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To all the trends we’ve left behind

By Kevin Joyner, Director of Data Strategy



The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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January 21, 2020 | 7 min read

There are many things we can think of that should be left in the 2010s, including low rise jeans, the concept of splitting films into multiple parts, live-action remakes or even politicians tweeting. And while as marketers we like to think that we are ahead of the curve, there are also many trends within our world that we hope to move on from in 2020.


Croud toasts the trends of the last decade as it welcomes in change for 2020 and beyond.

In the past decade, buzzwords have been rife. Marketing at times has been a game of trial and error and while there’s no denying that there have been landmark breakthroughs, we have had to wade through the mud before we came up smelling of roses. Government regulation and changing industry standards forced everyone to adapt. Consumers took back the power of their own data; purpose and sustainability redefined the idea of brand purpose; and marketers battled to remain one step ahead.

With the new decade already in full swing, we thought it would be apt to take a moment, to pay homage to some of the trends and buzzwords we leave (or hope to leave!) behind in the decade with no name and give them the send-off they deserve.

‘Personalisation at Scale’ (2017-2019)

Rewind ten years and we all had high hopes for personalisation. Who wouldn’t want to be made to feel special and have their own unique tailor-made ad appear right there at their fingertips? Sadly, it turns out, some people find that a bit creepy.

We’re not saying personalisation, in general, is bad. Of course, there are ways to create a unique experience without crossing a line, especially in-app where the customer has already bought into the brand like Monzo or Netflix. However, we think it’s safe to say that 2020 will see the back of mass personalisation and we won’t see so many fails like the car crash that was the Walkers Gary Linekar Champions League campaign back in 2017 - lucky for Gary.

‘Personalisation at scale’ was an idea that started out with good intentions but even the phrase itself is an oxymoron and the idea of unique, tailor-made experiences en masse was flawed from the beginning. As consumers started to seek more control over their data, personalisation became costly, meaning it can no longer continue as it did at the start of the decade. With the introduction of GDPR and the various Facebook scandals that followed, the end of the decade saw us move towards a cookie-less world. Some of the biggest platforms like Facebook, Amazon and Google (which make up approx. 70% digital ad spend in the US), are relying more on algorithms and favouring broad audiences with high numbers of creative iterations as opposed to granular targeting with bespoke messaging per customer and customer segment. Going forward, without cookies, less control and more reliance on algorithms, the value shifts back to product, brand and creative.

Cause of death: Government regulation and a demand for greater respect around privacy.

VR (2010-2019)

VR, when we look back on the decade, feels rather like a holiday fling. It came into our lives out of nowhere, swept us off our feet with excitement and promised us things we’d never seen before. However, the romance was short-lived and upon stepping foot off the plane you begin to realise that the martini has worn off, the tan has faded and there isn’t all that much left.

In truth, while we might like the idea of excitement, in reality we are creatures of habit and the technological advancements needed to properly implement VR just weren’t ready to be integrated into our everyday lives. For the most part, the VR headsets that were created were clunky, heavy and slightly awkward and this fact alone is a huge reason as to why it never really caught on.

On top of this, numbers of people reporting cases of “virtual reality sickness” is a prime example of one of the oversights made in the creation of VR. Feeling physically sick unsurprisingly acted as a large deterrent from people wanting to use VR for long periods of time, and it seems that VR as we know it is slowly being phased out of marketing conversations... rightly so.

Ever the optimists we are hopeful that there will be ways VR could reinvent in the future, but it would depend on striking that all-important balance of excitement and usability. Alas, maybe in another reality it might work out for us, VR.

Cause of death: Badly thought out technology.

“Zero-Party Data” (2018-2019)

While we wish we could leave all marketing buzzwords in the 2010s, sadly this will not be possible. We are hopeful, however, that the worst offender, “zero-party data” will be dead and gone.

The phrase “zero-party data” has always been unnecessary, unhelpful and was first introduced as a concept by Forrester (presumably as a way to attract attention to their industry report on the topic). Yet, in order to understand why the phrase evokes so much frustration, we must first dissect it:

The definition of zero-party data attempts to make it distinct from first-party data, and there are two key ideas behind the distinction. Firstly, zero-party data carries the explicit consent of the user or customer (i.e. the data subject); and secondly, it consists of data - preferences and intentions, for example - that are deliberately volunteered by the user or customer.

But, there are two corresponding problems:

  1. Under the EU GDPR and ePrivacy Regulation, all personal data must be processed on legal grounds meaning that first-party data is already consented;
  2. And two, zero-party data is actively volunteered by the customer or user, but in order for it to be useful it will almost always be linked to the first-party data customer records.

In simpler terms, the phrase ‘zero-party data’ is at best unnecessary and at worst downright confusing. As technology and marketing evolves, we increasingly see products and services feature artificially intelligent interfaces; first-party data and so-called zero-party data will be inseparable. We don't need any new terminology, please.

Cause of death: A lack of meaning

It’s rare in marketing that we take the time to stop and reflect. So obsessed are we with innovation and future planning. But, in order to progress, we must first acknowledge our past and subsequently our mistakes. And so, to all the trends we leave behind in the decade with no clear name, we thank you and we can only imagine the trends that are waiting around the corner ready either to attempt to fill your shoes or sweep us off our feet.

Kevin Joyner, director of planning and insight at Croud.


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Croud is a global, full-service digital agency that helps businesses drive sustainable growth in the new world of marketing. With a rich heritage in performance,...

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