If there’s any one theme that resonated throughout the world of marketing in 2017 it was upheaval. We saw analysts and media a-plenty predicting a coming “retail apocalypse.” Brands started asking serious questions about the value of their influencer marketing programs. And, as in recent years, ad fraud scandals continued to shake marketer confidence in paid media campaigns. As we find ourselves on the doorstep of 2018, it seems an appropriate time to mull over the trends and tumult of the past year and look at what we can expect on the horizon. Here are a few things we are likely to see in the year to come:
- Marketers will demand earned media ROI. In an era where paid media and spray-and-pray ad campaigns are losing their luster, brands are looking to earned media -- especially across platforms like Pinterest and Instagram -- to drive cost-effective engagement. For marketers to really start committing their strategies, money and resources, they need to feel confident that they are getting good insights and analytics on how their earned media is performing. Once they have that data, brands should work with partners who can help them make dollars and cents CPM-based assessments of all of their likes, shares and engagements with blog and publisher content. Marketers make these demands of their paid media, and it’s time to bring this rigor across the entire marketing mix. The value of visual content can now be measured objectively, not solely assessed on subjective aesthetic aspects. Brands can now determine what pieces of content are actually driving the most awareness, the most discovery, the most interest. The future of earned media is going to be data driven, rather than just creative-agency driven.
- The curtain will fall on celebrity influencers. Savvy brands understand the value of tried-and-true philosophies around brand advocacy and word-of-mouth marketing. The days are numbered for sky-high celebrity influencer budgets and six-figure social media posts. With all of the data now at brands’ disposal, it’s insane for them to keep forking over huge sums for influencer marketing programs that may garner limited engagement and earned media value. We’re seeing marketers getting smarter about working with “micro-influencers” and building programs at scale to address the hundreds or thousands of them that any brand might have.
- Challengers will shake up marketing departments. The big, traditional brands are losing share of voice and market to challenger brands, but some are realizing they need to learn from the young upstarts and embrace innovation. Leading this charge will be two marketing organization roles that didn’t exist in any meaningful way a couple of years ago. First, there’s someone with a title like “director of innovation,” who is usually in a large organization, working horizontally across a number of brands. They bring new tools and new technology into each business line. These are the folks leading the charge for new tools, new formats and new opportunities to integrate marketing stacks, develop new resources for data and insights, and find new efficiencies in media channels. Brand managers are partnering with the director of innovation to help identify strategies to find new customers. The other source of change in the large organizations is someone who is a director or VP who oversees influencer marketing. The function is being broken out from under its traditional home under content marketing. These “earned media strategists” are using all the new technologies available to analyze and optimize how to leverage the power of influencers for their brands.