Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last month, you’ve seen quite a few end-of-year recap videos and microsites. For many brands, they’ve become a New Year tradition as important as popping champagne and dropping shiny balls. YouTube jammed every 2014 trend into 6 minutes, Google focused on what moved and excited us, JibJab took a whimsical look at the year, and Facebook showed the events that united us together.

In case you have actually been under a rock, take a look Facebook’s year-in-review:

These videos, and countless others like them, do more than create a surge of nostalgia for the events of the past year. If we look past the content of the videos, these digital experiences can also reveal quite a bit about the trends digital experts will need to embrace in order to succeed in the year to come.

We’ve already taken a stab at predicting marketing trends for 2015, so let’s stick to what I think are the three biggest from these recaps: digital-first content, real-time interactions and personalized experiences.

Digital-First Content

The growth of digital-first content, specifically created to be shown online, shows no signs of slowing down. While it may not have been an ideal release for Sony Entertainment, The Interview showed the emerging power of digital video services for a major motion picture, but that fiasco also highlights the fact that traditional media giants are finally starting to embrace the power of digital.

Shows like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black on Netflix have proved that digital-first content can succeed, and we’re seeing new signals that other large content producers are starting to shift to digital. The announcement that HBO Go will soon not require a cable subscription signals a huge change – HBO content is still light years away from being digital-first, but it is clearly thinking of new digital strategies.

While the consumer-content game is still ruled by big companies, the energy and creativity of the YouTube Video Rewind show us that you don’t need to be a major studio to create amazing content.

The YouTube Rewind featured more than 90 personalities whose combined channels have more than 290 million subscribers, 39k videos and more than 48 billion total views. If we include stats on the music featured in the Rewind, we can tack on another 20 billion views.

Entire production studios live solely off the ad revenue their ad revenue on YouTube – YouTube is a big deal, but the larger point is that people just want to watch videos online. Even if you aren’t looking to create your own studio, 2015 is going to be a great year to incorporate video production into your content strategy.

Global, Real-Time Events

You may have noticed the global scale in most of these recaps. Of the personalities in the YouTube Rewind, 25% create videos in a non-English language. Globalization in social media opens everyone to more content, but most interesting is how it has turned many events into experiences that the entire world can share.

You can see those global connections through both the Google and the Facebook videos focus on, but you only have to look at the social buzz around events like the Rosetta comet landing or, more tragically, this week’s Charlie Hebdo attack to see how the entire world can contribute to a conversation.

Whether it’s sporting events like the World Cup and Olympics, or major shows like Game of Thrones, real-time events are where we see major potential. NBC has taken risks with their live productions of The Sound of Music and Peter Pan, and I expect to see a greater focus on live content, especially as cable companies start to feel the pain of more and more people cutting the cord. While those are enormous examples there’s no reason why you can’t capture similar excitement around a smaller event.

Personalized Content is King

While its video did a great job focusing on the macro-level of its community, Facebook has also done an incredible job with producing micro-content for individual users. It has generated year-end snapshots for a few years now, but the trend has caught on with many other social brands.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 11.35.34 AMSpotify’s Year in Music offers a broad look at the last year, or a personal snapshot that breaks down everything from the countries your favorite bands came from, how many minutes of music you heard in 2014, and even provides a custom playlist of suggested music based on what you liked last year. It’s an incredible experience that harnesses the oodles of user data that Spotify has at its fingertips – and it further reinforces the power of custom content.

You may not have the same depth of data as companies like Spotify or Facebook, but that doesn’t mean you can’t deliver a tailored experience to your customers based on their past interactions with your brand. Cookies, remarketing and marketing automation provide powerful tools to direct visitors to content most relevant to them.

Here’s to a Great Year

Those are some pretty broad brushstrokes, so how can you use these trends? First, break these themes down to a level that makes sense for you. Find ways that you can tie together your customer’s real experiences with digital ones. Is your content strategy focused on digital first or do people need to come to your location or call you to get the information they want?

People expect to be able to find things online and get frustrated when they can’t. Obviously everyone has their own unique situations and different things make sense for different people, but the start of a new year is a great time to look at the world around you and see what you can do to keep up or, better yet, get ahead of the game!  


352 is an innovation and growth firm. Leading companies hire us to find billion-dollar opportunities, build killer new products and create hockey-stick growth. We bring grit and new-fashioned thinking to innovation, digital development and growth marketing.