We suck at predicting the future.
But that doesn’t seem to stop us.
We love stories of the next big thing. But the “thing” is rarely next…or big.
As I did last year, let’s go back a mere five years and see how predictions have held up.
2019 saw Archie Harrison Mountbatten Windsor born to Meghan and Harry.
Popeye’s Chicken sold chicken …and everybody lost their minds.
Some people thought about storming Area 51, then thought better of it.
And we were all dancing to Billie Eilish. Duh.
Don’t like reading? Watch the article instead. Neat!
Also in 2019, Social Media Examiner predicted Facebook Watch Parties “will be one of the primary features marketers incorporate into their 2019 social media strategy.”
If you haven’t heard of Facebook Watch Parties, you’re not alone. 13 months after this prediction was made, Facebook announced they would be shuttering their Watch Party feature.
From the “Nobody Asked for This” department, Forbes predicted customers would be “Empowered to be Brand Ambassadors.”
That’s right, suckers! You will fall in love with a brand so much that YOU will happily do their advertising by sharing it to your “network.”
You didn’t know you had a “network” did you?
Oh, you do.
And this prediction says you’ll gladly hawk products like an Amway salesman at a family reunion… and they’ll just loooove you for it.
2019 was also the year 5G was going to change everything.
The New York Times said this “once in a decade” upgrade promised download speeds of 4.5 gigabytes a second (the fastest in the world is currently 0.23 gigabytes), fans would sit in the stands watching the game through their phones with superimposed player statistics, and doctors would be performing surgery from the other side of the world.
But this past October The Wall Street Journal brought us back to Earth saying “despite hundreds of billions of dollars invested worldwide (5G) hasn’t revolutionized whole swaths of the economy…” and cellular consumers have “failed to notice a difference” in speeds compared to lowly the 4G that preceded it.
Am I cherry-picking clunker predictions to make a point? Yes!
And the point is this: We’re really bad at making predictions. Most predictions I found were mere status quo statements like “the internet will be important” and “this will be the year to focus on your customer.”
Just 12 months ago some of the most respected economists were predicting a certain recession in 2023.
A recession that never came.
And those were predictions using actual numbers and computer modeling. Not a random prognostication that some zippy trend somebody at a marketing firm thought it was cool.
In marketing, at best, you can plan for a year.
Work out what you want to accomplish, have a specific strategy, then apply the tactics.
Competitors come into your marketplace.
Wars break out.
Elon comes and Musks up your favorite social media platform.
And you never predicted any of it.
People are often surprised to learn many of my clients are “still” heavy in radio and television. It’s because right now, this year, radio and TV are monstrously effective ways to reach the masses. Will that be true next year? I don’t know… and neither do you.
Make a plan for 2024. Use data that exists and is true right now. Do your very best with the knowledge you’ll probably get some of it wrong.
Most of it will be perfectly fine.
Evaluate it next December, rinse out the bad, repeat the good, and save yourself an ulcer.