It’s Groundhog’s Day, when a sleepy landpig emerges from his little mancave and entertains questions from the press about astronomical phenomena!
As good a day as any to share a few content trends where we at Forrester expect to see considerable acceleration this year.

Here are your 6 content trends and one wannabe-trend that won’t trend in 2017.

The first megatrend
Direct-to-consumer pushes CPG out of the brand advertising comfort zone

Direct-to-consumer plays by the CPG giants, and even more so the CPG small guys, will put substantial pressure on brand marketers to invest in content and experiences that drive action. That means more content for richer websites, email programs, product documentation, and paid and unpaid executions. Mondelez’s made a $10 billion bet on this, and Unilever’s acquisition of Dollar Shave Club signals their interest in more direct subscription-driven sales.

What does it mean?
Digital agencies with strong content chops and some ecommerce nous will be the winners, as brand teams ramp up their direct marketing capabilities.

The second gigatrend
Stunts and experiential executions set higher bars for hero and community content

Volvo Trucks managed to bring real excitement to the sleepy B2B space with their Van Dammian acrobatics and near-decapitations. And Budweiser showed how quickly a brand team could turn around sentimental sports videos with its in-the-moment Cubs world series win reel. Hyundai and Snickers promise to raise the bar even further for this year’s Super Bowl (jury’s still out whether an ad that is live has any incremental value, but anyhoo). Linked to this, live branded events – extended through digital experiences – will go from occasional side-show for brands to a regular feature.

What does it mean?
Event sponsorships will be eclipsed by elaborately-planned and -conceived event takeovers. And some poor stunt guy or over-confident brand manager’s gonna get killed in one of these stunts.

The third ubertrend
Content intelligence turns us all into metadata crackheads

So any content manager will tell you that metadata’s the most important thing to ever happen to content (until you fall asleep, and you *will* fall asleep). They’re actually right. With metadata, you can realize all of your personalization and content measurement dreams, but metadata’s hard and really, really boring. Content intelligence is the category of tech that gives you all the joy of metadata without all the pain of managing it (well, kinda). 2017’s going to see this blow up, in a good way.

What does it mean?
Interest in the category of vendors who focus on content intelligence – big ones like Adobe and IBM, and little ones like Persado and Idio – will grow. We’ll be publishing research on the space and vendors this winter.

The fourth supertrend
We hit peak influencer

Interest in influencers, and campaigns involving them, grew slowly since around 2012 and suddenly very quickly last year, and we expect this to come to a head in 2017. As Forrester’s Jessica Liu pointed out early this year, marketers are going to come to the realization that an influencer play is essentially just a specific kind of ad play. Investment will continue to increase this year, but it will flatten out as the inherent opacity of price and performance variability, and the friction from management overhead of influencers makes itself felt.

What does it mean?
The early wins and low-hanging fruit of influencers are behind us, so don’t rush in to the space. Brands with celebrity endorsement experience can lean on that, while they experiment with social influencers (with a clear eye on a specific business metric for the latter, especially).

The fifth monstertrend
The ‘smiling through gritted teeth’ of retailers wanting content from brands goes from awkward to painful

Related to the issue of brands going direct-to-consumer (and even when they’re not), retailers’ expectations for product brands to support them with bespoke content for merchandising and campaigns are getting harder to support. There’s the initial pain of brands having to support dozens, even hundreds, of retail channels with bespoke content, and the added torment of not getting maximum value out of it for their own ends.

What does it mean?
Better playing rules are needed here, and they’ll start to get hammered out this year. Though I have, as yet, no idea what they’ll look like – probably with many brands stalling for as long as possible.

The sixth maxitrend
Attention gets more attention

Media companies have finally decided that their defensible moat is not content, but valuable attention from the right audiences. Marketers like attention, too, but not in the ‘more is always better’ kind of way that many media companies think. Sometimes, you’d actually prefer 5 seconds to 5 minutes (but don’t tell the video people). If you don’t believe me, just ask people like Monotype-owned Swyft Media who develop and sell branded messaging app stickers for millions.

What does it mean?
Expect to see the content wizards and their media agency chums explore attention modes and attention management in interesting ways in 2017. Given content supersaturation, marketers will look to identify the right attention window for their category and proposition, and use formats and channels where that attention’s best generated.

The seventh meh-trend that won’t trend in 2017
VR’s an expensive sideshow

Imagine a brand app in a world where no one uses a smartphone. That’s VR for marketing in 2017. Don’t get me wrong; some brands have and will continue to see ‘incredible engagement’ from a VR experience (yeah, they’re pretty engaging), but right now it’s largely a bauble, not doing real marketing work.

What does it mean?
If you’re an experiences business, there’s opportunity.
If you’re a gaming company, there’s opportunity.
If you’re hosting an event, there’s a (small) opportunity.
If you’re not one of those, wait until 2018 – or later.

Bring on 2017!