Alyson S. Campbell, CEO & Founder of Heart & Soul PR
As we begin the New Year, it’s incumbent upon marketers to take a look at what is driving revenue and consumer mindshare. Some of these may come as no surprise as 2017 ushered in more and more of a digital influx and related technologies, but with each year passing year, the marketplace continues to evolve and marketers must keep up with the times to stay relevant – and lucrative.
What are some of the key trends marketers can expect to see in 2018?
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
We began to see some of this heading into 2017 across industries. Now Artificial Intelligence and machine learning are expected to play a critical role in driving business significantly in 2018. According to a Deloitte report, businesses spent $17 billion on the technology in 2017 and that is expected to increase to $57.6 billion by 2021.
Why? AI and machine learning are helping throughout the business lifecycle – whether that’s simplifying solutions, improving workflows and accuracy or creating new products. For marketers, these tools can prove useful in mining for key insights and modeling businesses based on customer behaviors and patterns.
Video, But Not Just Branded Content
Content has been king and is still important, especially as Millennials continue to drive what’s trending and how content is consumed. According to the Los Angeles Times, Facebook and Google continue to dominate the majority of advertising budgets that’s being spent online (63 percent). However, brands are now less incentivized to spend more on branded, commercial style advertisements that can prove costly to produce.
It’s now about creating a marketplace for the consumer that includes video content but also other content that appeals to the experience-driven economy (Millennials). This could include a related e-commerce platform with merchandise or a branded media partnership in conjunction with the video content. Tasty, along with its home and crafts channel Nifty, have been cited as leading examples of how to do it right as the fastest-growing segments within BuzzFeed. Largely. Their model has been driven by the company diving deeply into what’s appealing to its millennial audience by analyzing data from content that has received billions of views and then applying those insights.
Live Events are Back
Brands and marketers have been engaging consumers for years with live events and experiences, however, even with the digital realm driving so much of the engagement, it is not completely replacing the live experience. While live events never went away entirely, they will continue to play an especially important role in the marketing mix.
According to Bizzabo, companies like Apple, Microsoft, GE, HubSpot, Salesforce, L’Oreal, Google, Ford and Wells Fargo all understand the value of live events and have committed themselves to marketing strategies with face-to-face interaction front and center.
Conferences are also a key part of the live event mix. Mom 2.0, a professional conference and gathering of influencers in parenting, entertainment and related categories started in 2008 has quadrupled in size since its start from 175 attendees in 2009. The brand now estimates it will reach 900 attendees in 2018 as the mom and parents market continues to grow with a collective four trillion dollars in annual spending power. Leading Fortune 500 brands continue to sponsor as a result, including the conference’s title sponsor, Dove, who been a client for the past seven years.
A recent survey the site conducted with key event marketers revealed that the majority (91 percent) of overperforming businesses place a greater emphasis on live events versus underperforming businesses or businesses that are performing as expected and plan on growing their event marketing budgets by more than the rest ($4,500 more).
LinkedIn and Instagram
For the B2B audience, LinkedIn is the place to be. For consumers, Instagram will outpace Facebook.
Following Microsoft’s $26 billion acquisition in 2016, growth has been steady. In addition, as a result of LinkedIn’s site revamp in 2017 making the platform even easier to use, more have joined. This past year, LinkedIn added a “Connections of” style filter to more easily see your connections’ connections, streamline notifications, a hover feature as well as the ability to include up to nine photos with each post, which has spiked engagement rates. According to LinkedIn’s data, a post with images receives up to 94 percent more total views than a text-only post.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Instagram continues to grow strong and fast. Instagram announced this past year that the channel has generated nearly 800 million users on the platform each month. Since unveiling Instagram Stories, the offering became even more popular than Snapchat in one year. As a result of its high level of consumer engagement, connectedness and the advertising functionality and controls, smart marketers are further embracing “Insta-worthiness.”
Influencers Still Have the Influence
Influencers have long been the thing, and they will continue to be the thing. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, marketers have seen an average of $7.65 return on each dollar spent. They also site that the space has grown more than 220 percent in the last two years with 84 percent of marketers citing its effectiveness. There has also been a 325 percent increase in searches on influencer marketing on Google in the least year. Additionally, more than 230 new platforms and influencer marketing agencies have emerged in the last two years. In the next year, 67 percent of brands plan to increase their influencer marketing budget.
Based on these trends, we can expect to see more robust technology and tools to help us better predict what will drive consumer behavior, though even technology alone won’t help us. These trends also shed light on the importance of creating meaningful, impactful content that is not only consumed virally, but also live, as well as targeted with the right platforms to reach your right audience. Some things will always remain and one key thread among all of these trends is the human experience — which will always remain relevant in our ever-evolving marketplace.