Jumping on the Bandwagon – Top Marketing Trends of 2016

As I sat last week working up communication plans for lifeguard recruitment, Bike Month, a cemetery photography contest and a 200+ summer intern program, I stared at the finite list of delivery vehicles we typically use and I got bored. Bored, because I was trying to put a fresh spin on the same annual information, but I was still using the same, and what felt like tired, channels we always use. Don’t get me wrong, they work for the purpose, but it motivated me to investigate what new options might be out there.

So at the end of each calendar year we are inundated with lists – Top Celebrity Diets That Are Blue, Popular Holiday Gifts for Dogs, Top Ten New Ghizmos and Thing-a-ma-bobs. With those so recently in my memory, combined with the uninspired feelings while crafting those aforementioned plans, I decided to see what the hot new trends in marketing were for 2016. As you might imagine, those lists weren’t hard to find. It seemed like anyone with any marketing interest was creating such a list, as broad as “Marketing Trends for 2016” (Chaffey, 2016), and smaller niches like “5 Visual Marketing Trends That Will Dominate 2016” (DeMers, 2015).


“Dominate,” you say? Let’s see what some others have to say about it. Below are nine lists I found in just one Google search – chances are pretty strong there are many, many more posted online as well. Here are some trends these predictions have in common:

  • Relationship Marketing – This is related to ‘know your audience’ and ‘meet your audience where they are,’ hence the emphasis on Snapchat by several lists as a place where younger generations “are flocking” (Sareen, 2015). Snapchat is a platform that enables the marketer to reach the consumer in real time, increasing the ability to develop a relationship with them. And with the bombardment of marketing only increasing, a personalized experience leading to a strong relationship will stand a brand in good stead. I’ve personally avoided the platform (it’s all I can do to manage the ones I already use), but after seeing this mentioned repeatedly, I have accepted my fate.
  • Virtual Reality (VR) – With the release of Oculus Rift (a highly anticipated VR device) expected sometime this quarter (Forbes, 2015), marketing prognosticators are expecting VR to rapidly move way beyond video games and real estate tours. Start setting funding aside now for FY17 to experiment with this.
  • Internet of Things – Beyond Fitbit, wearable technology is on the cusp of providing marketers with more data than they may have dreamed possible. And with an anticipated user rate of 28% in 2016 (Moraes, 2015), we need to start planning now to anticipate the accuracy of behavior-driven data. Bye-bye assumptions!
  • Digital & Mobile – While nothing new, the user rate over other devices continues to grow, and for the first time, Google saw that mobile use outpaced desktop use in 2015, which makes sense, since 68% of American own a smartphone (Entrepreneur, 2015). But laptops and desktops aren’t going away anytime soon, so emails, websites, and other communication vehicles you own need must to be optimized for both to compete.
  • Content Rules Them All – Consumers continue to become more savvy, and they are ever-more adept and recognizing (and calling out) insincerity or shaky rationale. Brand trust is valuable and it takes marketers considerable to time and effort to strengthen that, even in the best of conditions. Quality and relevant content continue to increase in importance, so sharpen those writing skills.

In an environment where everyone has an opinion, and the platform to express them, it’s important to take the time to review and assess multiple sources. Because while no one can be 100% certain that orange really is the new black, the data behind these predictions can help point us in the right direction.

May your 2016 database grow and prosper.



Chaffey, D. (2016). Marketing trends for 2016 – Will we be in a post-digital era? Smart Insights. Retrieved from http://www.smartinsights.com/managing-digital-marketing/marketing-innovation/marketing-trends-2016/.

DeMers, J. (2015, December 29). 5 Visual marketing trends that will dominate 2016. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2015/12/29/5-visual-marketing-trends-that-will-dominate-2016/2/#69c9009cf1dd.

DeMers, J. (2015, September 29). The top 7 online marketing trends that will dominate 2016. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2015/09/29/the-top-7-online-marketing-trends-that-will-dominate-2016/#35a3ae964c04.

Hall, J. (2015, November 23). 7 Marketing trends you need to know for 2016. Inc. Retrieved from http://www.inc.com/john-hall/7-marketing-trends-you-need-to-know-for-2016.html.

Impress. (2015). Top 3 digital marketing trends for 2016 (which you should be starting in 2015). Retrieved from http://impress1.com/connect/blog/entry/top-3-digital-marketing-trends-for-2016-which-you-should-be-starting-in-2015.html.

Lucas, J. (2015, December 31). 4 Trends that will shape marketing in 2016. Entrepreneur. Retrieved from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/254502.

Moraes, M. (2015, September 25). 7 Game-changing marketing trends to tackle in 2016. HubSpot. Retrieved from http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/7-game-changing-marketing-trends-to-tackle-in-2016.

Newman, D. (2015, November 3). The top 10 marketing trends that will define 2016. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/danielnewman/2015/11/03/the-top-10-marketing-trends-that-will-define-2016/#4d46ce517d58.

Sareen, H. (2015, August 03). 4 Marketing trends to watch for in 2016. ClickZ. Retrieved from https://www.clickz.com/clickz/column/2419469/4-marketing-trends-to-watch-for-in-2016.

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4 Responses to Jumping on the Bandwagon – Top Marketing Trends of 2016

  1. Jamaal says:

    Good post Holly. 🙂

    Relationship marketing… As much as this may be a trend in the social media or user-generated content arena. I think true relationship building or dialogue with customers is not happening. Studies have shown that most organizations in using these social media tools, do not engage in dialogue or building a relationship. Unless we consider a relationship one-way or the business’s voice being the voice that controls the engagement. For example, in the NFP world, Taylor, Kent, and White’s (2003) content analysis on activist using websites and online social networking to build relationships have been duplicated often. The results of these studies all have concluded that organizations do not utilize all the dialogic principals effectively nor do they use all the features social network sites have to offer. Sometimes organizations believe the presence alone is good enough for “relationship marketing.” However, if relationship marketing’s goals are to simply measure customer satisfaction and customer retention then it’s all good. I just think relationship marketing can be used more meaningful if it goes beyond analytics.

    Kent, M. L., Taylor, M., & White, W. J. (2003). The relationship between Web site design and organizational responsiveness to stakeholders. Public Relations Review, 29(1), 63-77.

  2. csaucier says:


    Thank you for posting this excellent article. I’m not as familiar with creating promotional/ campaign materials, and I was curious if, from your experience, you felt any of these platforms recommended by the various online ‘marketing aficionados’ would prove to be more effective means of communicating with target audiences than the other suggestions. Do you think any of these new tools are better than the current, popular social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc? (How does anyone else feel?) I have a hard time seeing how people would want to subscribe to organizations on Snapchat, but perhaps that’s just me.

    I surveyed a few of the articles you provided (thanks again 🙂 ) and reviewed several others that had been posted in prior years. I wonder if some of these recommendations tend to get recycled year after year in one form or another. For example, comparing 2016 and 2015, listicals tend to advise people to use the latest apps or use personalized content (Arnold, 2016), and as Jamaal pointed out, relationship marketing has long been a subject of research. Non-profits (Moon & Azizi, 2013), for-profits (Park & Reber, 2008), universities (Gordon & Berhow, 2009), and government organizations (Taylor & Kent, 2004) have all tried their hand at relationship marketing through various relationship development platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and blogs albeit not as effectively as may have been desired.

    Arnold, J. (2016, January 6). Top 10 Customer-Centric Marketing Trends for 2016. Entrepreneur. Retrieved from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/254620

    Gordon, J., & Berhow, S. (2009). University websites and dialogic features for building relationships with potential students. Public Relations Review, 35(2), 150-152. doi:10.1016/j.pubrev.2008.11.003

    Kim, D., Chun, H., Kwak, Y., & Nam, Y. (2014). The employment of dialogic principles in website, Facebook, and Twitter platforms of environmental nonprofit organizations. Social Science Computer Review, 32(5), 590-605. doi:10.1177/0894439314525752

    Moon, S., & Azizi, K. (2013). Finding donors by relationship fundraising. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 27(2), 112-129. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.intmar.2012.10.002

    Park, H., & Reber, B. H. (2008). Relationship building and the use of web sites: How Fortune 500 corporations use their web sites to build relationships. Public Relations Review, 34(4), 409-411. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pubrev.2008.06.006

    Taylor, M., & Kent, M. L. (2004). Congressional web sites and their potential for public dialogue. Atlantic Journal of Communication, 12(2), 59-76. doi:10.1207/s15456889ajc1202_1

  3. Jennifer says:

    Thanks for the consolidated list! I feel that the most important bullet is the last one – content is so very important. Word of mouth is so important and the best way to build a relationship with your consumers is, as you mentioned, building trust. People are going to be more likely to share a brand that they have faith in or some type of emotional connection with.

  4. Rhonda says:

    Nice job on the blog. The trends you showcased for 2016 are all great opportunities for brands looking to market and promote products to the online community. I agree with you on Virtual Reality is the future on marketing. Consumers seem to like the feel a virtual reality message gives them. In fact if a brand doesn’t take the time to market in these areas, they may just find themselves out of business.