The marketing landscape in 2018
- 19 December 2017
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As 2017 draws to a close, we assess the key challenges marketers are likely to face in the next twelve months. With the current uncertainties around Brexit and GDPR, we predict that a disrupted business environment, increased regulation and a greater consumer demand for authenticity will all play significant roles in 2018.
Disruption and regulation
A key theme for marketers in 2018 will be the disrupted nature of politics, business and culture. With Britain’s Brexit vote in 2016 still resonating through society and the economy, organisations of all sizes are preparing for life outside the European Union. Many marketers are getting used to the idea of disruption as ‘the new normal’, with exit negotiations set to continue until 2019.
Another powerful force set to disrupt marketing next year is the arrival of new GDPR legislation. Under the wide-ranging rules due to be applied from May, organisations will be compelled to conform to a much higher standard of transparency in the area of customer data management and privacy.
This legislation requires careful navigation in the coming months, and has the potential to disrupt areas such as email marketing campaigns, website design, and customer traffic data, among many others. Marketers are advised to be fully aware of how the legislation will affect their specific organisation, which will become a legal imperative in 2018.
In terms of technology, we’re likely to see the disruptive influence of artificial intelligence continue. Through 2018, AI will start to permeate into brands’ marketing strategies – especially in the area of analytics, apps and customer interaction – rather than being treated as a bolt-on.
Last year, a trove of leaked financial documents dubbed the ‘Panama Papers’ brought the murky world of offshore finance to the world’s attention. Then in October, another leak, this time called the Paradise Papers, once again put a spotlight on the financial dealings of the rich and powerful.
One of the revelations brought Brighthouse, the largest rent-to-own company in the UK, back into the news. Less than a month before the papers were leaked, Brighthouse was asked to pay over £14.8 million to 249,000 customers by a regulator in respect to lending agreements that may not have been affordable and payments that should have been refunded. The leak also revealed the financial instruments operated by some of the world’s largest brands, such as Nike and Apple.
It’s hard to judge what the brand impact of these revelations will be into 2018; at the very least, they underscore the importance of anticipating such developments – and preparing reactive marketing campaigns in advance. But at a deeper level, they are likely to feed the existing debate around the role of corporations in society, and how fair brands are being with customers.
Indeed, there’s growing evidence that, particularly for younger people, the extent to which a brand ‘does good’ – beyond a cut-and-paste corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy – is a major factor in making purchase decisions. In 2018, marketers will be under pressure to balance the needs of the business against these new expectations among younger customers. As such, we’re likely to see organisations of all sizes integrate some element of cause-related marketing into their campaigns.
Transparency and authenticity
In 2017, technology giants Twitter, Facebook and Google found themselves embroiled in controversies regarding content posted on their platforms. Up until recently, these firms have tried to distance themselves from complaints related to content; now, with the investigation into Russian interference in the US election gathering pace, the same organisations are shifting their positions.
In response to these issues, Twitter has already launched a Transparency Centre to serve as an information hub, detailing all the advertising taking place on the platform at any one time. It will show users who is targeting them with adverts, and indicates the company is seeking to cooperate with politicians in the US, where the Honest Ads Act was recently tabled.
Moreover, in October, we saw Facebook and Google join Twitter in committing to a ‘Gold Standard’, initiated by the Internet Advertising Bureau, with the aim of increasing brand safety and reducing ad fraud.
Growing concerns throughout 2017 around trustworthiness have led brands to turn increasingly to user-generated content. Indeed, carefully managed communities and influencer relationships can be invaluable to brands, since they are viewed by customers as being more authentic than traditional marketing communications.
More broadly, firms are starting to feel more comfortable holding open conversations on social media with customers. In fact, this pays dividends because it can make a business seem relatable and more transparent. As such, we are likely to see further evidence of this sea-change in the relationship between users and advertisers on social platforms into 2018 and beyond.
One surprise for 2017 was the extent to which brands were willing to criticise each other, with the most recent high-profile example of Samsung’s trolling of the Apple iPhone X launch, with a video that blatantly showed its competitor’s latest handset in a negative light.
With more examples of this emerging throughout the last twelve months, it’s too soon to be sure whether this means marketers are becoming braver, or whether customers are more accepting of this style of advertising. Either way, it appears brands see themselves less and less as isolated entities sealed off from world events; Smirnoff poked fun at US president Donald Trump this year, and Ikea was quick to capitalise on an impossible-to-predict product similarity.
Reactive advertising offers the Holy Grail to brands: huge engagement through word-of-mouth and social reach, often with a relatively small outlay. As such, it’s a safe bet that we’ll see this approach increasingly refined and expanded into 2018.
For many, the year 2017 was destined to be the year that virtual reality came of age. However, this has largely failed to come to pass, despite Facebook significantly dropping the price of its Oculus Rift headsets, along with competitor HTC. In October, Google admitted the technology offered consumers an experience that was “too isolating”. Indeed, despite the entry of these cheaper devices onto the market, there is little evidence consumers are set to take VR to heart in 2018.
The same can’t be said for Augmented Reality. Apple have recently released an AR developer kit for the iPhone, which could spark a scramble to capitalise on the technology among the third-party app community. Whether small and middleweight brands will be able to monetise AR is unclear. But 2018 is almost certain to bring some eye-catching applications of AR to a street corner or table top near you.
Our top trends marketers need pay attention to in 2018 are:
- Greater disruption and regulation in many sectors
- New strategies and technology investment to ensure brand promises are maintained
- A need to be transparent and authentic
- A drive to react quicker to engage customers
- Augmented reality to overtake virtual reality
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