Trends in the world of advertising, marketing and public relations are exciting and elusive things. Their popularity can go through the roof one week and be virtually nonexistent by the start of the next. Regardless of how unpredictable they are, getting in on a trend before others do can be a massive boon for an agency.

Consequently, there’s a continual focus on anticipating which emerging trends will explode before they become mainstream. Below, 15 members of Forbes Agency Council look at some of the trends they expect to rise to prominence as this year progresses.

1. A Growing Focus On Simplicity

Simplicity is key. Given the growth of everything digital, making things more focused on essential tasks will be critical. Expect simpler website design, less color and focused use cases for product applications. – John Assalian, Viewstream

2. Differentiating On Customer And Employee Experiences

As a global experience consultancy, we see how more companies will need to differentiate on experience. Customer and employee experiences are becoming the new competitive advantage, a step beyond quality products or exceptional service. Successful organizations are starting to view their own employee experience with the same level of importance as their customer’s experience. Seamless employee experience is key. – Ross Freedman, Rightpoint

3. The Overlap Of Different Marketing Disciplines

The overlap of different marketing disciplines will become even stronger, with an impact on the buying and delivery side. What matters more than ever before is a true understanding of brands’ challenges and the research-based strategy that sums it up in a compelling, big idea. This can come from traditional PR, advertising, social media or events experts—there is no monopoly on great ideas! – Lars Voedisch, PRecious Communications

4. A Shift In How Influencers Choose Partners

In 2020, influencers pivoted their content strategies from being self-focused to community-focused. They led without being asked, and as a result, many of them now feel it’s their job to speak up. So going forward, the shift in how influencers now view themselves and their responsibilities toward their followers will create a fundamental shift in how and why they choose to partner with brands. – Atul Singh, The Shelf

5. The Increasing Importance Of Data

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are reaching a stage where marketers have more insights into consumer behavior, attribution and preferences than ever before. Winners will be those brands and agencies that harness that superpower to hyper-target their marketing and match the media, message, frequency and location to the individual consumer or business. “Micro” will ultimately replace “mass.” – Nancy A Shenker, theONswitch

6. More Use Of AI In E-Commerce

More use of AI in e-commerce is one thing that I definitely think we will see a lot of in the industry. As things continue to evolve, what is clear is that there is going to be more and more use of AI, as well as of other platforms, to ensure better outcomes. – Jon James, Ignited Results

7. Rising Adoption Of Facebook And Instagram Shops

We are seeing a rise in e-commerce sites adopting Facebook and Instagram Shops. This new feature allows products to be sold directly on Facebook or Instagram with a simplified order process. With payment details on file, this sets the stage for a seamless one-click transaction that could eventually rival Amazon. – Brian Meert, AdvertiseMint

9. A Shift From Mobile To Desktop Search

With an abundance of people working from home for the majority of 2020 (and likely most of 2021), people are less shy about searching on their desktops within the privacy of their own homes. Therefore, we see a shift from mobile to desktop, as users aren’t worried about co-workers seeing their shopping lists on their monitors at the office. – Larry Gurreri, Sosemo LLC

9. More Focus On Self-Care

Self-care will be paramount. Consumers are taking multiple measures to deal with the rising levels of stress, a trend that has been steadily rising for years but reached new levels during the Covid-19 pandemic. This year, brands will learn how to take part in these self-care routines to become more helpful and win consumer loyalty. – Hamutal Schieber, Schieber Research

10. Increasing Popularity Of Over-The-Top Advertising

With the rising popularity of OTT streaming services, advertisers now have unique opportunities to reach an ever-growing streaming audience and target their key consumers like never before. Forward-thinking advertisers who take advantage of this new opportunity can now build their brands by reaching untapped OTT audiences at scale. – Dennis Cook, Gamut. Smart Media from Cox.

11. The Continued Rise Of Online Community Building

In 2021, we’ll see the continued rise of online community building. Brands that bring their consumers together through on-site forums, Facebook groups or other social platforms are providing value beyond their actual products. People crave interaction more than ever. Brands have an opportunity to link like-minded people together and, in the process, strengthen their brand loyalty. – Stefan Pollack, The Pollack Group

12. Brands Being Judged By Their Actions

If Covid-19, the Black Lives Matter movement and the Facebook boycott have taught us anything, it’s that brands will be judged by their actions, not just their advertising. I think 2021 will be the year that brands bring that realization to life by focusing on strategically identifying their authentic purpose and finding ways to act and live those values for consumers. – Joanne McKinney, Burns Group

13. Hybrid Events And Digital Live Broadcasts

In 2020, business and marketing efforts have been largely digital out of necessity; and there have been some great successes and learnings. As we move into 2021 in the experiential space, we’ll take these learnings and apply them as we are able to gather in person safely, but hybrid events and digital live broadcasts will likely play very prominent roles in brand experiences in the new year. – Scott Kellner, GPJ Experience Marketing

14. Working From Home Becoming Standard Practice

Work from home is here to stay. I believe WFH has always been a viable option for most agencies. The pandemic forced it upon us, and we’ve adapted. Lesson learned? It actually works. It may not be ideal for every situation, but I project no less than a 50-50 split between WFH and office work from here forward. – Randy Shattuck, The Shattuck Group

15. More Investments In Risk Management Strategies

Companies recognize that an issues-management or crisis plan is no longer nice to have or only for the IBMs and Chevrons of the world. In a post-Covid-19 world, savvy CEOs will invest in leveling up their corporate communications and risk management strategies, with their CMOs and agencies at the helm. – Kathleen Lucente, Red Fan Communications

Read the full trends article here.

In the contemporary digital world, video is a popular medium of choice for everyone from Generation Z to boomers. I lead a creative digital agency that specializes in video marketing. Business owners and clients continually report positive ROI using video in their marketing. Users consistently cite product videos as helpful in their purchase decision.

Video can be a powerful driver in boosting conversions and increases sales. With the compelling value propositions, video is worth the investment to grow your business. Here are 12 best practices to maximize your ROI with video:

1. Tell An Authentic Story

Yes, you need to tell a story, but you also need to ensure that the story is unique and authentic to your business and market. What is that magical, core “thing” about your product or solution? How do you see the world differently from others? Answering these questions will create a more genuine story for your video.

2. Customize Your Videos To Each Channel

Creating quality video content takes time, money and resources. Once you reach the end of the creative process, you need to make sure you’re getting the most value for your effort by customizing video elements like length, format and even content to each channel you plan to distribute on.

3. Harness SEM Data

SEM data contains keywords used by your prospective customers, which makes understanding that vernacular very valuable. Before you produce a video, I recommend using an SEM tool to uncover the language that your prospects are using. This language won’t make up the majority of your script, but it can still be a great tool to leverage.

4. Vary Video Length Based On Your Needs

Some people live by the maxim that no video should be longer than two minutes. And yet, you can point to countless examples of videos that have great success by flaunting this rule. Producing a video should never be about hitting an absolute length, but rather customizing the length to the specific use case.

5. Create Personalized Video

Many producers are still creating static content that puts general appeal over more targeted influence. Personalizing your videos — even in seemingly simple ways — can lead to increases in viewer engagement.

6. Incorporate Video Into Other Types Of Marketing

You want to get the most value possible from the video content you produce, and that’s why it’s essential to leverage it on all your marketing channels. Send it to an analyst company to be featured. Upload it to the Amazon product page. Provide it to salespeople for use in their email marketing. Think about video mailers. There are many different options, but the important thing is that you get creative with how your video is distributed.

7. Understand Where Your Prospect Is In The Sales Funnel

Understanding the sales funnel and where your prospect is in that process is essential to crafting video content that speaks to their specific moment in the customer journey. For example, if a prospect is unaware of your solution, you might create aspirational videos that get them intrigued about who you are and why your business is different. On the other hand, upselling a solution to a prospect who knows the product very well might require a focus on product features. Get smart about the funnel and reap the benefits.

8. Produce Video That Engages With The Sound Off

No matter how good the voiceover artist or how beautiful the music track, it won’t matter one bit if the person watching your video has the sound turned off. With an estimated 85% of Facebook videos watched on mute, you need to prioritize creating content that looks great and communicates the message just as well with the sound off.

9. Give The Viewer The Next Step

Calls to action are critical for driving desired outcomes. Make sure that you give viewers a next step at the middle and end of the video, whether it be purchasing a product, visiting a landing page or contacting a representative. Letting a viewer know what they should do next is a great way to turn the excitement generated by your video into meaningful action.

10. Take Advantage Of Free Tools At Your Disposal

We’ve already discussed how expensive video production can be, and that’s all the more reason to not forget about the tools available to you for free. Even a simple tool like YouTube Studio can provide invaluable insights and analytics about video performance, and that is just one of a plethora of options available to budget-minded creators.

11. Make The Most Of The First Few Seconds

Let’s face it: Most people have the attention span of a four-year-old at a toy store. For video, that means you often have just a few seconds to grab the viewer’s attention and hold it. YouTube ads are skippable, and other mediums are scrollable at a fast pace. You need to stand out. How? With a good hook. A good hook communicates the magical thing about your offering in a compelling way. Some hooks might be a surprising image, a promise, an offer or an intriguing framework (e.g., a before and after example).

12. Nail Your Thumbnail

Whatever the medium, a thumbnail image often appears as the attractor image. You need to make sure this image captures the audience’s attention immediately. Go easy on the text in thumbnails; besides often violating media guidelines, too much text might signal boredom to your audience versus excitement.

Video is a compelling medium to grow your business. Stay focused on your key message and value propositions, follow these best practices and you will become a video superstar in no time at all.

Read the full article here.