December Guest Post: 9 Emerging Trends for Marketers in 2016

By Guest Blogger Billee Howard, Founder and Chief Engagement Officer of Brandthropologie

Billee Howard

Here are the top 9 emerging trends CMOs must watch for in the year ahead that will impact innovation and the customer landscape. As we know, the CMO function is currently among the most vital, while also the most volatile.

These 9 emerging trends are designed to enhance your agility in the year ahead:

1) Sound will continue to emerge as the new word, with the audio headphone industry surpassing the $13 billion mark by 2016. This shift will continue to percolate with new business models that make sound experiences more accessible and streamlined (Pandora’s purchase of Ticketfly) along with TV shows built off of audio experiences (Serial the podcast becoming a TV show). Audio text messages will surge as well with new apps and technologies appearing to amplify this trend.

2) Emojis will become their own language and among the most powerful forms of expression. Last year we witnessed customized emojis by race and a multitude of expressions. This year we will see more brands embrace emojis to heighten their brand experiences (i.e. Facebook expanding from just thumbs up likes), it is likely that books, ads, GIFS, memes and other vessels of communication will be conveyed in full on emoji language. The recent translation of Moby Dick into complete emoji text is a clear harbinger of this trend.

3) The sharing economy will continue to explode but will move away from the notion of “altruism” to profiting for the many and not the few. We will see a continued push towards sharing business ecosystems that embrace the we instead of the me and provide value and benefit to the communities they operate in as a whole.

This idea of businesses benefiting themselves, the people they serve, and local people seeking freelance employment will become more evident and an obvious sign of the permanence of our new Uber X economy.

4) The sharing economy will also continue to identify new untapped pockets of opportunity that can benefit from sharing and also potentially serve a greater or “social” purpose. Number, which seeks to facilitate the ability to transport and deliver the cargo of all shapes and sizes based on currently available “unused” space, is a great example.

5) As sharing economy challengers continue to emerge, they will begin to push market insurgents to finally begin to disrupt themselves. We have seen this for example with hotel players Hyatt and Wyndham creating challenger brands (onefinestay and Love Home Swap) to rival sharing economy stalwart Airbnb. We also just witnessed consolidation in the hospitality industry with Marriott purchasing Starwood.

6) As singular focus and the ability to produce unique and bespoke niche services rises in importance, companies will communicate a laser focus on singular centered innovation. We have seen this across the board in sharing economy companies focusing on one thing only (Uber=car, Postmates=delivery, Handy=home repair) but we will also see this trend continue to emerge among market incumbents.

7) As multinationals work to streamline their operations in the year ahead to drive growth, it is also likely that investment in traditional markets like the US and Europe will continue to stall, as investment dollars move to emerging markets.

8) The stage of global innovation will continue to expand with market technology leaders emerging in many new “Silicon Valleys” cropping up in the U.S. (i.e. Silicon Prairie=Dallas, Silicon Hills=Austin, Silicon Forest=Oregon) as well as overseas (Silicon Tel Aviv=Silicon Wadi, Silicon Nairobi=Silicon Savannah, Silicon Gulf=Philippines)

As competition to produce the next big thing intensifies, the search for sharing economy “unicorns” will also continue to surge. As the thirst for these new tech companies valued in excess of $1 billion intensifies, valuations will soar, and a potential tech bubble may ominously approach.

9) For the first time in the year ahead, Generation Z begins to take center stage. With a population that will dwarf Millennials, marketers are already seeing the buying power of this demographic as they begin to share their voice on everything from technology to apparel. With 100 percent of this generation connected online, the ability of this group to influence public opinion is enormous.

Additionally as the voice of Generation Z, already known as the “Limitless Generation” continues to take shape, a more empathetic as opposed to self-serving tone also emerges. This shift also ties to another trend to look out for in the year ahead, which is the notion of empathy emerging as among the world’s greatest currencies.

2016 will be another year of rapid change in both culture and commerce. High-performing organizations, and the CMOs who steward them, will do best by heeding the words of Socrates:

Socrates Change and Innovation Quote - Emerging TrendsBillee Howard

Billee Howard is founder and chief engagement officer of Brandthropologie, and president of Mojo Risin Studios. She also founded Eleven, a national women’s network with the mantra ‘United We Rise United We Stand, and The House of We dedicated to the new sharing economy. She began her career at age twenty-two as press secretary for the president of the Philippines.

Contact: billee(at) Billee’s newest book is “We-Commerce: How to Create, Collaborate, and Succeed in the Sharing Economy” ­and is available on

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