This week I’ve been at the Festival of Marketing in London – a great opportunity to take a step back from the day-to-day and take a wider look at the hot topics and issues currently fomenting in our industry, hearing from eminent speakers across the whole spectrum of industries and brands. I spent two very busy days, kicking off in fine style celebrating Comet’s shortlisting in the Data, Analytics and Optimisation category of the Masters of Marketing Awards associated with the festival for our ground-breaking work with Standard Life.

One late night later, and it was down to the serious business of the conference – a mix of headline speakers and multiple different breakout themes. It’s utterly impossible to attend everything, but in dipping into the varied tracks I noticed five particular themes emerging which I believe will form key trends as we head into 2017:

Ad-blocking: The dance between customers striving to block out ads and brands trying to capture their attention nonetheless will only gain in tempo. Successful brands will be those that negotiate their way through – not only by producing content that’s creatively engaging, but also by empowering customers to control more of what they do or don’t see from an organisation.

Voice-controlled tech: Amazon’s Echo hit the UK market last week, and this week saw Google announce Home. Apple have yet to reveal a product in this space, but as the originators of Siri, it’s safe to assume they’ll have their own plans bubbling away. Customers will quickly adapt to this advance – after all, interacting by voice is far more natural to us as humans than tapping a screen. The big winners from a brand perspective will be those who rapidly develop a means to allow customers to transact by means of voice alone – I can already re-order my favourite takeaways from Just Eat using vocal commands to my Echo, for example, and this has increased my estimation of them as a company offering a cutting-edge, convenient and simple customer experience – making me far more likely to spend unhealthy amounts of money ordering takeaway.

2nd party data: There’s increasing awareness of the possibilities being offered through leveraging 2nd party data (that is, data collected via relationships with other entities outside your organisation). I know – as if you didn’t have enough data to think about already! But for those brands that can develop mutually beneficial relationships with exterior partners, there are big prizes to be won in terms of engaging both new and existing customers at apposite times. From a decisioning perspective, access to more accurate and more relevant customer data is always helpful, and 2nd party data access offers another route to achieve this. A note of caution, however; there will naturally be privacy and security concerns to delicately negotiate along the way, and the potential for breaches will need to be carefully handled in order not to lose consumer trust.

Dark social: So-called dark social usage is on the rise – that’s the social sharing that takes place through private channels such as Whatsapp, for instance. Where once someone might have shared a link to a product on a Facebook wall that when clicked would be attributable within analytics to Facebook, consumers are increasingly sharing through encrypted channels. In analytics data, traffic that originates here appears direct, which is unfair – fortunately, solutions are just beginning to emerge to deal with this misattribution. One to keep an eye on, as already it’s estimated by RadiumOne that at least 75% of online referrals in the UK come from dark social.

The great content glut: We’ve been hearing for years now that content is king, and many brands have taken this to heart – with the result that the deluge of content being poured out by brands has become a glut. There’s considerable evidence that consumers are overwhelmed and much content is currently going unconsumed – the amount of time that people are spending with brands on social media is decreasing across the board. Brands need to take a hard look at how they plan and originate their content – is what you’re publishing simply to satisfy the content calendar, or because it’s genuinely serving a purpose for your audience?

I’ll be keeping a keen eye on these trends as 2016 draws to a close and beyond – if there are any of these topics that particularly interests or (hopefully) excites you, do drop me a line and let me know ( – I’d be happy to write or speak further on any of them as I’m convinced that all five will be of vital importance to our clients in the very near future.

Jenni Gill

Senior Consultant

Jenni is a Senior Consultant for Comet’s UK Strategy and Insights Team and holds an MSc in Creative Advertising. She has led Customer Experience and Digital Strategy projects across a diverse range of industries, from media to travel to financial services, and past clients include the BBC, First Group, Lloyds Bank, Aegon and AXA. Currently, Jenni is in charge of the implementation of decisioning in the B2B space at Standard Life up in Edinburgh, and in her spare time acts as a freelance writer and editor.