Meekerology: Trending the Trender

“The future ain’t what it used to be.” – Yogi Berra

Every year about this time a barrage of “Top N” lists is unleashed, predicting what will be happening in the coming year. I think of the genre as a listicle wrapped in an article. Check it out – look on Google right now. A lot of them will be junk, and many are more or less copies of one another (sometimes attributed, sometimes not).

By contrast, the presentations of Mary Meeker (of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers) are a treasure trove of recent digital history. I Googled them and found decks going back to 2005.

Looking back at how her top trends have evolved over the last eight years paints a quite a picture. The top item in 2005 was broadband penetration. The story morphs from adoption to portable always-on access by 2010, and by 2013 ecommerce – once dismissed as snake oil – is now the engine of global innovation and economic growth.

Take a look at how the first three bullet points in Mary Meeker’s decks have shifted from 2005 to 2010 to now:

Meekerology

How Items 1,2 and 3 on Mary Meeker’s list have changed since 2005

From a device perspective, the focus has shifted from PCs and laptops, to smartphones, to tablets, and next to wearables and the “Internet of Things”.
The devices, though, are taking a back seat to the integration of the technology into our lives, and an ongoing explosion of ways to take advantage of its capabilities in all aspects of our lives.

Mobile changes ranks over the years, and goes from “early-stages” in 2005, to “unprecedented early-stage growth” in 2010, to “Aggressive Momentum”. The Meeker lists also show consistently ramping pace of innovation and “re-imagination”(which, to me, is a nicer word for disruption).

That’s Nice. But What Does This All Mean For Digital Marketing?

My informal Meekerological forecast says this:
1. Mobile is going to continue to increase in importance
If you believe Mary, then your number 1 takeaway should be that if you aren’t playing in mobile and tablets, then you are missing out on a massive trend. People aren’t just checking email and Facebook on mobile devices – they are now doing some serious e-commerce there.

2. Content marketing HAS to happen if you want to keep your constituency alive
We cannot all be content parasites. People get bored with me-too links to the seven original articles on the Web this week. UGC (user-generated content) is okay for some things – like finding out what people like ourselves think about a new movie or book or product, but day to day, people are starved for researched, curated, creative, non-amateur content. This is a golden opportunity to connect with your audience.

3. Big Data: Look into it, learn it, use it (but PLEASE stop calling it that)
Don’t search for latent patterns (e.g., people with curly red hair who enjoy Scrabble are your most efficient audience), which are usually subtle in impact, if you are not already exploiting commonsense first-order data effects.

4. Social, social, social
Increased mobile access seems to be manifested in sharing more things in more ways on more occasions. If that is where your customers are, then shouldn’t you, your messages, and your content be there too? Now that Congress is thinking about taxing advertising, other ways of spreading the word will be even more attractive.

5. Master the channels that your customers use
Do not tweet or build a Facebook app because you think it is the way to be modern. Do these things because that is where your customers are spending their time and you can connect with them and influence them particularly well in those channels.

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