If there’s one thing marketers love (aside from a good ol’ knees-up at an awards ceremony), it’s a trend. Scour the pages of any marketing magazine, website or blog and you’ll be soaked in enough jargon to bring about Noah’s Arc v2.0: Return Of The Paradigm Shifting Synergy.
Scrawling through all of this, it might seem that you need to rip up your entire marketing strategy and start focusing on whatever the winds of change are whispering that week. But before you burn through your firm’s marketing budget with a custom line of fidget spinners, let’s take a moment to reflect. Chameleon has done the hard work for you. Here we’ve isolated five trends that we think will keep things fresh as we speed through 2017 (and we’ve given our lowdown on whether you should really care).
Some sense on chatbots
That’s right, chatbots! Wikipedia confirms they’ve already gained many names: talkbot, chatterbot, bot, chatterbox, IM bot, interactive agent or Artificial Conversational Entity. Cool.
Basically, chatbots are a form of AI that can respond to text queries. They’re most commonly accessed by the public through Facebook Messenger and are the most consumer-facing example of the tech operating today. And marketers are taking note. A recent study by Oracle Marketing Cloud found that 80% of sales and marketing managers questioned, either already use the technology or plan to do so by 2020. (Let’s set aside doubts about a company that sells chatbot services revealing that you should buy some chatbot services).
So, for a brand, what’s good about chatbots?
–Low barrier to entry: Yes, you could get some AI working on behalf of your brand. Right now. And for not too much money. I ran a quick search for some and now have a gang of adverts for chatbot services mercilessly following me around the internet.
–Grease-lightning fast: You know what people hate? Waiting for stuff. You know what chatbots can do? Answer customer queries very quickly.
That all seems fair enough, but what about the bad?
–Core function: Conversations, particularly conducted with Facebook Messenger bots, tend to be clunky and unnatural – a crude mimicking rather than an intricate discussion. At the moment, a lot of people feel it’s easier just to search for the information or ring a call centre. The core function of a chatbot is conversations (it’s in the name, right?), so there’s still ground for the technology to make big steps forward.
–Feeling the love: This is a point I feel needs addressing: have any clients or customers ever asked for a chatbot? Said nice things about them? Asked one out for a drink? The chances are slim. There’s this underlying feeling that there’s a pretty large divide between tech-enthusiasts who adore the idea of chatbots and the public who… don’t.
So, as a marketer, the important question is whether to invest in them. In a couple of years, technology behind chatbots will make them a completely natural tool in handling customer enquiries, aiding product discovery and providing a truly personalised experience. Currently though, a lot of people have reservations, which contradicts the value of a customer touch point. This isn’t to say cool things aren’t being done with the tech – Larry King’s article on Inc. has some decent examples – but the bots are definitely still a ‘one to watch’.
If you do decide to use them, make sure your goals and focus are clear. Don’t use chatbots just because you think you should be. We all know the groan-inducing (yet true) cliche of targeting the right customer at the right time, but this needs to be turned back on marketers: use the right tech, at the right time. And for the right reasons too. Otherwise it’s just bad form.
Get some beers in for the ads
It used to be that the word ‘advert’ conjured images of expensively suited men with slicked back hair, issues with smoking, bad drinking problems and even worse attitudes. It was an industry that seeped class and cash.
Then, the internet came along. Ads became intrusive. Before long we normalised them and they were invisible. It seems they have dipped in and out of our conscious vision ever since. But now Google’s doing something about it. It’s getting tough(er) on ads.
“We are no longer permitting the placement of Google ads on pages that are loaded as a pop-up or pop-under.”
It goes further:
“Additionally, we do not permit Google ads on any site that contains or triggers pop-unders, regardless of whether Google ads are shown in the pop-unders.”
Google currently controls 75.8% of the search ad market, a figure predicted to rise to 80% by 2090. For all intents and purposes, Google is the digital advert sector. What is says sets the tone for others to follow. It’s also important to remember that Google and other browser creators are introducing their own ad-blockers into their browsers. This is huge. Under these rules, 700 publishers could see their digital ads blocked for Chrome users.
It’s. A. Good. Thing.
Look – for far too long, digital ads have been a scourge on the face of the internet. When was the last time you purchased something after seeing ads pop-up on your screen? How did you feel when you clicked onto a website to read the latest hot take on millennials’ polygamous relationships with the fruit-of-the-month, but instead were confronted with an ad that not only took up most of the screen, but also greyed out the areas behind? You feel positive about that brand? How do you think the wider public feels?
We live our lives on devices, yet the way many adverts are delivered to us are, by-and-large, the equivalent of a drunk shouting at passersby. A core of marketing got warped and, in many cases, lost much of its power. With big companies now looking to punish poor quality ads, it opens up the floor for intelligent use of the tools again. For a marketer, this is a dream. How often do we ever get a clean(-ish) slate to re-define a sector? Take this huge opportunity to improve your offerings in the space and make a positive change.
Now, where’s my scotch?
The old moving picture show
This really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone: VIDEO!
Whether it’s VICE Media recently laying off journalists in order to focus on video content,Facebook Live pumping money into art projects or LinkedIn updating its app with video capabilities, you can barely move without a news story trumpeting the trend.
When you consider the increased speeds and easy access to video more Wi-Fi networks and 5G will bring, the tech is only going to get more prominent. Unfortunately, the marketing landscape of dealing with it is akin to a crowd chanting “VIDEO” over and over again, hoping someone will actually explain what they’re doing.
What a brand can do with video is near endless, but there are some foundational elements that can serve everyone well. It’s amazing how often these are overlooked.
–Start small: There’s no need to try and create a Hollywood-style extravaganza for your forays into video. A short clip about a customer win, a news story or a comment from a spokesperson will do
–Get to the point: Define what you want your videos to achieve. Improve branding? Attract customers? Increase engagement? Pick one small goal and work towards it
–Keep it minimal: Basically, make your videos short. No one wants to sit through the brand version of Gone With The Wind. HubSpot has a nice infographic breaking down ideal video lengths for different networks
–Train: Creating video content will soon become like writing or Photoshop – a universally requested skill. If you can train your staff in making videos, it will not only benefit you to turn around content, but could also improve retention. Just saying
Nothing too crazy there, right? The key is short, simple and specific. A drumbeat of interesting things that are said quickly. Video is not going anywhere, so the best thing you can do now is lay the foundation for the future. Does that mean a video department? A team? Training a few people? That’s for you decide. Just have a point.
1, 2, 3, 4, what’s interactive marketing for?
Interactive marketing is being given a huge boost as a concept by the rise and rise (and rise and rise) of something called ‘Instagram’.
The social network has 700m monthly users (almost a tenth of the entire world), while its Stories function now has 250m daily active users, up from 200m in April. It’s Instagram Stories that has grabbed people’s attention, as now videos and photos don’t have to be perfect or permanent, instead functioning as a brief snapshot of someone’s life. This means people are hungrier than ever for for “grammable” content.
This has led to certain places becoming Instagram hotspots, where groups of people descend to take photos. An example? Check out the “recent” section of photos taken at Amsterdam’s famous “I Amsterdam sign”. It’s a veritable deluge. This phenomenon of “grammable” locations is explored in far more depth and with a boatload of skill in Alyssa Bereznak’s brilliant piece for The Ringer. I would very much recommend you read it.
Public interaction has been a broad part of marketing for years, from public quotes, reaction videos or just floating, but it’s time to add another layer – the social media (read: Instagram) opp. This is not a wholesale change, more like a tweaking of the format. For example, if you are planning on a stunt or marketing campaign that gets people out in the field, ask yourself this question: will people want a photo with it? It does not have to actively plaster the brand all over, maybe something as simple as uploading a location or using a specific hashtag.
We’re moving into an age when thousands and thousands of photos delivered in an organic way can be more valuable that a photo in a #MAINSTREAM newspaper.
One to upend your whole strategy? Probably not, but interactive marketing should definitely become another pillar.
Where are the wearables?
Oh hello 2015, how you doing? Oh wait, is that an Apple Watch you’re wearing?
Let’s be frank: wearables haven’t had the greatest of time over the last couple of years. Despite Statista reckoning that the market will be worth $5.8bn by 2018 – which isn’t bad at all – I see very few people using wearables. Why so? Well, here’s the lowdown from my side: wearable tech is cool, but is missing that truly killer feature to gain momentum.
But, things might be changing. The market’s flagship product – the Apple Watch – has seen its sales rise 50% from last year. All good, but it’s what’s coming up next that’s interesting. If the current leaks and rumours are true, the new Apple Watch will have a in-built SIM so it can make calls without the need for a phone. Unhooking the Apple Watch from the iPhone gives it a standalone power. The tech giants may not want us to abandon our phones just yet, but they do want the double sell on their brand of device.
What this means for marketers is that there is a glimmer of hope coming up in the wearable tunnel. The devices – if successful – could deliver huge benefits. Even more than a phone, a wearable has a tight connection to the user, delivering more information someone’s preferences and the ability to really connect with them.
So what do you need to do? It’s quite simple: prepare. There’s little point in investing in wearables marketing currently. The sector is still small and, unless you have a product that makes wearables important, the best thing you can do is outline how you can take advantage in the future.
In terms of the things to look at? Put scale to the forefront. Consider the format and what can grab someone’s attention on a small screen, without it coming across as overbearing. If there is one thing to do right now though, it’s looking at websites. Ensure that the responsive design of your site is set-up in a way that it can render effectively on a smartwatch screen. For many, this should not require much investment, but can deliver a decent impression of your brand.
Wearables can still go either way, but just be ready to adapt if they do take-off.
So there we have it, the top five trends dominating marketing in the middle of 2017. More than that though, a broad view on whether they are worth spending your valuable time on and all for free. Is there a better present than that? Well, maybe a hot summer, but you can’t have everything.