2018 Predictions: It’s (Finally?) Time to Get Real

In 2012, the buzzword was humanization, which gave way to personalization in 2013. By 2014, marketers jumped from multi-channel to omni-channel, and we were all trying to climb the mountain of big data by 2015. In 2016, real-time marketing crept into every conference room, followed closely by artificial intelligence and its promise to automate all marketing in 2017. And where have we landed in 2018? This year it’s time to take what we’ve learned over the last five years and help the brands we serve become real.

I’m sure you’re asking, “What does that mean ‘become real’?” Quite simply, it means brands must start acting like it’s 2018. Customers have different expectations and brands no longer have a choice whether or not they meet them. Brands must exceed expectations or be dropped from the customer’s consideration. So, where should brands focus their marketing efforts in 2018?

Understanding the Customer Journey is the Job of Your Data Scientist
This year, marketers need to hone their data analysis skills. We have a truckload of customer data at our fingertips that tells us everything about them and their habits. Today’s data is so granular it almost tells us what our customers are thinking at any given moment.

Knowing this, it is the job of data scientists, or our analytics teams, to distill the data and relay to everyone in the marketing department (agencies included) the exact customer journey from awareness to affinity. We know what messages resonate with our customers, how they find our brands, the research they do before they buy, how they feel about our products and services, how many people they can influence or help to discover us, and how long they will be a loyal customer. It’s now time to leverage that information to inform our marketing, make our efforts infinitely more efficient, and increase our ROI.

Relevance… Relevance… Relevance
Any realtor will tell you an important factor in selling a house is location, location, location. The same thing is true for great marketing. It’s all about relevance, relevance, relevance. Being relevant to customers is the stepping-stone to gaining their trust. And once customers trust your brand, they are willing to continually provide your company with more and more information about how your best customers behave. This is invaluable in the constant cycle of creating an efficient and relevant marketing mix.

But how does your brand become relevant? In large part, it is understanding the customer journey (as described above). But it is also concentrating on their needs beyond your product or service. By providing the context of your brand in someone’s life and helping them seamlessly integrate your product or service into their day-to-day routine, your brand becomes valuable and relevant.

Seamless Brand Experiences
Once you know the customer journey and understand how to be relevant to your customers, brand marketing becomes all about the experience. How fluid is your brand experience across channels and platforms? 2018 will be the year of taking a long look in the mirror and breaking down the silos that have created any friction in your brand experience.

As marketers, we have all seen how our channel teams, traditional and digital, are heads-down trying to make sure every campaign performs and exceeds brand goals. But it is time to change all that. The true efficiencies in your marketing are found in the areas in between the channels, the areas where they interact with one another, and where your customers are quickly moving between them. How does your broadcast media drive online traffic? What is your customer consideration strategy? How consistent are your brand’s post-conversion touch points? These are the important questions in defining and accessing the fluidity your brand’s experience.

Shape Up Your Brand’s Social Media
For the last few years, there has been an ongoing argument about what groups should handle social media. Marketing and PR have gone head-to-head vying for the ownership of the most direct conversation channel for your brand. Turns out, social media is the responsibility of multiple teams – marketing, PR, customer service, sales and the executive suite.

However, we’ve learned it’s not about what team owns social media. Social media must have resources that can keep it full of fresh content and candidly answer questions and complaints. And although your creative agency thinks they understand your brand enough to manage your online community, they’re wrong. 2018 is the year your brand has to fully understand how it can use social media, and, more important, how your customers expect your brand to use social media.

All in all, 2018 is going to be another great year for growth in marketing. Technology will evolve, people will continue to find new ways interact with brands, and companies will struggle with the best ways to communicate with customers. But no matter what 2018 brings, we can all forget the buzzwords and start to get real.

JIM DAYTON

With nearly 20 years of experience in marketing, Jim has become widely recognized as a thought leader and innovator. He is driven by finding the exact combination of channels, messaging, products and service to build brands that are relevant in today’s crowded marketplace. Currently, his attention is focused on utilizing digital channels to strengthen our clients’ customer relationships and laser-focus their marketing efforts.