First of all, before getting to the trend forecasting, I want to say:
Don’t buy into marketing trends.
Just stay updated to understand what people expect from you. Watch how the way people express their needs change over time, and tweak your communication to resonate with that. Be inspired, steal some ideas to integrate in your own marketing – but don’t buy into marketing trends 100 percent. You’ll lose your brand identity.
If you create communication and content on your website, blog and in your digital channels that is truly well-executed linguistically, gives your audience the knowledge and answers they are looking for, and do that by sharing stories told with the voice of your brand – then your marketing will be timeless. Years may go by and you’ll still be the top of mind go to-business.
So stay timeless. Watch the trends change like a meandering river of new ideas, but be quality, be style.
Successful creators have always known this, especially in the fashion industry:
‘Fashion changes, but style endures.’
– Coco Chanel
‘Fashions fade, style is eternal.’
– Yves Saint Laurent
‘The difference between style and fashion – is quality.’
– Giorgio Armani
‘Don’t be into trends.’
– Gianni Versace
That said, let’s have a look at what seems to be coming the marketer’s way during 2017 and 2018 – to know how to steer the wheel, and tweak your brand communication.
Digital marketing trends 2017-2018
It seems like everybody’s talking about VR (Virtual Reality), or even AR (Augumented Reality), but I’d say we’re still quite far from seeing this being part of people’s everyday lives – even though it’s becoming a part of marketing campaigns. It’s trendy, yet it’s already ‘last year’. VR is only the medium, not the marketing message itself (to argue against the theory of famous intellectual Marshall McLuhan, who said it was). And how interactive will it be?
Let’s focus on what major ideas – not tools – in society might influence the narrative of brands.
Breaking the taboos – and the norms
We’ll see slogans and campaigns challenging old rules, breaking taboos and using cross-gender concepts. This will mostly apply to the marketing of products and services for women, as these campaigns have not yet dared to explore the fields of humour, irony and satire. We’ll see marketing targeted at cross-gender segments, letting go of the idea of the male/female.
We’ll see marketing messages ”crossing the line”, and brands challenging their audience using unexpected or even vulgar language, or addressing controversial issues like the current political debates.
Would you dare to be more provoking, and break the taboos of your field?
Unreality as a destination
We’re in between analog and digital, real and virtual. This will affect the way we do storytelling – we need to take into account the fact that people are gazing at the horizon, romantizising the unknown, the fantasy and the unreal. They will use social media and the digital world as escapism on a brand new level, a level that I call the unreality.
Dare to allude to the temptation of unreality in your storytelling.
Encourage imagination, turn concepts upside down, try looking at things from the opposite perspective. Forget A/B testing and leap into testing the unknown. What if you played around with your email subject lines or blog post headlines? Do what you’re least expected to do. That’s how you make unreality happen.
From the attention economy to the engagement economy
Reach and visitor numbers mean nothing without engagement and conversion. Websites and Facebook pages with many visitors or followers but almost no engagement will be punished by algorithms, that will automatically cut the reach and define them as informative, passive and irrelevant.
Remember that in the digital world, interaction is gold. It’s too expensive to focus on getting attention without getting engagement – it will cost you your reach and therefore your marketing budget.
Evaluate engagement, not reach. Because that’s what search engines and social media will make you pay for, if you don’t manage to achieve it organically. That’s the real value.
Authenticity – Back to the the unfiltered, the genuine, and the raw
With all polished designs and perfectly filtered pictures, we’re starting to crave the authentic alternative. We won’t leave our screens to go hiking in the wilderness, but we’d love to dream (read stories) about making it happen.
Forget the stock photos. Cracks and imperfections tell of something real – use them for storytelling your brand. Think #nofilter.
Newsletters becoming the new customer magazines
Have you heard of inbox zero?
The strive for companies to manage their email inboxes to always end the day with an empty inbox. Yes, inbox zero is a thing. Businesses are striving to become ”zero-email companies”. They communicate by phone, social media, or by connecting their staff on Slack or Skype.
As a marketer, you need to fight for your share of people’s attention span – especially in B2B marketing where keeping your inbox clean is sort of a work-feng-shui. Instead of distributing campaigns and special offers, do what companies have always done with success: Build your brand’s credibility, expertise and loyalty with customer magazines. But don’t print a 40-pages publication.
Collect your best stories in a newsletter that interested people voluntarily will sign up for, and distribute it regularly, once a month or so.
The newsletters will go from being a channel for internal updates to being a digital version of the popular content marketing product that is the customer magazine. Launch your own and watch your digital traffic increase.
From individualism to co-creation, sharing communities and teal
This paradigm shift in culture has only just started, and will continue over decades – in politics, business and art. In marketing, I’d say it’s about abandoning the strive for individual confirmation through social media, and rediscovering the power of the network, the virtual tribe and the next step in the sharing economy, that is enabled through social media.
In the digital world, this will lead to marketers targeting communities rather than individuals. What is another common interest among our audience? Shoes and football? Then, be where the shoes and football games are, and storytell the connection between that world and your brand with cross-sectional marketing.
Contribute to creating communities and groups within your field (and the neighbouring fields). Provide content and stories that show that your business understands this change: that you contribute to the group, the greater good, and the common strive.
In 2016 you understood the everyday struggles of the individual, in 2018 you understand the struggles of the collective.
When businesses start implementing more self-management and self-reliance, and decentralize the decision-making processes, they will experience issues and challenges in the group. It’s a tough identity shift for any business, so use your insights about this when shaping your B2B-communication.
From media producers to curators – AI choosing your stories
What comes next, after the filter bubble? Probably an automated service that will choose the right stories for you. Just like Spotify serves you suggestions with ”Discover Weekly”, based on your search history and the history of those who seem to behave like you, an algorithm will give you regular updates on what reads on the Internet would interest you.
It’s already there, but most likely it will boom.
As a marketer, be aware not only of how you articulate your content, but how you categorize it, how you make it search engine optimized (SEO), and how it connects and relates to existing content. Be clear on the context, on the user navigation, on the conversion optimization. On the purpose. Zoom out and try to see the whole picture.
How would a robot know why you’re worth someone’s five minutes of attention?
Artificial intelligence will not only choose journalistic content, but content from a variety of sources. Therefore, marketers that not only do their own marketing, but curate other stories and cover its field of interest, will rule. They will be the content sources.
As a brand, you need to become the content provider, as AI will be the media curator.
Tech + spirituality – combining the two
The tech startup scene has managed to combine the creative exotic with the rational and nerdy. When anyone can code, we need the technology development to embrace new areas to avoid becoming just a means of building things.
That is, technology not as a tool, but as a means of realizing digital culture experiments.
We will see technology become a facilitator of spiritual search. Apps will help people disconnect from apps, virtual tools will help people become more grounded from virtual tools.
Isn’t that ironic?
As a marketer, look into how this idea can influence the stories you’re writing: the search for more time, for inner development, for self-fulfillment – not instead of being connected, but by being connected.
I name this trend forecast: Do you dare?
Because I think we’ll see people looking for alternative ways to value true and qualitative information, time and unfiltered reality – or unreality.
Those things are tomorrow’s currency. Be the content bank offering this currency.
My questions to you as a marketing person are:
Do you dare to break norms and take a stand with your marketing? To explore new topics and ways to articulate your message? To not only engage with your followers, but make them co-create?
Are you ready to integrate even the unpolished side of your business in your communication? To shape your content to encourage engagement rather than reach?
To accept that an artificial intelligence will be the middleman between you and your audience? To not be the brand that people use to strengthen their identity, but the brand that groups and communities seek as a facilitator, knowledge, service and information provider for their purpose?
Then, aim to answer those needs and questions when choosing topics, angles, perspectives and stories for your content, that should constitute your most important digital marketing during these next two years.
Do you dare?
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Do you want us to find your stories for you? We offer content marketing as your blog, newsletter or social media editors – read more about these services here.