buy, organise, interpret, and implement the work done by a growing array of specialists. 2016 will see a big growth in programmes designed to share and inculcate key skills, key ways of framing and solving problems, and ways to evaluate different approaches.

Number 10?
Well, there are my nine. Ten is a nice round number, so what would you add to my list to make it ten?


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7 thoughts on “My Predictions for 2016

  1. Convergence: there’s a new space emerging, at the intersection of management consulting, design / innovation / creativity, and insight. I think this will continue and it’ll be interesting to see who the winners are.

  2. Nice list Ray.

    #10: Media research.
    The effectiveness of campaigns is no longer dependent primarily on creative strength and weight of spend among an appropriate target audience.
    With so many different channels, platforms and ad formats to choose from, brands will invest more in understanding the role these play in return on investment across the consumer journey.
    This is particularly true within the digital marketing arena where so many new targeting approaches are being trialled, and innovative new ad formats continue to appear.

    Re # 7, of course Millward Brown will be the new Millward Brown 
    Our tracking solutions are already embracing the key automation and mobile trends you identify.
    We are also offering new lighter solutions based on behavioural observation and social listening.
    And we have smart new ways of connecting brand equity data through to sales.
    These lighter solutions can certainly complement tracking well, but whether they can replace continuous survey data without a major loss of insight is very debatable.

  3. Dear Ray,

    Thank you very much for sharing your predictions. It’s good food for thought, inspiring (yes!) and challenging. I’d like to add ‘reinventing organizations’ as number 10. Technology enables consumers/citizens to connect not only with companies but also with each other. They are better informed and are able to pick and choose what fits to their needs and wishes. This is of great influence on how organizations should relate to their customers but also to their employees.

  4. The Research Experience is my prediction for 10th slot Ray. Response rates are dropping because the experience – interactions, rewards, relationships – have for a long time been badly planned and poorly executed. This tends towards Nick’s idea that agencies are converging, where researchers are also designers, communication experts and consultants, able to deliver a world-class experience that is creative, convenient, considered and captures the imagination of the people it seeks to understand.

  5. #10 Interest in polling and social issues to continue to be given plenty of media support and exposure especially with key presidential elections in US, UK referendum on Europe, plus global social issues on managing crisis such as flow of refugees and climate change.

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