How to find the next (real) big thing

Publisher Mary Maddever on authenticity fatigue, and going beyond wows and likes.
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This story appears in the September 2015 issue of strategy.

I was going through a list of trends and buzzwords for our PROMO! show host Jessi Cruickshank (sort of a Cole’s Notes on industry goings-on to help her prep), and made the momentous decision to move the word “authenticity” from trends to buzzwords. Is that cynical? I’ve always been a big defender of brands’ CSR efforts, but lately (and maybe it’s just the sheer volume of brands championing social issues) suspension of disbelief is wearing thin.

Beyond that warm and fuzzy fatigue that Karen Howe tackles brilliantly in her Forum column, it seems that with techy innovation being a big focus in crafting marketing programs, it’s more than authenticity that’s a growing disconnect with consumers. There’s a lot of overly-complex programs that are at risk of losing attention, rather than building it. So how do you separate the real McCoy, the next big thing that will really click with consumers, from the distractions?

What’s interesting about the Next Big Things roundup this year is that a lot of the punditry is about stuff that’s actually finally happening. And the still-further-out tech is seemingly geared to tangible benefits (making life easier and more interesting, saving time and money) rather than just wowing people.

Sci-fi-ish tech like VR that seemed a little precious for the mainstream is now in a mall near you. I’m anxiously awaiting the virtual experience of the tropics, while I stand in line at Loblaws – brought to me by Dole. Maybe next year. But VR uses go beyond fun experience to incredible convenience. (And in the future, AI will handle my grocery shopping).

Indicating the degree of virtual ad reality, Epica Awards is launching a VR category. Nosing around I found one case that’s planning to enter, and it’s fascinating. That’s one of the great things about judging a global show, to see the work that breaks new ground – and how Canada stacks up.

Shows that demand campaigns deliver real impact take it a step further in separating the trend-following from effective, like PROMO! or Shopper Innovation Awards that go beyond buzz. And if you look at the tech in Next Big Things, a lot of it focuses on beyond-advertising applications that are directly retail. So this area is a good litmus test for what’s actually going to work: retailers and manufacturers are creating these programs to sell stuff. And that’s what’s measured. Not likes. Buys.

If you want to see what’s working, check out the PROMO! Awards this September, and if you have retail programs that made a difference, share them with the Shopper Innovation jury to help benchmark this hyper-evolving category. It’s an area to delve into, to get beyond the hype and see what’s connecting. And be in touch with what wows you – we’re always looking for cases to share, and strategydaily has a particular fascination with next-gen tech in action.

Cheers, mm

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