2014 has seen some exciting developments in the digital marketing space. Even though it's a dynamic and fast-moving industry by its very nature, the speed at which it has evolved and the shifts that have taken place this past year are impressive. Coupled with many of those positive developments, however, are a number of negative ones. Here is a look at both the best and the worst of digital marketing in 2014.
Worst - Canadian Anti-Spam LegislationOn July 1 of this year, the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation came into effect. It stipulated that any company sending Commercial Electronic Messages in Canada must abide by the following:
- Obtain express consent from recipients prior to sending CEMs
- Provide clear sender identification information in all messages
- Provide an unsubscribe mechanism in all messages
While the purpose of legislation -- to cut down on malicious or harmful spam -- was received positively by many consumers, it caused quite a headache for many online marketers. Almost half a year later, marketers are still struggling to understand the implications and figure out how to adjust their methods to remain compliant. Luckily, there are steps to take to ensure your company is CASL compliant without affecting your marketing efforts.
In the year ahead, as more marketers understand how to navigate CASL, the impact of improved communications and more targeted reach could be one of the "best of 2015."
Best - Brands Buy-In to Content Marketing
Proponents of content marketing have fought hard to prove its value and achieve buy-in, and it appears that their hard work has finally paid off. According to Contently, there's a good chance that 2014 will be the year we look back at as the first in which brands seriously dived into content marketing. It's no longer a fringe idea; rather, it's been recognized as an integral piece of the digital marketing mix. In fact, a reported 93 per cent of B2B marketers are now use content marketing as part of their overall marketing plan, and 44 per cent have a documented content strategy in place.
Worst - Organic Reach Declines on Social Media
While organic reach has been declining steadily for a while, that dip seems to have accelerated in 2014. Facebook organic reach has gone down more than 50 per cent in just two years, and it continues to fall. Other social media platforms -- Twitter, Pinterest and the like -- are bound to follow suit as they look for new ways to monetize. For digital marketers, this means that the audiences they have built organically are not as accessible as they once were; at least not without paid budget. The next steps are now clear: online marketers have to "pay to play" in order to make any kind of impact on social media.
Best - Mobile Continues to Take Off
Mobile search is continuing to grow by leaps and bounds, and with mobile technology rapidly advancing, it shows no signs of slowing. 66 per cent of smartphone owners in Canada access the Internet on their smartphone daily, and 77 per cent of users reported having researched a product or service on their device. Furthermore, mobile is changing the way people shop, with 27 per cent of users saying they've made a purchase on their phone.
While this presents a number of challenges to marketers, it also creates a wealth of opportunity. Investing in responsive design, adhering to best mobile search practices and adapting to the needs of mobile users can help marketers reach a broader base of consumers using their mobile devices for everything from making phone calls to researching services and purchasing products.
Worst - Google Reduces Access to Keyword Data
The recent move Google made to limit access to keyword data was met with chagrin by digital marketers across the board. Organic keyword data and branded keywords are, more and more, unavailable to site owners. This isn't exactly a new development, but it's not great for marketers who are trying to obtain valuable data from their Google Analytics accounts. For instance, you can't find which searches via Google lead to traffic on your site, or which keywords via Google lead to specific web pages.
Furthermore, branded referrals now get grouped under the (not provided) designation, so if somebody searches for your company name via Google, there is no way to tell in Google Analytics (for example, if somebody were to Google "Search Engine People" for our company, that referral would show up as (not provided) in our Google Analytics account).
The purpose of this is similar to social media networks decreasing organic reach -- Google wants marketers to spend more on paid advertising.
Best - Content Continues to Improve
With marketers realizing the inherent value of having stellar content -- both for user experience and SEO purposes -- marketing is just getting better. Bad websites, spammy messaging, and poor quality marketing materials are losing the battle because these tactics have been rendered all but ineffective. More and more, brands are seeing themselves as publishers, striving to educate prospective customers and create valuable content. We're seeing less overt selling, and more useful information being circulated. For digital marketers and consumers alike, this is a positive thing.
The Future is Bright for Marketers and Consumers
Overall, the evolution of digital marketing throughout 2014 has been positive. With CASL in place, more marketers realizing they have to provide substance in order to be successful, and consumers getting and expecting better online experiences, the potential evolution through 2015 will likely see both marketers and consumers reaping the benefits.
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Thomas Edison couldn’t have pulled this marketing stunt off today without animal activists demanding Edison’s own execution. Even in 1903, his electrocution of Topsy the elephant can still be regarded as the most morbid marketing stunt of all time. Edison used the stunt as part of a smear campaign against his rival Nikola Tesla. Just to be sure the stunt went off without a hitch, Topsy was fed cyanide-laced carrots seconds just before Edison flipped the switch. Jail time served? 0 days. Insane! Source: OPEN Forum
The extent some people will go to in order to market themselves (and try to get a reality show) never ends. “Balloon boy,” as the media called him, supposedly climbed into a meteorological balloon that broke loose and floated around the globe with the boy inside. The balloon chase that ensued captured national attention. The investigation afterward did too. The boy’s father, Richard Heene, was the mastermind (I use that term loosely) behind the stunt. He got 90 days in jail and learned his lesson—“Do something stupid and the media will come and report on it.” He’s now out of jail and promoting his children as the youngest metal band in the world. I’d say he wants that to be a reality show in the worst way. Source: OPEN Forum
A Canadian man wearing a purple tutu and advertising the GoldenPalace.com on his bare chest did a belly flop into the Olympic pool at the 2004 Athens games. His antics disturbed some divers so much they failed to complete their dives. He was sentenced to several months in Greek prison. Source: OPEN Forum
Heart Attack Grill’s over-the-top marketing promotes “taste-worth-dying-for” burgers. When a customer at the Heart Attack Grill had a real heart attack in 2012 as he was eating the “Triple Bypass Burger,” other customers assumed his heart attack, the ambulance and paramedics were part of the grill’s elaborate show. The victim was actually hauled to the hospital with a heart attack, but customers still claim that it was all part of an act. This customer wasn’t the first to have a heart attack at the grill. One of the Grill’s unofficial spokesmen died in front of the grill on Feb. 13, 2013 while waiting on a bus—of a heart attack. Source: OPEN Forum
Bigger is usually better, unless you’re a 25-foot, 17.5-ton Popsicle on an 80-degree June day. When Snapple tried to erect the world’s largest popsicle in New York’s Times Square in 2005, it discovered that frozen popsicles made of Snapple juice and soaring summer temps don’t play well together. The Snapplesicle melted quickly, flooding parts of Manhattan with kiwi-strawberry-flavored juice. Firefighters had to be called in to close off streets and hose down the mess. Source: OPEN Forum
Sounds like a made for TV movie: In an attempt to market a new DDoS (distributed denial of service) product, a Web host owner sends a denial of service attack to the Hong Kong stock exchange, then says he has software that can fix it. Not many people were impressed. Seven companies with a combined income of $1.5 trillion HK dollars were forced to suspend trading because of the attacks. Tse Man-lai, 28, went to jail. Source: OPEN Forum
It was a 2007 “Hold Your Wee for a Wii” contest. The name was bad enough, but the outcome was so much worse. In an attempt to market itself, Sacramento radio station KDND-FM required contestants to chug as much water as possible without using the bathroom. The winner would take home a Wii. Jennifer Strange, a 28-year-old contestant, complained on-air of symptoms consistent with water poisoning (a real and potentially fatal condition), but the DJs on the “Morning Rave” just laughed. Strange died a few hours later. The DJs’ laughter didn’t go over well in court. A jury ordered KDND-FM to pay the Strange family $16.5 million for her death. Source: OPEN Forum
Emergency personnel and anti-terrorism squads shut down more than a dozen highways, transit stations and other Boston locations on Jan 31, 2007, after hearing about “suspicious devices” around the city. Turns out that Peter Berdovsky and Sean Stevens had placed placards illuminated by LED lights throughout the area to promote a new show from Cartoon Network. The public thought they looked like IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices). The two men were arrested on the day of the incident and charged with placing a hoax device to incite panic, a felony charge that carries a 5-year maximum sentence, and one count of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor. Source: OPEN Forum Photo: Supporters of the artists Sean Stevens and Peter Berdovsky hold signs February 1, 2007 outside Charlestown District Court in Charlestown, Massachusetts.
Dell manager Daniel Rawso manager knew Bryan Chester was a Dell employee, but 400 other Dell employees did not. When Chester showed up dressed in black biker wear, wearing a mask and waving metal objects that looked like guns and knives, employees called the police. A SWAT team and two arrests later, both Rawso and Chester were facing misdemeanor charges. The two Dell employees’ attempt to get the company energized around a new marketing push resulted in a trip to jail. Source: OPEN Forum