Grading 12 marketing predictions about the future

marketing predictions

A the urging of my website advisor, I did some housekeeping here on the blog. It was time to sweep out some older blog posts that were either irrelevant or ignored by the world. But I came across a gem — An old list of marketing predictions!

In 2009, I made 12 marketing predictions about the future of social media. There wasn’t any timeframe specified … they were just predictions about “the future.” I thought it would be fun to give myself a report card and see how I did on the predictions.

To set the stage, in 2009, social media marketing was just creeping into the mainstream. There weren’t any big social media marketing conferences, nothing like “content marketing,” and nobody was using the term “influencers.” Measurement was almost impossible, blogging was a new rage, and Twitter was just building steam.

So as you read my marketing predictions, you’ll have to imagine a world where most companies didn’t even have a Twitter account yet! I summarized some of the marketing predictions to keep this article short, but you can see the original prediction post here.

The 2009 marketing predictions … and my “grade!”

1. “Hyper social measurement”

Back in 2009, social media marketing measurement was a huge problem. The metrics coming out of the newly-emerging social media platforms were terrible. I predicted that Google would become the gold standard for social media monitoring since they could see data and interactions across all channels. They would put social listening platforms out of business.

My grade: D

Google and Google Analytics did become an important source of marketing measurement, so my prediction is not quite a fail. However, today we rely on a mix of platform dashboards and third-party social listening platforms like the AI-powered Sprinklr to let us know what’s happening in the social media world.

2. Tapping into text messaging

In 2009, the one communication mode largely untouched by real-time search was text messaging. Text messages were a goldmine of information too big to ignore, especially if you’re a “cool-hunting” consumer products company.  I predicted that somehow companies would tap into this data, perhaps by incentivizing users to opt-in to rewards programs for their anonymized data.

My grade: B+

In fact, Facebook (Meta) did find a way to own much of the world’s private messaging through Messenger and WhatsApp.

Messenger was introduced in 2011, and WhatsApp in 2010. Another big cache of private messaging is occurring on Instagram (Meta) and TikTok.

Meta does not completely own the market on private messaging — we still send text messages — but the company is capturing data on 200 billion messages a day on Messenger and WhatsApp combined!

3. Real-time geo-sensitive coupons

In 2009, the idea that relevant ads would show up when you were in a certain location was still science fiction. I predicted that RFID technology, combined with GPS, would enable convenient, real-time deals, right down to the store shelf.

For example, if you pick up a blouse off of a rack, a message will direct you to the precise area of the store where you can find a matching skirt … on sale just for you.

My grade: B+

We’re not exactly at that “shelf-level” yet, but we will be. And we certainly have real-time, geo-appropriate ads coming to us based on the city we’re in or a road we’re driving on, so my prediction more or less came true.

4. Radical privacy movement

I predicted that the intense data gathering by Big Tech would result in privacy regulations, including the right to be excluded from Internet data-gathering mechanisms like cookies. I thought that there would be a backlash against Google because the company would eventually abuse its power.

My grade: A

Almost every country in the world has privacy regulations in place. We all have the ability to control privacy settings by law. With the eventual demise of cookies, this trend will continue. I would not say Google is the most hated company. That title would probably go to Facebook, but my reasoning was sound.

5. Man-machine interface.

Medical advances and social media platforms would converge.  We would be able to engage on social media with our thoughts. Humans will have markings like tattoos to display the premium, designer brand of devices embedded in their bodies. This will give new meaning to the tagline “Intel Inside.”

My grade: Too soon to tell

Remember, I wasn’t predicting something 10 or 20 years into the future. It was just something that would happen at some time. There have been incredible breakthroughs in tapping into brainwaves, so my prediction is certainly directionally correct.

6. We become the Internet.

Building on the last idea, as the ubiquity of the social web literally becomes part of our existence, we will no longer distinguish between listening, talking, and electronic communications. In our minds, there will be no more web. It will just be.

My grade: A

Look at how young people communicate today. They never think about logging into the internet. They are probably texting each other, even if they are in the same room. Lines of communication have blurred.

7. National ID validation.

The social web will become the exclusive source of consumer information, political research/policy development, and education systems. Because of the increasingly critical importance of this feedback and the opportunity for corruption, complex systems to prevent fraud will be needed, including a broadly-implemented government validation program that extends across all platforms.

My grade: C

Let’s put it this way. I correctly identified the problem, and we still need some kind of validation to prevent corruption and misinformation. Some countries have implemented a system like this, most notably India, but I’m not sure it could ever happen in the U.S.

8. Micro politics

Politicians will use real-time sentiment analysis to craft and re-craft voter appeals right up until the moment they enter a polling station. Political messaging will be nearly-instantaneous and tailored to individuals based on their private data.

My grade: A

I was 100% correct, unfortunately.

9. Extreme content

Journalism, film-making, and advertising agencies will thrive, much to the surprise of nearly everyone. The need for content on the social web will drive the digital evolution of these traditional professions, and “Content development and management” will become a popular career and college major. Salaries for the very best and most creative content providers will skyrocket as corporations raise the creative bar to cut through the clutter.

My grade: A

As every significant organization on earth competes for attention on the web, the need for quality creative content is insatiable. In fact, there is a content arms race. The sad and unsettling fact is that 90 percent of these jobs are now jeopardized by AI.

10. The “loner workforce.”

The cultural impact of the social web will have radical implications for managing the workforce of the future. We will have a dramatic increase in remote working. This will provide significant challenges for the managers of the future.

My grade A

Got an assist from the pandemic on this one, but a move to a remote workforce would have happened eventually.

11. Growing digital divide.

I predicted in 2009 that for many parts of the world, access to free, global communications will be the equalizer between rich and poor nations, especially as web-based translation services improve and encompass local dialects.

However, in countries where people cannot access the web, either for economic or political reasons, the digital divide will not only grow, it will become permanent because they will fall so far behind the technology curve they’ll never catch up. Digital commerce, innovation, and technology will be permanently dominated by those nations in the game NOW.

My grade: C

I don’t know about this one.

I was correct in predicting that many countries that were poor in 2009 would still be poor today due to corruption, oppression, and lack of free access to the web.

On the other hand, I’m not sure “ownership” and being a homebase for tech development matter to an individual’s freedom and opportunity in the long run.

In the early days of the web, France tried to create its own internet. It flopped, of course, but has the nation been disadvantaged because it didn’t own its own digital backbone? No.

There have been tech successes and innovations in almost every corner of the world.

Putting military advantages aside, most technological building blocks that help people become healthier, wealthier, wiser, and more creative are eventually available to everyone with an internet connection. At least for now, the hurdles to adoption might be language, education, and disabilities.

12. Pay for play

The 2009 prediction said: “Social media is free, but the cost of attracting consumer attention will become increasingly expensive, especially with the ability to skip ads. At some point, the cost per impression will be so high it will be less expensive to simply pay people to watch an ad.”

My grade: C

I think the wisdom here is that traditional ads (newspaper, radio, etc.) would decline, and companies would rush into digital, dramatically driving up the cost of online ads (true).

While paying people to watch ads isn’t a “thing” yet, there are certainly options like watching ads inside a game that earn points or exclusive content.

From an economic perspective, it probably makes no sense to actually pay people to watch ads all day, so the specific idea was silly, even though I got the trend right.

Final thoughts

First, thanks for obliging me with this walk down memory lane. I know the marketing predictions commentary was not the typical content you expect from me, and I’d love to hear your comments on it.

I did learn something from this exercise, and perhaps it’s something for you to think about, too.

Making a marketing prediction is merely a process of thinking through the implications of what I know to be true.

For example, I knew in 2009 that more and more work tasks could be completed on the internet. At some point, certain knowledge workers would not have to leave their homes for work, presenting new management challenges. Makes sense.

But here’s the problem I’m sensing with the world now. The rate of change is so fast and unpredictable compared to 2009, I don’t know how to know what is true.

Arguably the three biggest impacts on global business in the last two years have been a pandemic, a war, and a ship getting stuck in the Suez canal. Nobody saw this coming. Did anybody see ChatGPT coming? Even many analysts were surprised.

Last week I read that an analyst had predicted in December that it would take about seven years to cross a certain AI milestone. That milestone was crossed in three months! Yes, the speed of innovation is crazy right now! How do you make forecasts in a world like that?

My point is, so much change in the world is not only coming at us fast, it’s also unpredictable. While many of my marketing predictions from 2009 earned a B or above, I don’t know if I would have that track record going forward.

I suppose time will tell. You’ll just have to keep reading my next marketing predictions posts to find out!

Mark Schaefer marketing predctionsMark Schaefer is the executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions. He is the author of some of the world’s bestselling marketing books and is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant. The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak at your company event or conference soon.

Follow Mark on TwitterLinkedInYouTube, and Instagram.

Illustration courtesy Graphics Fairy


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