Marketing is never static. It is always adapting to technology, changing attitudes and the fluctuations of the social and political landscape.

In this article, we will take a look at some of the trends that dominated the world of marketing in 2018, including some of the best campaigns and one major marketing game changer: GDPR. We will also take a sneak peek into the future and investigate what the experts are predicting for 2019.

The customer as a priority

For years, marketers have used the model of a funnel to characterise their strategy. This particular way of doing things placed the customer as a goal, a target to be acquired. Once this was done, the process was seen as complete until the time came to get that customer to spend more money or re-engage.

In 2018, something called the flywheel has taken the funnel’s place. The flywheel places the consumer at the very centre of everything, meaning that customer service and recruiting users as advocates become the leading strategy. It is, as Hubspot puts it, ‘excellent service as its own marketing strategy.’

The robots are taking over

They’re not really, but AI continues to be a huge part of the way businesses communicate and interact with customers. There are a few different ways in which AI is becoming the norm; commonly bots that respond to website visitors with automated answers to questions. Despite the fact that they often have to hand the customer over to a real person, bots still reduce the administrative workload for online businesses.

Making someone’s journey personal makes them feel loved. Bots can collect data from users to help tailor their next visit, making it more simple to convert their visit into a sale.

Bots also have their part to play in lead management and generation by helping to assess where the customer is in the buying process. They can ask and answer questions and be integrated with social media tools, such as Facebook Messenger. This means ‘you can direct customers to the right product without ever actually speaking to them,’ according to Forbes.

Evergreen is no longer the only option

Instagram Stories may have been around since 2016 but their role in marketing is far more recent. These temporary posts (also referred to as ‘ephemeral content’) disappear after 24 hours. This format and the behaviour of the people viewing it is more slanted towards fun, interactive content which has allowed brands to alter their strategies and output.

As Kelly Hendrickson, a social media marketer at Hubspot, says, ‘The combo of a running clock and a lively audience is a huge opportunity for brands to lean into quick, in-the-moment content that showcases the more light-hearted elements of their brand. Succinctness and clarity are key in content.’ It’ll be gone soon, so why not experiment?

The aftermath of GDPR

You’ve definitely heard of GDPR – or at least received an email asking your permission to keep your details and opt into further email communication. It came into effect in May 2018 and you can read about exactly what it means here. But what have been the ramifications? Well, some businesses have found their databases very much diminished, as people chose not to resubscribe, leaving many email marketing managers frustrated and worried.

Some companies have received fines for not adhering to the new restrictions while a few American firms were so unprepared for the change that they have now denied access to their services in Europe so as not to expose themselves to risk.

There are positives that have come out of GDPR too, the most important being that the world didn’t end. From the way it was reported, you might have expected companies to collapse and businesses to immediately declare bankruptcy on 25th of May. They didn’t. Another is that, like many changes, GDPR is forcing businesses to reexamine the way they use and disseminate data. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the knowledge that, in this day and age, data is digital gold and immensely precious to companies.

And the winner is…

Marketing demands creativity. Well thought out and inspiring campaigns become conversation-pieces and are often reported on as news. The same can also be said for the disastrous ones. Sometimes attempts to capture a mood or movement come across as crass or calculated, like Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner protest video. Co-opting the Black Lives Matter movement to sell soda and imply that all anyone needs to resolve that kind of complex conflict is to share a fizzy drink created a huge backlash for everyone involved.

However, sometimes brands get it right. In America, athletes (mostly members of the NFL) have been ‘taking a knee’ during the national anthem before games to protest police brutality. The first to do so was Colin Kaepernick, who was branded unpatriotic for taking a knee before a match and is now not employed by a team. In a bold political move, Nike has named Kaepernick as the face of the “Just Do It” campaign for its 30th anniversary. The decision has provoked outrage and vociferous support – and is, incidentally, one of the best and most effective marketing campaigns of 2018.

What about the future?

Virtual and augmented reality have always made the headlines. We are enthralled with the idea of experiencing different worlds from the comfort of our own homes and of pushing the bounds of reality. However, the actual product always seems to fall a little flat. At the moment, the extent of our exposure to VR and AR in real life is limited. We view Facebook 360° videos and are sometimes handed headsets at events and that’s pretty much it.

However, this technology is creeping into marketing more and more. A good example is the IKEA PLACE app, which allows you to visualise virtual furniture in your house. Marketers have been slow to embrace this particular trend, due to the obvious drawbacks including the expense and the bulky equipment. It remains very much on the horizon, however, and marketers may have to start factoring it into their strategy sooner than they anticipate.

If you would like to find out more about studying marketing at Northumbria University London, we run a MSc Digital Marketing and an MSc Business with Marketing Management.

If you want more information about studying at Northumbria University London, visit our website, or to view the courses available please visit our courses page.

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