What matters in 2015.

What we are (and aren't) sure about, what we loved (and hated) this year, and what we're excited for in 2015.

Make things, not predictions.

It’s trend report season, but nobody cares. Let’s face it: we’ve already been hearing about how the Internet of Things is going to revolutionize healthcare, reverse global warming and reinvent domesticity all year. We know what’s coming. Faster broadband wifi, longer battery life, mass adoption of wearable technology, smart automation and data will all enable new behavior. What matters now is getting ahead of it all. To take advantage of these changes, we need to start planning differently.

How do we seize new opportunities when they arrive? We asked the strategists, technologists, user experience designers, creatives, writers and analysts at Huge what brands really need to prioritize to win in 2015.

As we covered the expected topics (analytics, privacy, that ubiquitous watch) and some less expected ones (Minecraft influencers, What Ali Wore, Taylor Swift’s Instagram), enthusiasm for new trends met with uncertainty about their trajectories. When it comes to emerging technologies like smart watches and geotagging, we’re as curious as anyone else about the best way to use them.

“What I think about most lately isn’t the next trend. We all know that bandwidth is increasing, that battery is getting better, that we’ll have a truly persistent smart internet. What I think about is how to be ready when innovations are widely adopted. It’s not about making predictions.” – Aaron Shapiro, CEO

Anyone who claims to know the future of connected devices, the Apple Watch or anything else is missing the point. The roles that new technologies will play in our lives have yet to be defined. The future belongs to the companies ambitious enough to experiment with them and brave enough to evolve their business models around them.

“No matter how much people tell you that they’re ready to harness this technology, the truth is that no one really knows what kind of experiences it will enable. We’re all figuring it out together.” – Jon Gibs, VP, Analytics

Here’s what we’re sure of, what we’re not, what we changed our minds about this year, and what gets us excited – now and for the next twelve months.

2014 in theory and practice.
Here's what to follow in 2015.
Or not.
see more.

2014 in theory and practice.

Q: You’re a CMO. What do you invest in this year?
A: Data.

Brands are being defined by the experiences they enable and the value they create for their users. The next generation of these experiences will be fueled by data, creating immense value for every individual.

In 2015, consumers will begin to gravitate toward customized experiences that are truly useful. It’s no longer enough to make your brand available across the web, mobile, gaming consoles and connected TVs. Find ways to provide value to consumers online, in-store, on the streets and at home, and put your users’ own data to work making their interactions and lives better.

Wearable devices, iBeacons, and cheaper smart screens are finally making it easier to mesh digital and physical interaction. But brands can’t create a truly personalized, smart future if their users don’t trust them. Every business needs to be ensuring their user data is truly secure, and working to strike the right balance between concierge and creepy.

So what should you prioritize this year?
Here’s what we think.

“You need to find a way to protect users’ privacy better. This was the year of the data breach. And you don’t want to see what’s next.” Gela Fridman, Vice President, Technology
“Don’t wait for predictive models to catch up with analytics. Invest in data science initiatives even if you can’t predict ROI yet. ROI is slowing you down.” Ken Allard, Managing Director, Business Strategy
“You’ll need unstructured database technologies that marry qualitative and quantitative analysis. Then you can understand the human voices behind the data.” Leala Abbott, Content Strategy Lead
“Clean up your data so you can automate a lot of the functions that employees are doing themselves.” Laura Breines, Vice President, Marketing
“Quantify user behavior on an individual level to create truly user-centric service.” Toufique Harun, Group Director, Product Management
“Here’s what you do: Open up client-side consumer data. Integrate it into a better personalization engine.” Jon Gibs, Vice President, Analytics
“It’s time to put your data in the marketplace. Hire someone to scan the environment for partnerships with emerging apps.” Andrew Delamarter, Director of Search and Inbound Marketing
“You’re going to have to understand your data. The good news? You already own it. So you’re halfway there.” Brian Brady, Creative Director
“Use data and artificial intelligence to create really personal connections with niche audiences through content. It’s boring when brands try to be everything to everyone.” Sam Weston, Vice President, Communications
“There is no post-Facebook social network. Get consumers to post on behalf of your brand for a viral marketing campaign that works.” Aaron Shapiro, CEO
“Don’t race towards the ultimate personalization algorithm. Just start enabling consumers to curate and share content themselves.” John McCrory, Group Director, Content Strategy
“If you’re not already thinking about how to communicate security, trust and transparency, what are you waiting for?” Gina Pensiero, Content Strategy Lead
load more.
Our to-do list.
“Stop getting distracted by office dogs.” Anthony Zhang
“Never slow down. Never be bored.” Dan Swenson
“Mix more cocktails.” Jason Tiernan
“Live Minimally.” Julia Guo
“Better manage my identity across platforms.” Ken Allard
“Do whatever José Guizar does.” Magdalena Wielopolski
“WebGL and Swift.” Nicklesh Soni
“Prototype.” Pedro Borges
“Make my job obsolete.” Toufique Harun
“Work on a product that I love, every day.” Victor Nogueira
“Become famous.” Kate Proulx
“Get Younger.” Virginia M. Alber-Glanstaetten

Our to-do list.

How we work.

Forget the way we’ve always done things. The workplace is changing – demographically, technologically and culturally. Here's what 2015 has in store.

Big in 2015.

What will matter next year according to people at Huge?

Some things were easy to agree on. But when it came to the innovations that may change the way we use digital products and services, like connected devices, the Apple Watch, and voice-enabled technology, the answers were far from unanimous. We all know they’re happening – but we’re still not sure when, how and to what effect.

So okay. Sometimes, it is about predictions (and a little wishful thinking). Here's what we hope to see more (and less) of in 2015.

Big in 2015.
YES Artificial Intelligence
YES Tesla
NO Big Data
NO Bit Coin
YES Miley Cyrus
YES Security. No seriously, security.
YES Internet Dating (all the time)
NO Digital Prophets
NO Drones
YES Haptic Feedback
YES The right to be forgotten
NO Google Glass
YES iBeacons
NO Not everything can be the future of advertising.
NO iPhone 6 Plus
YES Mobile Payments
NO Kim Kardashian's Ass
YES Biosensors
YES Google Material Design
NO Police Brutality
YES 3D Printing at Home
NO Selfies
NO Whatever the sharing economy decides to do next.
YES Skype Translate
YES The Next Snowden
YES Project Tango
NO Identity Theft
NO Robin Thicke
YES Fitness Trackers
YES Neil deGrasse Tyson
NO Not Yasssss. No.
NO #yolo
see more.

Big in 2015

Being seen & getting heard in 2015.

The brands that win in 2015 will lead the conversations that matter most to their users.

And we’re not talking tweets, Likes or any kind of “spray and pray” approach to branded content (which is never okay). Consumers want customized experiences that make it easy for them to find, share and create great content themselves – so brands need to produce and host media that lives up to users’ standards. The good news? It's never been easier to create things people care about.

Think like a publisher, not an advertiser.

Companies have as many resources for creating great content as publishers do – so why aren’t they doing better? And as the public radio renaissance and the rise of YouTube stars have shown, users are always up for free, quality entertainment, no matter where it comes from. If your content is truly exceptional, they’ll give you their time and attention, and then share your story themselves. This year, brands need to find ways to patronize and distribute the content that users want most.

Cater to the niche audience.

The age of mass communications is over. Let’s all stop trying to be everything for everyone; it’s boring. Start using data and AI to reach individual users in a personal way. Send smart, curated content to small groups of users – that’s how you facilitate new conversations and build real relationships between individual users and a brand.

Use what you have.

Look at British Airways’s Magic Billboards. They leverage their own data (flight information and GPS coordinates) to create a new kind of interaction that delights the person on the street. Sure, there's little value provided in this particular exchange, but it points to incredibly exciting opportunities. Don’t jump on the bandwagon of the next meme. Tell a story that no one else can replicate.

What to follow in 2015.

What to follow in 2015

Goodbye 2014.