As the end of 2013 approaches and marketing websites post their predictions 2014, I thought it’d be interesting to take a look at forecasts made in the past several years to see if they’ve come true. For my purposes, I only surveyed iStock_000001915658Smallpredictions made in 2010 or later – though perhaps I’ll do a later post looking back further. Exactly how accurate are we at making predictions about our own industry?

At first, I thought this assessment might come off as a little too harsh; it’s easy to look back in time and laugh at those who got it wrong. (Check out this gem from 1977: “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”) Instead, I found that many marketing news sources misclassified “continuing trends” as “predictions.” In other words, they mostly “predicted” the obvious: increases in the number of smartphone users, the continuing rise of social media, ongoing reliance on email marketing.

However, I did find some surprisingly specific prognoses that turned out to be accurate, along with some remarkably insightful thoughts on the future of marketing in general – and digital marketing in particular. Today I’ll cover 2010-2011, but stay tuned for part II of this post where I’ll do a round-up of predictions for 2013 and 2014.

2010: Depend on the Data

2010 seems to be the year that marketers recognized all the possibilities of collecting, organizing, and mining data. Several sources predicted that marketers would be increasingly accountable not just for executing imaginative, creative campaigns, but for the results of those campaigns.

As you’d expect for 2010, most foresaw continuing growth in the use of social media marketing, but some also extended the idea of “relationship marketing” to other channels, predicting the death of “one-way” websites. Perhaps it’s obvious, but some correctly identified the trend towards extreme optimization – squeezing every last drop of efficiency from existing channels like email, landing pages, and social.

2011: Loopholes & Mobile

In December of 2010, the FTC published a 122-page Privacy Report on the implications of technology’s ability to track consumer behavior online without the user’s knowledge. The report’s chief recommendation, that internet companies enable features that allow users to turn off tracking features, put pressure on marketers to rethink their strategies. Though the report didn’t have the force of law, it prompted predictions for 2011 that marketers would have to search for loopholes and resourceful ways to deliver relevant ads without being accused of invading privacy.

Forecasts for 2011 also correctly emphasized the rising role of mobile apps. But perhaps the most insightful prediction for 2011 came from Jeremy S. Griffin on, who accurately projected that “Tumblr will rise from its ashes as the new distraction for the anti-Facebook set.”

Stay tuned for Part II, where I’ll look at predictions made in 2012, plus a round-up of projections made this year for 2014.

About the Author: Sharon Eliza Nichols created the Facebook group “I judge you when you use poor grammar.”, which grew to almost 500,000 members. She turned the content into two books, “I judge you when you use poor grammar.” and “More Badder Grammar!”, which have sold 90,000+ copies. Sharon has a law degree from the University of Alabama School of Law, she’s been featured in The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, and she works in marketing in Virginia.