Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Birnbach Communications' Top Predictions for 2014, Part V: Ongoing Consumer Trends

Here's our list of ongoing consumer trends we expect to see in 2014.
  • The Battle for the Living Room.  There are two fronts to this battle: high-end TVs and gaming consoles. CES will generate some buzz for the latest mega-ultra high def systems while the battle between Xbox and PlayStation will especially heat up around next Christmas. 
  • Cord-cutting will continue to be a top story.  Because the different streaming services offer complementary offerings, we think there will be a shift in coverage away from comparing Netflix vs. Amazon Prime vs. Hulu; instead, the focus will be more on streaming services vs. cable. Over the next 24 months, cable, while more expensive, has an advantage because it is still easier to use than having to switch inputs between streaming services and cable channels. 
  • Consumers still expect Apple to unveil a new way to watch TV, but Apple will offer, instead, the iWatch.  Samsung beat it to the punch with a large connected wrist-device that looks it was designed by Dick Tracy, but we expect Apple to launch its iWatch connected device before it announces an iTV. That said, we still expect demand for an Apple iTV to generate a lot of speculation in 2014. 
  • Premature deathwatch of things that are very much alive. People love to predict the death of various, usually popular items, devices or technology. Here are candidates for 2014: 
    •  PCs: We may be in a Post-PC era but corporations (among others) are continuing to buy PCs or Macs; and if they are buying tablets it’s in addition to, not a replacement of PCs. They may be ailing, but PCs are not dead yet. 
    • Cable TV: Cable carriers are looking at ways to evolve, offering services via the Internet. We don’t think cable companies will disappear anytime soon because they’ve made bundling – phone/cable and Internet – so indispensable. 
    • Press releases: Despite social media, there’s still a place and a value to press releases. And companies need to make sure they include some of their keywords in their press releases because that’s important from an SEO perspective.  Keep in mind: Google’s algorithm has changed (again) and that has changed how releases need to be organized. The rise of multimedia and infographics is having a positive effect on the role of press releases. 
    • Media relations: Social media is no longer just for early-adopting B2B companies but media relations continues to be important. By the end of the decade, both media relations and social media will converge into a single integrated effort.
  • Actual deathwatch: Things we feel are actually dying. 
    • Paper-based holiday cards: Actually, businesses do seem to be shifting from paper-based holiday cards to more interactive, email cards (with video or animation accompanied by a soundtrack) to wish us all season’s greetings. However, that’s true for business partners and vendors but may not be true for your Aunt Gloria or college friends.
    • The phrase “at press time”: This once routine phrase used by the media is near obsolete in a 24/7 news cycle. 
    • The words “authentic” and “artisanal”: This may be a pet peeve, but often, when someone claims something to be “authentic” we get the sense the thing in question is actually not authentic. As for artisanal, that seems like a nominee for overused word-of-the-year.

Let us know if you agree or disagree. Check back after New Year's for our final sets of predictions for 2014 or click here for Part I, Part II, Part III or Part IV.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Birnbach Communications' Top Predictions for 2014, Part IV: 9 Ongoing Tech Trends

 Last week, we posted top tech trends. Today, we're posting our list of top ongoing tech trends, representing trends that started before 2014.
  1. The battle of tablets: After several years of breathless media coverage, the battle for tablet supremacy began when Apple, recognizing a vulnerability in its product line, launched the iPad Mini. Last year, we said it was a two-horse race between iPads and the Kindle Fire but expect a third player to gain traction – enter the Samsung Galaxy. This story has just begu 
  2. Mobile everything will be important, including mobile search and mobile recommendations.  We’ll see the later perhaps playing out with shopper-specific recommendations while walking in retail stores – positioned as your own personal shopper. 
  3. Crowdsourcing will continue to be a source of investors and a marketing boost. But that will primarily be for consumer-oriented products, not B2B technology. 
  4. Virtual startups in otherwise unlikely fields. We’ve already seen the growth of virtual biotechs, and we see that continuing. We expect to see virtual enterprise application developers, who rely on outsourcer providers to do the heavy lifting. We don’t necessarily expect to see a lot of coverage of this trend, just that this is how startups will structure themselves. There’s a financial benefit to being virtual, including the hope for greater efficiencies but with that come other challenges, like credibility with customers and keeping every consultant, vendor and partner on the same page. 
  5. 3D printers are still not yet ready for prime time. They will continue to make inroads, and to generate some coverage, but this is not (yet) a device for every household.  It’s too expensive and too complicated. 
  6. Big data: The media will continue to cover big data as it continues to go mainstream…until big data is supplanted by the next data trend. 
  7. Consumerization of enterprise apps: Mobile and BYOD forces require enterprise apps to be intuitive and easy to use. Ugly interfaces will no longer close sales. 
  8. Second screens: Increasingly people watch television programs with their tablets, too, so they can comment real-time on what they’re watching. Helping customers express themselves and buy while they’re watching TV is going to be an important from a marketing perspective in the coming years.
  9. Cognitive and context computing:  IBM Watson represents cognitive computing, which "combines natural language processing, machine learning, and hypothesis generation and evaluation," (according to IBM) and it didn't just beat Jeopardy champions in 2011. IBM Watson (and cognitive computing) is kicking off a new wave in computing. (Yes, we know, we've heard that before.)  Fortune did a cover story in Sept. 2013 reporting on IBM's Massive Bet on Watson. Contextual computing is not vastly different. Fast Company breathlessly reported that contextual computing -- including Google's latest search algorithm, will bring "Machines that understand you and everything you care about, anticipate your behavior and emotions, absorb your social graph, interpret your intentions, and make life, um, 'easier.'" We expect both cognitive and context computing will get more attention in 2014, even though we're in the early stages. Implications: IBM Watson's ability to provide students (and the rest of us) with almost instant access to historical data means that educators must rethink curriculum. Less important, now, are specific dates of historical events; what's now important is understanding the substantive issues surround the Treaty of Ghent, for example -- issues that sometimes get scant attention in the need to emphasize dates. We see that happening in business, too.
Let us know if you agree or disagree. Check back tomorrow for additional predictions or click here for Part I, Part II or Part III.