By Ayman Haydar, CEO of MMPWW
January is one of those months where we like to think we have all the answers for what lies ahead. The previous quarter has ended on a high, we’re fresh from time away and have a renewed sense of optimism for a New Year. It’s usually around this time when someone will start proclaiming XYZ about some new technology or trend and suddenly that’s all anyone wants to talk about.
This is what came to me when I was thinking about what to focus on in 2023. I’m a firm believer in doubling down on your own expertise, investing logically in proven technology while always testing what’s new, and investigating solutions that could set you apart in a crowded market facing economic challenges.
My opinions change over time as well. Sometimes I can see the value in something but it’s early in the process and I’ll wait to see if it matures into something worthwhile or tanks spectacularly. This circles back nicely to the point here: What are some of the ‘predictions’ we saw dominate headlines back in 2020?
2020 has the misfortune of being the year that no one will forget but no one remembers what actually happened either. The gulf between 2019 and 2023 is wild; a perfect storm of lockdowns, economic woes, changing tech and changing priorities shifting the goalposts so much it’s made industry fortune-telling almost impossible. But back then? Well, that’s another story.
Here are my favorite trends that were set to change the world… only they didn’t. At least not in the way people expected. The moral here is to not get so ahead of yourself that you forget the present, the client, the consumer, and the need. Simple.
The power of voice!
Remember that one sound bite that was everywhere? "By 2020, 50% of searches will be by voice." It was so prolific it became legend. Discussed at every marketing event, it made every prediction list going. Playing devil’s advocate for a minute, you can see where this kernel of an idea came from. Sales of smart speakers were on the rise, consumers loved their new toy, and brands thought they had a genuinely new way to connect with them. The fact that consumers willingly shared their personal data with Alexa and co, was a nice added bonus.
The marketing prophets soon declared that we should all optimize more to take into account the expected complexities around voice search, which would change the nature of SEO and web traffic. I don’t need to tell you how that’s turned out. Also, the smart speaker market has slowed; Amazon’s layoffs last year were said to have largely affected the Alexa team, while Google is reportedly scaling back investment in its own Assistant and Microsoft killed off Cortana from iOS and Android back in 2021.
The rise & rise of VR & AR
"Over 100 million consumers will use AR to shop in 2020." Now, I’m more of an optimist than people may think, but even I have my limits. Maybe I can pass it off as mid-2010 enthusiasm/naivety around the tech boom, but then you read other sound bites, like “AR and VR will generate $150 billion in revenue and disrupt mobile by 2020” and “By 2020, there will be 1 billion augmented reality users,” and clearly these guys were on a different planet.
I will counter this by saying I believe that both of these technologies do have a place in current and future marketing mixes, but we need to stop pulling inflated numbers out of thin air to give them credibility. I’m all for exploring how AR and VR can be used further in areas like commerce and gaming, particularly as the tech gets better and adoption becomes more mainstream; however, the challenge will be making them profitable.
Facebook’s digital money dream
This one may have fallen off your radar given META’s other misfortunes in recent years, but once upon a time, Mark Zuckerberg had a digital universal currency dream. In 2019, Facebook announced the Libra project, pitched as a digital token based on a basket of currencies from around the world.
In a surprise to no one (except maybe Zuckerberg), when regulators rejected that idea, they rebranded as Diem, simplified the design, and tied the token to the US dollar. Reportedly nicknamed ‘Zuck Bucks’ by employees, the writing should have been on the wall then that this was doomed to fail. As it was, amid regulatory and commercial backlash, the project was eventually shelved in early 2022 and the remaining assets sold. Proof that a name change can’t save a flawed product… I’ll just leave that there.