Future Thinking: Marketing Considerations for 2026

By: Samara Finn, SVP, Online Influencer Activations

When I got on a plane to Austin last week, I knew I was going to be transported to an amazing convergence of technology, content, marketing and innovation, but I didn’t realize that I’d be teleported to the year of 2026. Numerous sessions I attended focused on the 10-year mark of how the world we live in will be different, making me ponder the implications for marketers. Here’s what I learned:

1) Gen Z’s Anti-Branding Movement: In 2026, Gen Z will be in their mid-20s. Based on existing research, we should anticipate a sharp transition from the badge brand love millennials have shown to a movement of stealth branding. Gen Z will gravitate to neutral imagery and non-identification. They reject labels and logos, and as marketers we’re going to have to figure out a way where our branding is our value proposition and benefits, and not iconic imagery and emblems. A panelist described it best as imagining a car where the only branding was under the hood. Yup, I’ll just leave that right there for you to think about.

2) Continued Explosion of Video: This one should come as less of a surprise, but there’s no stopping the growth of video. Content will take on a new role in the marketing mix with the increase in technology. Wearable cameras were a hot topic and what that means for an uptick in livestreaming we will see, as well as the safety implications of a world where everything is filmed. The quality of imagery (better pixels, auto stabilization) coupled with the increase in ease of use (better editing and special effects tools) means everyone will be a creator, even more so than they already are. As marketers, we should be thinking about how we get ahead of this and attract creators to serve as ambassadors and advocates for our business.

3) Technology as Tattoos: I really liked this term when I heard it during one of the sessions I attended. Technology should be seen as an extension of your person. It’s part of everything we do, everything we consume. There truly will no longer be a separation. And in a more literal sense, with technology like virtual retinal display, our screens can be with us everywhere we go. Think of how that will affect how and when customers consume or block out marketing efforts.

4) Automation of the Shopping Experience: According to Twitter, this is quite the controversial topic. There is a strong prediction that the human, personal touch experience of shopping with human salespeople who help you, will be a thing of the past in 10 years. With such advancements in data collection and analysis, the thought is machines will take over the recommendation aspect of shopping 100% — even in physical stores and marketplaces. It’s the continuation of what we’ve already seen online with recommendation engines and “if you like this, you should try/buy that.” But taking out the 2-way dialogue of shopping decisions is a big implication. You’ll only be as good as your data and analytics execution. So start hiring those data scientists and analytical thinkers to set your organization up for success.

Samara leads the program development, execution and project management of online influencer programming for MMC. She is an expert in building relationships with online content creators, and developing integrated ideas and strategic partnerships to increase brand ROI.

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