They want to feel like you know them, hear them, and you’re their trusted friend — you’re there when they need you, and sometimes when they don’t, but you’re helpful and fun, and enhance their life by being you.

Let’s face it, marketing is sometimes still seen as an adversary, an invader, and an impersonal entity that just “doesn’t get me”. When I share that I’m an email Marketing Consultant with Marketing Cloud, my friends often share their frustrations, “I don’t get it. I’ve unsubscribed and I still get emails.” So, I’ve modified my elevator pitch to, “I help make email less annoying.” I now recognize that this adopts an inherent defensiveness, but also serves as my olive branch to help position me as a relatable person behind marketing with a strategy who gets their pain points and highlights that I, too, am a consumer. And, remember the early days of pop-up ads that were such an interruption, x-ing out of them wasn’t an easy task? Marketers quickly learned that wasn’t going to win the hearts and minds of customers.

Luckily, a transformative shift is happening. Products and service providers have found creative ways to empower customers to steer their own experiences, on their own time, with their preferred technologies. Let’s take winning content curators like Thrillist, where subscribers trust and thirst for the content so much, ‘Allied Content’, or sponsored stories, aren’t shunned — they might even be welcomed if it means readers will uncover the latest trend they must know about. Or, Spotify, Hulu, Netflix – the media streaming services that inhabit most of our smart devices. Consumers are willing to endure short-stint (albeit super hip and relevant, I might add) commercials, if that means they can watch their favorite shows at their own convenience. Maybe the “chill” part of “Netflix and chill” is taking place during commercials breaks…but I digress.

So, what’s the moral of the story? After attending four Chicago Ideas Week 2015 events over the past seven days and witnessing one avante garde train platform performance, the following 5 trends are apparent and warranted as we approach marketing in 2016. And, they all point to customers just wanting brands to be their friend.

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