Ask the Board – November 20, 2017 | JOHN RABASA

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What advertising trends, themes or design elements do you see as being on their way out and why?”


The perfunctory hashtags for brand campaigns are on their way out. Or, more broadly speaking, the practice of getting consumers to share their brand allegiances in non-spontaneous moments is losing favor.

But to rewind a bit, last week, marked the 10-year anniversary of the use of the hashtag on Twitter. Twitter was still in its relative infancy, and designer Chris Messina was proposing using the practice already in use in IRC for creating groups:

how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]? — Chris Messina™ (@chrismessina) August 23, 2007

Part of the ethos of the era, as the notion of Web 2.0 gained traction, was to open up the web, to see it more as a platform of interconnected apps, and to move away wall gardens such as AOL.  The hashtag was very much part of that value proposition and Millennials extended that ethos with the ubiquitous sharing that made them famous. 

It’s tough to predict the end of technologies, even those that by all appearances should have disappeared a while ago. DOS (the old underlying system under Windows) outlived its welcome, and we still see too many conference rooms requiring VGA ports to present. Even the use of banners for display advertising on the Web has not only survived, but it appears to have metastasized onto the Mobile Web.

Caption:  What’s Wrong with this Picture?

What is common among these tenacious technologies is that they are often the lowest common denominator of their type, a backstop of sorts.  And the relative simplicity of the hashtag will work to preserve it use.

It’s easier to predict changes in attitude and behavior based on current trends.  Millennials, and the Xers and Boomers they brought into caring by sharing, are already suffering their hangover as they’ve learned to be more aware and cautious. 

But it is the next generation, born after 1995 and referred to as iGen or Generation Z, that has become more aware of privacy concerns and savvy to marketing. This generation prefers communicating more privately on Snapchat, Kik, or the most popular method, via group texting.

They’ve seen the rise of YouTube and Instagram stars, and are fully aware that brands are paying to be promoted. If they are going to promote a brand, they expect something in return.

And along with Millennials, they can see right through unauthentic and scripted moments.  If they participate in a campaign, it’s because they see the fun or the benefit.  But don’t try to convince them it’s a “movement” as some marketers claim to create.

That doesn’t mean that trending topics will stop, they are just the ones that advertisers create.  And it doesn’t mean that people won’t use hashtags as a type of punctuation (#Sad!)  Social media is still an effective way to engage consumers, and to create topical and spontaneous content, like a certain Superbowl blackout that turned into cookie gold.

But the practice of putting a hashtag onto a brand campaign, expecting consumers to blindly add it to their tweets and posts, will continue to go out of favor.  Just #NotEntirely.

About Author

Creative Director & Experience Strategist
Infusion

MEMBER OF THE DSE ADVISORY BOARD
Advertising & Brand Council

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