Don’t read this if you’re an ardent Santa believer. Or if you’re below 12.

All the Santas you see aren’t real. Yes, yes, I know you’ve sat on their laps and confided your Amazon Wishlist to them, but nope they are mere clones. The Real Santa lives in Rovaniemi, on the Arctic Circle in Finland. I met the Real Santa a couple of years ago. And so have 500,000 others this year, along with another half a million who wrote to him. How do we know the Rovaniemi Santa is real? Because, well, he says so. And he has this fancy village with elves. And reindeers. And his very own post office. How did Saint Nicholas, originally from Turkey, get so strongly associated with Finland and the North Pole? More specifically how did a town of 62,000 become the Official Home of Santa? Great content. AND with a solid, physically reinforced back-story.

Let’s keep this in mind as we discuss the big drivers of 2019.

In 2019 “content” will still be in huge demand. Products have always had a brand narrative so why is Content suddenly such a big deal? It’s the volume. Amazon US alone stocks 540 million products. Each of them needs a brand narrative. This narrative may be personalised to its long-tail target audience so that’s over a billion stories just for the products on Amazon US. This content needs to be delivered to the target audience through their ever-fragmented and fleeting media consumption, so the stories have to stand out. But as we get ever more focused on the “brand story” and content we should remember that conversions are not based just on the “story” but also on the back-story and the proof points. And remember that all content is not going to be delivered digitally alone – there has to be a physical narrative too.

A related ‘big driver’ is going to be visual storytelling, using formats like pictures, animations, video. This will make it easier for marketers to tell stories globally and increase the market beyond those who are literate in their home language. It can also make complicated notions simpler to understand. See this article by Sooraj Divakaran on how global brands like Google, Microsoft, HP, DXC are adopting video for B2B.

As the complexity of consumption increases, our brains just can’t cope with all the decision making involved. We need help like search engines, buyer recommendation engines, weather reports, calculators. In short, we need AI. While researching brands for our upcoming Hot Brand Summit BengaluruMumbaiDelhi NCR. I came across CRED founded by Kunal Shah of Freecharge fame. It already has some $30 million in funding. What it does is consolidate your credit card bills in one place and reward you for timely payments. It seems a bit on the trivial luxury side so far, but I’ve downloaded it and it’s useful. In the “good old days” a real person from Citibank would call to remind me about my outstanding bill amount, and if it was high enough would despatch another real person to collect the cheque. Now that’s all automated and digital. The card companies have too many customers, and the customers have too many cards for the old ways to make sense. Our brains get confused when we have to choose between salted caramel latte and ginger tea. We need automation and AI to cope. So in 2019 if you don’t use or offer AI in some form you will be relegated to the good ole’ days.

On this happy note, Merry Christmas!

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