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Ticking the Boxes for 2016

Marketing in 2016It’s that time of the year when marketing plans are being finalised for 2016 and marketers and their brands are taking stock of might lie in store for them beyond the festive season. Sheena Horgan offers some boxes worth ticking.

By now your brand’s 2016 plan should be in reasonable nick and ready to be unfolded on Jan 1st. But having been through the planning process, with all its nuances, presumptions, risk analysis etc., with many clients now, I noted several considerations that had to be assessed in all cases. It’s these that I’ve outlined below and though whilst not a finite set of considerations they might be a usefully provocative checklist against which brand plans can be reviewed.


Few brands have not targeted the millennial consumer group this year and it looks like 2016 will be no different. The marketing universe is awash with data on these groups’ mind set and motivation. They’re driven, ambitious and adventurous. For them emotion is contagious. Conversation is de rigeur and they will not suffer irrelevant comms.

But for me the most interesting thing about this cohort is the age grouping which differs depending on your sources. In the main it’s 18-34 years but some will say it’s as young as 12 and as old as 40. Such disparities are unhelpful for targeting purposes. So with confusion around what qualifies as a Millennial, you might be better focusing on millennial thinking or a millennial mood which does carry weight in marketing terms and has a value for planning.


Now in its 5th year there is something very compelling about Instagram that most marketers have not yet tapped into – despite it having 400 million active users a month. It’s the ultimate capture and share platform, that’s now taking video, has a search and explore function as well as a multi format option.


This year saw the Rugby World Cup, and 2016 will see the Olympics. An altogether different kind of vibe but it offers real marketing manna to many brands. There’s the spirit of collaboration, team, and multinational that the event fosters. And it also puts sports once again in the spotlight.

But at its most simplistic, the Olympics give us a relevant theme with which to build our comms and engage our consumers. Sponsorship aside, brands can support a particular sport or get behind a particular athlete and follow, share and converse with like-minded consumers.

And for those brands that have sponsorship deals, caveat emptor. Previous Olympics have secured column inches (do we still stay that these days?!) on inappropriate brand associations. Sponsoring brands will have to have their ethical ducks in a tight row to manage this potential fallout.


Now I know I’ve mentioned the rise of women’s sports in this column before, but really it is in its ascendancy. Fox, for example, reported that ad sales for the Women’s World Cup earlier this year were up by 400% on 2011, indicating a greater consumer and advertiser interest in the sport. I don’t believe women’s sport will be where it deserves to be in 2016, but I do believe there’s a consumer appetite and media willingness to give it more recognition. There’s also a clear rationale for this in terms of targeting the female consumer that is the stalwart decision maker for so many brands. So in PR and comms terms, aligning with women’s sport might be worth considering.


When Google suggest brands put their budget behind YouTube for certain audiences (you guessed it, Millennials) there’s more than commercial thinking going on. Google’s contention that TV campaigns perform better backed up with a YouTube video, is indicative of video’s meteoric rise, facilitated with ease by phones and technology. Videos are twice as likely to be shared as images and four times more than links, so there shouldn’t really be a consumer brand out there that isn’t engaging with video in some format.

The caveat is that not all video is equal and video for its own sake may not cut the mustard with your audience. At four billion video views a day on Facebook, competition is fierce. But tapping into the Vine mindset and keeping it short helps (the most liked videos are short ie. less than two minutes according to Newswhip).


As an advocate of CSR of course I’m going to say this should be a key element of a brand’s 2016 plans. But the return to sponsorship and recognition of what it can deliver this year, bodes well for this point. Sponsorship in 2016 is going to be far more akin to CSR than advertising. Sponsorship delivers an association, engagement and kinship like few other marketing tools. But as the consumer conscious has grown, and along with it their support and commitment to their chosen charities, brands can amplify the sponsorship effect by linking in with a cause.

Purpose was the watchword of the PRII conference in October, and indeed has been the subject of more of my articles in the last four years than any other. In 2016 purpose will be put into practice and brands will need to utilise their sponsorship budgets to realise their social responsibilities and engage with consumers in a meaningful way.


Looking down the legislative horizon, it’s hard to ignore the inevitability of certain legislation and regulation changes. I’m not saying that in 2016 we’ll have a sugar tax, a ban on alcohol companies sponsoring sporting events, a restriction in locations of fast food outlets, etc., but we will see more debate on the subjects. And the growing discourse will take its toll on consumer perception and brand dispositions, and it’s an arguable point that fighting these issues will require more energy and budget off brands than investing in their inevitability.

The sage advice for 2016 is keep a close and open eye on how these subjects unfold, and avoid myopia with objective analysis, and ideally one that can articulate empathy on all sides of the argument.


With all the interest in Millennials, there is an age group that is largely left undiscussed. Marketers are in danger of being ageist, and to their own detriment, despite the murmurings about our ageing population, and as the recession lifts about the ‘value’ of the over 55s.

The younger cohort of our population will outnumber the older cohort for at least another two decades according to the CSO, but one aspect of the ageing demographic is the longer survival rates, and subsequently the more active lifestyle – in terms of work and leisure. In terms of brand and media consumption, this is a group with its own desires, worries, preferences and mindsets and brands could do worse than to figure out if it’s a match in 2016.


There are things like the date of the next election that we know we don’t know but what about what we don’t know, we don’t know?! I suspect there’ll be a few of these to surprise us in 2016. War? A new social network? A catastrophic brand fail that shakes an industry? A stock market collapse?A legal shift? A revival that doesn’t go back to the 60s, 70s, or 80s!

Planning for the unknown is virtually impossible. But what is viable, is ensuring there is an agility in your marketing plans to adjust and react to whatever 2016 throws at you. This may be contingencies in the budget (OK that’s just wishful thinking!), but a flexibility and a commitment to intellectual acuity that reviews, analyses and where appropriate proposes a non-tabled course of action, can be invaluable in a world that is as dynamic as ours.

First published in Irish Marketing Journal (November 2015)© to order back issues please call 016611660

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