As the near year approaches, the rapid pace at which the marketing landscape has been changing shows no signs of slowing down. Companies can expect some current trends to continue into 2018, but emerging technologies are already ushering in new tactics and turning what was once considered innovative into yesterday’s news.
Marketing industry expert Lori Senecal notes “chemistry and authenticity are super important things,” drawing attention to consumers’ growing desire for transparency in advertising. This key element is at the heart of the marketing trends businesses should be watching in the coming year.
Continuing to Focus on the Customer
The level of personalization consumers expect from companies continues to increase. People now connect with brands in a mind-boggling number of ways, from apps and social media to wearable devices and virtual personal assistants. New software solutions take advantage of the growing sophistication of artificial intelligence (AI) technology to track consumer behavior and habits across all channels and platforms. This allows businesses to automatically deploy marketing messages tailored directly to what consumers want. Some brands are even beginning to integrate in-store and online experiences to create seamless shopping environments.
Being True to Brand Values
Since the advent of content marketing, companies have been advised to be consistent with their messages in all channels through which they connect with customers. Today’s consumer expects brands to take this one step further and communicate clear values with images and copy reflecting core beliefs.
Young consumers, especially millennials and Generation Z, are increasingly suspicious of corporate motives and hesitate to make purchases until they’re sure a company’s values resonate with their own. This makes modern marketing more about connecting with emotions and desires than selling products and services and emphasizes the necessity of honesty in advertising.
Engaging with Video
Video marketing has evolved from traditional television commercials and simple product demos into a dynamic, interactive platform through which companies connect with consumers. People are hungry for useful information, helpful solutions and immersive brand experiences, and YouTube is now the second most popular search engine thanks to the desire for these types of content.
Smart brands are already leveraging video to create viral campaigns delivered as bite-sized miniseries. Consumers barely realize they’re watching advertisements and return to these brands eager for the next installment. The trend has become so popular, 43 percent of people now say they want to see more video from their favorite brands.
Tapping into the Dark Side
An estimated 84 percent of outbound sharing happens via “dark social” activity. Although the name sounds mysterious, dark social simply denotes the sharing of content with methods such as forwarded emails, links shared in private chat platforms or users visiting website from inside mobile apps. Companies catering to consumers ages 55 and older should pay particular attention to dark social in 2018. About 46 percent of this market segment uses only dark social to share content. Since all visits from dark social channels are logged as direct traffic in traditional analytics, companies will have to get creative with their metrics in order to maximize the potential of these “hidden” channels.
Abandoning the Idea of Permanence
Content marketing experts often emphasize the importance of “evergreen” content, a type of content with lasting relevance and the potential to be shared long after its initial deployment. However, with the growing popularity of platforms like Snapchat, trends may be shifting away from content with staying power and toward “ephemeral content.” Meant to be visible for only a short period of time, ephemeral content induces a sense of urgency and has the potential to spur consumers to take action more readily than traditional calls-to-action.
Short-lived content requires less of a time investment than evergreen marketing but must also be designed to engage highly connected consumers in a split second. Young consumers, particularly Generation Z, are the main users of ephemeral content platforms and are accustomed to processing content at a rapid pace.
Gimmicks and facades are out and realism is in for 2018. Live streaming interaction between consumers and brands began gaining popularity with the launch of live platforms on Facebook and Instagram, and people are likely to want more in the coming year. Streaming live video forces companies to be real and authentic, showing customers the true attitudes and cultures behind their brands. This speaks to the young generation’s desire for more interaction and connection with brands by giving them a behind-the-scenes look at the companies providing the products with which they define their lives.
Becoming Part of the Internet of Things
Content delivery is moving away from a strictly internet-based environment as wearable technology, virtual assistants and smart devices increase in popularity. The more interconnected people become, the more companies will have to diversify their advertising strategies. Offering content through Alexa skills, Apple Watch apps, streaming TV channels and other emerging platforms creates more points of contact with consumers and sets forward-thinking brands apart from competitors.
Companies wishing to strengthen their brand images in the coming year can get a head start on the competition by embracing these trends. A stronger brand means a bigger following and more sales to drive growth and create lasting connections with customers. Senecal’s approach of going “in the direction of [her] fear” in pursuit of personal and professional growth is a good model for cutting-edge companies to follow.
As the CEO of CP+B, Lori Senecal is known for being innovative, creative and no-nonsense. She was named one of four Agency Executives to Watch by Advertising Age and received the Quantum Leap award in 2013 in recognition of her unique leadership style.
Senecal isn’t afraid to push the boundaries of what’s possible with modern marketing. As a result, revenue for CP+B has increased 21 percent since her arrival. Business executives and marketing directors can take a cue from Senecal’s approach in 2018, aiming high with new advertising techniques and not being afraid to infuse marketing messages with the realism customers want.