Top 5 Digital Marketing Trends for 2015

For those who missed our Smart Digital Marketing for Growth Seminar, here is an extract from the Keynote talk on the Top 5 Digital Marketing Trends 

A lovely lady called Joan was 104 last month.  The year this lady was born saw the first official airmail flight. On February 18th 1911 Henri Pequet carried 6,500 letters a distance of 13km from Allahabad, India to Naini, India.  The letters bore an official frank "First Aerial Post, U.P. Exhibition, Allahabad. 1911". The aircraft used was a Humber-Sommer biplane, and it made the journey in thirteen minutes.  Wizz forward to 2015 and Joan’s birthday post on Facebook is shared 2 and a half million times in just 3 days, not 13 km in 13 minutes but around the globe instantaneously.  It’s actually quite hard to wrap our minds around the scale of changes that have taken place in a century, from 6,500 letters on one flight, to 50 years’ worth of Youtube video content being uploaded every day.

The escalation and uptake of new technology is growing exponentially.  Already over 90% of households in the UK are internet enabled, and smartphone penetration has reached 66% over a period of just a few years (Ofcom, 2015)  Futurists are starting to predict the Automation of Everything (AOE) and the Digitization of Everything (DOE)  with a prediction of 100 billion connected devices in the Internet of Things in a few short years and 50% of jobs being replaced by software, robots or smart machines within 10 years (Leonhard, G)  What Joan has seen transpire over the last 104 years is nothing compared to the changes that will face us in the next 10 years.

Now you’d be right in thinking isn’t this just a bit too, out there, a bit too Futuristic.  Why do we need to worry about the changes Joan has seen and the increasing pace of change?  Well I give this as background, because sure as eggs are eggs, if we talk just about what technological platforms are available, what the next Google algorithm is going to be, or whether or not email will still be important next year.  We are missing the point.  Whatever technological changes are taking place, if we talk about them today, by next week and certainly by next year something will have been superceded.  So I’m more interested in thinking about the changes we are seeing in consumer behaviour in relation to the digital world.

Theodore Levitt, the author of Marketing Myopia, said “The Future Belongs to people who see possibilities before they become a reality.”  And for me in marketing, that means understanding the behaviours of your current and future customers and then stepping into their shoes.  Steve Jobs is famous for not asking customers what they wanted but instead thinking about what would be the best experience for them, and then delivering that.  Henry Ford said that if he asked customers what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse.  For both these men, it was about understanding what the customer really needs (rather than what they think they need) and then using technology to deliver to them.


Marketing segmentation has been around for a long time.  You know the notion that you divide up your customer base into groups with similar characteristics, be they gender, buying patterns, where they live, what they do with your product.  But we need to understand human habits and proclivities in a deeper way, and then generate marketing campaigns that feed on that.

An interesting piece of research from Deloitte (2015) shows us four key personas and how their digital behaviour differs.  Getting to grips with this is the start of understanding your customers’ personal journey.  Deloitte identify four types of customer.  Now whether you are talking to businesses or consumers, at the end of the day they are still all people – so what follows is highly relevant.

I’d like to introduce your to Deloitte’s four personas – Laura, Luke, Lucy and Liam.

Laura represents the 16-24 year bracket. 

According to Deloiite the first thing Laura does, before she even gets out of bed is check her smartphone for WhatsApp messages.  Whist she is getting ready for the day she is checking out other social media such as Instgram and Snapchat.  She is particularly interested in her friend’s latest photos and video posts.  Deloitte tells us that 26 per cent of those aged 16-24 use social media to communicate with others as soon as they wake up and 92 per cent of females aged 16-24s had access to a smartphone in their household. This age group stays up late watching videos in the evening and often don’t get to sleep until after midnight.  Deloitte talk about this age group binging on short form videos – or Youtube clips as we would call them.

This group is very hard to get to via traditional media such as TV and radio.  They are more interested in what their friends are doing than in brands.

In this age bracket, according to Ofcom (2015) there is an 85% penetration of Smartphone ownership, compared to 66% for all adults and just 7% for 75 years olds and over. Daily use of the Smartphone is increasing in this age group, whilst reading books and watching television is on the decline.  Around half of this age group never read a newspaper or magazine.

Luke is 28 and lives with his partner.  According to Deloitte, Luke communtes and uses his tablet to catch up on the news and on the days events.  He doesn’t subcribe to the news, but prefers to browse apps such as the BBC or Sky News.  For this age group there is a blurring between news, entertainment and social media.  This age group likes to use their mobile devices to consume digital media outside of the house.

Lucy is 44 and lives with her partner and children.  Deloitte tell us that Lucy likes to spend her time settling down with her family in front of the TV.  She doesn’t much care what they watch, but lets the children decide.  Nearly half of 35-45 year old TV watchers do so with their kids and let them decide what to watch.  This age group is viewing on autopilot.  Poor Lucy spends most of her time working or sleeping, has very little time for browsing the web and mainly connects with TV.

Liam is retired and has little time for digital media.  He prefers reading real books.  Although he has an e-reader he doesn’t like using it preferring the look and feel of the physical item. The Deloitte survey showed that “46 per cent of those aged 55+ read books just before they go to sleep, the greatest proportion of any age group. Despite 43 per cent having access to an e-reader, 66 per cent of the over 55s tend to read physical versions of the books instead.”

According to Oftom (2015) daily use of the mobile phone is decreasing in all age groups over 55, but daily reading of books, magazines and newspapers, as well as TV consumption are increasing in this age bracket. 

Now these are generic personas, but they are based on research, and what you need to do is the same.  You need to build your own personas, based on your own experience of your target market, from your google stats, your web stats, or secondary research.  

You might have noticed something from those images, we’ve gone from the small smartphone, through to the tablet, to the TV and back to physical media as we go through the age groups.  It’s incredibly important that you know who your customer is and what their media device habits are in order to decide how you are going about your digital marketing, what tools to use and how to optimise your digital presence to appeal to that group.


Which brings me to the second major trend – device habits are changing.  Ofcom regularly publishes statistics on how our media habits are changing and I thoroughly recommend reading their publications to get a feel for what is happening with your specific target market. Of course we all know that phones are increasingly being used as an extension of our own being.  We are texting, browsing, taking photos.  But one particularly interesting area to examine is the way in which we used our mobile phones.  Almost everyone uses their phone for communicating.  However, the younger the audience the more likely they are to use their phone for a wider range of activities such as reading emails, gaming, listening to music and creating content.

The increasing use of the mobile phones for all these functions means we don’t just want to think about whether our websites are responsive, it’s equally important to think about whether our email marketing is fit for viewing on a mobile.  And even a presentation such as this.  If I want to share it later on LinkedIn, I need to know that people can see it on a mobile.  It’s no wonder that large picture and large word formats are now so important.  How, often do we find ourselves watching a TED talk on our phones I wonder?

Another interesting phenomena is the use of devices outside of the home with 67% of UK adults using the internet both inside and outside of the home. 

Another very important trend is the use of mobile phones to create content, especially in younger age groups.  Looking at 16-24 year olds, we can see that 79% of this age group use their phones for creating content, which brings me to the third trend.


No longer is marketing about telling and selling, it’s about co-opting our target market into a conversation.   Social media is easy to share, but that’s not where it stops.  Consumers, particularly younger consumers are happy to create videos and selfies galore.  And even the older consumer is quite happy to blog on LinkedIn, make comments on Facebook sites, and write reviews on Trip Advisor.

According to Ofcom (2015) every week 54% of adults take photos with their phones and 29% take videos.  When we combine this with the fact that over 70% of us have a social media profile and 80% of social media users visit their profiles at least once a day, then you see that the consumer actually now has the power over the messages being delivered.  We are much more likely to be interested in what our friends have to say than advertisers, and when you think that around half the adult population are active on social media every day, then brands cannot hope to create the same volume of content.  Whilst brands were always competing with each other for headspace, now they have to compete with all those consumers out there producing more relevant and interesting material than you are. 

This is Hipster Cop, I became acquainted with him in a presentation from the Metropolitan Police at  a recent Chartered Institute of Marketing presentation.  A classic piece of co-creation.   This policeman was snapped by photojournalist Guy Smallman, and Hipstercop quickly became an internet star with the public, and then with the police themselves.  This is a great example of what captures the public imagination - taking on a life of its own, but then the organisation themselves responding to it.   Social media co-creation causes all sorts of opportunities and challenges for brands.  It is very hard to know what will go viral, you are not in control of it and you need to be constantly watching it to not let anything slip.  If you have a social media presence, then you need to be prepared to be interactive 24/7.  You’ll also need empathy and a touch of humor – especially when or if things go wrong.


If you were in any doubt as to the importance of your online presence just consider this question.  How many minutes does the average person spend online or consuming media on an average day?

As a nation we are now spending on average 667 minutes a day consuming media from the television and radio through to computers, tablets and phones (Ofcom, 2015).  That is almost 50% of the day, and 50% more than the recommended number of hours of sleep.  Now we can debate the social implications of being wired but tired all we want, but as far as marketers are concerned, we know that this is where most of our consumers are spending most of their time.  The challenge is that this is a fragmented experience and it’s no longer linear.  We won’t all see the same ad at the same time any more.  The volume of content is high and, as we’ve seen, we are competing for mind space with the consumers themselves.  For these reasons alone, our messages need to be targetted and relevant.  They also need to cut through by being either amusing, alarming or plain helpful.


Not surprisingly the trends in media usage and time spent consuming media, particularly online are leading to increased expenditure and a greater proportion of advertisers spend being online.  UK advertising spend increased 8.2% in quarter 1 of 2015.  The largest area of spend is Internet marketing with a 15% increase from 2013 to 2014.  The main declines, are in printed media – news and magazines.  This is not surprising given the behaviour of younger age brackets we saw earlier (Advertising Association, 2015).

A survey by digital marketing website SmartInsights (2015)  indicates where digital marketers are predicting they will by prioritising that spend.  Top of the list are Content Marketing, Big Data and Marketing Automation – incorporating personalisation and behavioural email marketing. This is closely followed by mobile marketing and social media. 

It is interesting, however, that these media don’t really work in isolation to each other and are most often effective within a multi-media integrated campaign. Content marketing, or the creation of interesting pieces of media be they video, images, blogs or PR, are closely intertwined with social media and advertising as means to spread that content.  Content marketing brings visitors to our website, directly or by being picked up via a search engine.  Content itself adds to our Search Engine reputation, and excellent content encourages consumers to leave their details.   Encouraging readers to leave their details in order to access content, feeds into big data and behavioural email marketing, as does tracking customers journeys through your website.  Throughout the morning we will be exploring these in action.

So to summarise, the Top 5 Digital Marketing Trends you should be concerning yourself with are:

  1. The importance of understanding your customers and developing customer personas.
  2. Awareness of how your specific consumer is using their different devices and how you should respond.
  3. Consumers are co-creating, you are no longer in complete control and your content is going to have to compete harder than ever for attention.
  4. Consumers are spending more and more of their time consuming media – so you need to know where your specific consumers are spending it and how.
  5. As a result of all these factors more is being spent online with the top areas of investment being content marketing, big data and marketing aution.

Advertising Association (2015) Record first quarter prompts upwards forecast for UK advertising Available at: [accessed 01.10.2015.]

Deloitte (2015), Deloitte Media Consumer Survey 2015: The signal and the noise [accessed 06.10.15]

Leonard, G, in Talwar, R. (2015) The Future of Business: Critical Insights into a Rapidly Changing World from 60 Future Thinkers: Volume 1 , Fast Future Publishing

Levit, T., (2008) Marketing Myopia (Harvard Business Review Classics) Harvard Business School Press

Ofcom (2015) Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes Report 2015 Available at  [accessed 01.10.2015]

SmartInsights (2015a), Digital marketing trends 2015 survey, Available at [ accessed 12.07.2015]

Caroline WrightCaroline is Marketing Director for
CommsBox, marketing automation software.  Her industry experience spans high technology companies, charities, membership organisations and the creative industries. Caroline also works as Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at the University of Hertfordshire and has been instrumental in setting up their new BA Marketing with Digital Communications.  She also works with postgraduates on MSc Marketing and with professionals taking Chartered Institute of Marketing/CAM Digital Marketing Diploma.You can connect with her on LinkedIn.


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