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10 Critical Market Trends for 2016

These 10 trends provide brands with an opportunity to break habits, embrace new methods of brand engagement, and introduce new business models, new technologies, and new – and profitable – opportunities.



By Dr. Robert Passikoff:

As researchers who have eyes only for predictive metrics, we appreciate having a real strategic foundation of insights to help identify trends. So, for the past 31 years, Brand Keys has conducted a year-end examination of our validated loyalty and emotional engagement metrics, this year representing over 100,000 consumer interviews, more than 150 B-2-B and B-2-C categories, and nearly 1,000 brands.

This provides Brand Keys with a correlated-to-behavior view of changes in category drivers, path-to-purchase values, consumer expectations, the arrival, departure, and formation of category and customer values, as well as the percent-contribution these elements make to consumer engagement and brand profitability.

Examined in aggregate, these assessments provide our clients with a leading-indicator trajectory of future trends marketers will have to address in the next 18 to 24 months. For marketers and brand managers who want stay ahead of that trajectory this analysis identified 10 critical trends that will become 2016’s market realities. A few of the trends are current market values morphing into new market structures. Some are new market tenets. All are actionable opportunities for brands, and have been identified as follows:

  1. We only have emojis for you.

The eyes have it and increased consumer visual literacy rates will concurrently and dramatically increase use and utility of emoticons. Using emoticons will help to create brand differentiation, make brands appear user-friendlier, and increase engagement, particularly in social media outreach. 

  1. New rules of engagement.

Awareness will be a given. Marketers will link “engagement” to how well brands are perceived versus their category’s Ideal, rather than relying on measures of entertainment like “likes,” tweets, or share counts.

  1. A brand is your best brand asset.

 Brands will need to differentiate and stand for something meaningful, emotional, and important in the mind of the consumer. Otherwise – whether known or not – marketers will find themselves managing well-known commodities.

  1. Watch smart wearables move beyond watches.

Wearable device shipments have already increased 200% from last year and smart wearables will move from accessories, focused on notifications, to more advanced capabilities doing more, creating real opportunities for brands.

  1. Shopping at the sMall.

A new twist on customization and personalization will become a new tradition. Consumers will seek out ready-made from brands able to create the look and feel of small-business, handmade, uniquely- crafted products, services, and experiences.

  1. Emotional brand IQs will rise.

As consumer decision-making becomes more emotionally-based, successful brands will identify and utilize emotional values as strategic foundations for meaningful positioning, differentiation, and more authentic storytelling.

  1. Mind the expectation gap.

The ability for brands to accurately measure real, unarticulated, and constantly-expanding consumer expectations will provide significant advantages to engage, delight, and profit for brands that can.

  1. Caution: speed trap ahead.

As more-and-more agile, hot-wired-to-mobile-device, culture-of-now consumers move faster and faster á la social marketing and outreach, brands will need to get faster too. 40 percent of consumers expect a brand response across a variety of social media platforms within an hour of their reaching out to the brand. 

  1. Naked truth vs. well-dressed lies.

Storytelling is fine, but the stories brands tell must reflect real brand values, category realities and, most importantly, the truth. Consumers have signaled increased preferences for traditional, value-driven brands, and particularly brand honesty, have become more wary of brands that betray their trust. Just ask Volkswagen how that’s going.

  1. On-demand escapism.

Consumers will demand to be more inspired, more emotionally engaged, and more entertained by brands. Social media’s democratization of content creation will require that brands generate more immersive virtual and augmented realities that allow consumers to both participate – and shape – their own brand experiences.

It’s said that a new year provides marketers and brands a chance for new resolutions and new beginnings. But if you want to do something new, you have to stop doing something old. These 10 trends provide brands with an opportunity to break habits, embrace new methods of brand engagement, and introduce new business models, new technologies, and new – and profitable – opportunities.

Thanks for listening in. We wish you all an engaging and profitable 2016.

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One response to “10 Critical Market Trends for 2016

  1. Thanks for the thoughtful post.

    Consumers today are mission driven, speed buyers and for the most part focused. The myriad of banner ads, texts and emails become a blur of information that is nothing more than a set of background images.

    Storytelling doesn’t work because consumers are writing their own stores and their purchases are often in support of activities and have specific uses (athletic clothing to leisure clothing, travel accessories, rugged cameras, etc.) and people generally have smaller footprints and larger wingspans.

    Younger consumers are much more efficient in their purchases and they spend a lot more on travel, dining, events, etc. and the things that support those activities rather than keeping up with the Jones. In a global society where there is a high awareness of the disparities within societies and an even higher awareness of how fast life can change, people aren’t waiting for experiences.

    How that plays out differs greatly from a socio-economic perspective but it is the same set of variables worldwide. Personal relationships have always been valued and its hard to have a relationship with a brand when the retailer (outside of high end brands and commerce driven areas) have minimum wage clerks in gigantic stores who act irritated when they have to stop texting to ring you out.

    Small companies believe in their products and they want to tell you about the benefits. It is a natural process to link the products to the need. Consumers and corporate buyers will pay more for a relationship where the seller understands the buyers needs and the products capabilities but is not enough for a manufacturer to open a retail store. REI does a great job of linking the products to the customer because their employees use the products. They understand performance and they understand how to treat employees.

    Although it may seem a bit chaotic now, the trend is in favor of better experiences in most sectors. The difference is that it the people factor has come full circle. Whether you sell on the Internet, B&M or both, the people on both sides matter. Marketing is and always has been a way to lead the horse to water but the water has to be worth drinking.

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