As the year comes to a close, we here at SiO Digital like to take stock of the trends and challenges that defined the marketing landscape, and the lessons we can learn from them. From the growing potential of Artificial Intelligence in driving marketing solutions to the evolution of voice-driven search, 2017 has been quite eventful.
Highlights of the Year 2017 in Marketing
Word of the Year: AI
If there’s one trend that has essentially shaped SiO’s digital inbound strategy, it’s the emergence of Artificial Intelligence as a feasible and effective means to drive highly accurate, data-driven business decisions.
The age of Big Data has set the stage for the progression of AI from a vague concept to a very real, very present idea with real-world implementations, and is soon set to become the core driving force of marketing.
Given the sheer volume of data that needs to be processed, there is a need for solutions that can process the data at lightning speeds, with minimal human intervention, and use predictive analysis and to drive smart business decisions.
Artificial intelligence has already gained a firm footing in many marketing strategies such as lead generation, customer retention, content marketing, and personalization. From chatbots that can interact with customers to answer direct queries about a business’s services to automated content generation tools like Wordsmith and Quill, these tools mark the steady influence of machine-learning and algorithm-based intelligence on core marketing strategies.
Buzz Buzzing: Influencer Marketing
The year also saw the rise of influencer marketing as a high-grossing avenue - worth about $1 billion - for businesses and brands. Marketing experts predict that by the end of 2019, this value is set to double. Influencer marketing is a form of marketing which relies on personalities with a wide reach on social platforms to help influence buyer decisions. Therefore, all marketing activities are oriented around identifying and attracting potential influencers towards the brand.
Platforms like Instagram, Instagram Stories, YouTube, and Facebook are currently the top influencer platforms. Twitter and Periscope are yet to find a steady market in the influencer stakes, but they are not far behind.
While it was previously difficult for marketers to measure the ROI on influencer marketing efforts, the availability of audience data has opened avenues for brands and agencies to track and measure the impact of their influencers on their bottom-line. Sophisticated systems that can track influencer content engagement and consumption metrics are already under development, and it won’t be long before marketers will be able to tailor their strategies to an individual influencer’s specific audience.
Watch out: Augmented Reality
Augmented reality is a not a new concept: the earliest uses of it go back to as far as 1967 (yes, really). Unfortunately, it didn’t quite take off - primarily due to the lack of technology and user adaptability. Today, all users need to experience Augmented Reality is a phone camera: they merely point it at a real-world object or environment and gain a digital experience pertaining to it. Think Pokémon Go.
Marketers are finding ways to integrate AR into their strategies to influence customer buying decisions. AR allows to apply the interactivity of digital marketing to real-world experiences. For example:
- Clothes retailer, Rebecca Minkoff, uses AR to create virtual “mirrors” where shoppers can see how a dress looks on their own person before purchasing it.
- Ikea uses AR so users can view how a piece of furniture looks in their own homes before purchasing it.
Get Cracking: Voice Search SEO
With the introduction of keyboardless and voice-enabled devices like Google Home and Amazon Echo, voice search is becoming nearly ubiquitous. In fact, according to Gartner, voice search is fast becoming the search mode of choice among mobile users, and by 2020, it will account for 30% of search volume. This seismic shift in the way users search today has resulted in a disruptive impact on the SEO landscape.
Previously, we talked about how the Hummingbird update which made search semantic has changed how SEO is done. The increasing prevalence of voice search has made it even more imperative for marketers to get cracking on changing their SEO strategies to keep themselves relevant to search engines. This includes:
- Including and focusing on natural speech patterns and question phrases, like “When was Michael Jackson born?”, as opposed to, “Michael Jackson's birthday”
- Increased focus on long-tail keyword phrases in keyword research
- Creating content that can be framed as direct answers to questions
- Leveraging the use of schema markup, XML sitemaps and microdata to increase search result accuracy
Shift in Social Media
The social scene can be truly unpredictable as this past year has shown us. That doesn’t stop marketers from predicting how social networks will change audience behaviors.
- Augmented reality, in particular, has had a major impact on social trends this year, and in the coming months, major social networks like Instagram Stories and Snapchat, which largely capitalize on AR, will only continue to dominate the social game.
- Facebook AR and Messenger Bots will change the way in which marketers and brands will connect to their customers: through authentic, immersive user-engagement that provides more value than current online marketing tactics.
- In terms of organic content engagement, Instagram continues to lead the pack, owing to its non-aggressive algorithm.
- Twitter, on the other hand, is set to shift more into a news app, rather than a social app. The introduction of “Twitter Moments” is an early indicator of this shift. Brands can leverage this shift by staying involved in the most relevant conversations that their audiences are engaged in.
The one thing we can take away from this, is that a single content delivery strategy across all platforms is no longer feasible. Each platform now demands its own unique form: both in the type of content delivered and the audience that needs to be targeted.
Learning from Big Brand Bungles
Everyone loves that feeling of Schadenfreude that comes from watching big brands step in it. But, in all seriousness, there’s a reason why it’s particularly cringey when a major brand makes a misstep: because these are the models most businesses aspire to be; when they mess up, it has far-reaching consequences. These consequences can be excruciatingly potent in today’s highly social age, where even something as simple as a wrong turn of phrase can bury a brand’s image.
This year, major brands like Dove, Pepsi and Facebook drew the ire of their consumers with poorly thought-out ad campaigns. We can use these blunders as cautionary tales for our own strategies:
Brand advertisers need to be careful about the message they’re conveying through their ads. Take, for instance, Dove’s ad which was originally intended to showcase the brand’s racial inclusivity, but backfired spectacularly when a poorly composed Facebook ad conveyed the exact opposite.
It was later revealed that the full TV edit conveyed the original message in the right context. The Facebook ad which only showed a part of the whole ad was viewed as racist and marginalizing towards women of color.
Brands need to be sensitive to the various perspectives that an ad campaign can generate. To put it simply,
if there’s a chance that your brand’s message can be misconstrued, don’t run it.
Marketers can avoid this by running the campaign with a test group, before releasing it.
We can learn from Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg who probably had good intentions when he chose to showcase the company’s VR app, Facebook Spaces in the hurricane-hit Puerto Rico. Needless to say, people largely saw the move as exploitative and tone-deaf, while a few saw it as an innovative way to raise awareness for the tragedy.
Don’t make light of serious social issues
In a world where racial marginalization and other complex social issues are once again being magnified through active citizen participation, brands need to be sensitive to the complexity of these issues. Portraying your brand as a solution to such complex issues is not only disrespectful, but also makes light of the difficulties and pain that people undergo.
It was a lesson that Pepsi had to learn when its “Live for Now” campaign showed Kendall Jenner calming the unrest by handing a cop a can of Pepsi. To add to its embarrassment, the brand was called out by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s daughter, Bernice King. Yikes!
Watch your language
Puns and double-speak is stock-in-trade for ad campaigns, and many successful brands have used them to great effect. However, some brands overstep the line of decency in an attempt to be clever: like Adidas did, following the Boston Marathon in April.
The brand sent out an e-mail to participants of the marathon with the heading,
“Congratulations! You survived the Boston Marathon!”
Coming on the back of the bombing that killed three people and injured hundreds in the previous year, this message went down like a lead balloon with recipients, which included two past participants of that fateful marathon.
What Will 2018 in Marketing Look Like?
Looking back at the trends that have dominated this past year, it’s evident that in the coming year:
- Trends like Augmented Reality and Voice Search will continue, eventually dominating traditional marketing and search trends.
- Marketers will move beyond content sharing, and towards immersive, interactive engagement with their customers through social media.
- The use of artificial intelligence and automation in marketing will become more pronounced, with human involvement and inputs becoming less so.
We hope you had a good year 2017 and wish you a wonderful 2018, in Marketing and in your personal life.
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