The holidays have barely ended, and marketers are already brainstorming messages, campaigns and content that can help them stand out.
Making a splash in a crowded media landscape of branded content—not to mention increasing customer loyalty and boosting your organization’s bottom line—is a tall order. Thankfully, marketers have several tools and resources to help them succeed.
Here are three trends to include in your marketing campaigns this year:
1. Use cause marketing and take a stand.
Steve Radick, senior vice president and senior director at Burson Cohn & Wolfe, says more organizations are embracing cause marketing to “have a positive impact not only on their business, but on society as a whole.”
In September, Nike drew criticism, but also overwhelming support, for its ”Believe in something” campaign that featured Colin Kaepernick. Other organizations, including Airbnb, Ben & Jerry’s, Proctor & Gamble and PayPal have spoken out on social and political issues, whether woven into marketing messages or in response to PR crises.
A 2018 Sprout Social study revealed that 66 percent of consumers want brands to take stands on societal issues, so the trend will only continue to grow.
However, Radick says speaking out does not ensure your organization will grab respect and bolster its brand. Make sure your stance makes sense with your organization’s voice and history, or it might come across as an insincere attention stunt.
…[W]e’re going to see more manufactured causes that look great in advertising but lack any authenticity. Brands interested in taking a stand on something would be well-served to start doing some investigative reporting of its own to discover if they’ve got any legs to stand on. Because if they don’t, the public certainly won’t be shy about digging into your past to find something that contradicts that shiny new campaign.
2. Develop integrated content that spans departments.
Content marketing and PR pro Jess Hodkinson says that marketers are moving toward more integrated content, placing an emphasis on collaboration and using articles, videos and more for multiple purposes.
“Content marketing isn’t just about creating a new content hub and posting at least twice a week, but looking at how an entire business runs, and assessing content across all verticals,” Hodkinson says.
The drive to create versatile content affects search engine optimization efforts—highlighting another reason to embrace the trend. As Google and other search engines rank valuable content higher in search results, marketers should focus on crafting content that answers consumers questions.
Content should also enhance the customer experience—which can be made easier through collaboration.
This could be content that aids the sales team with their jobs, right through to content that ties in with the wider comms planning. To make it more sticky and achieve business goals, brands will now need to look at investing in it on a long term basis, rather than using the test and forget approach. An integrated customer experience can only happen when marketing teams are working cross-functionally rather than competing, so silos need to be broken down and a mutual understanding is required for content success.
3. Create brand experiences.
Marketing consultant Joe Cox agrees that content and other marketing efforts should be aimed at the customer’s interaction with the organization. He says that 2018 was “the year of the branded experience” and points to successful entertainment campaigns such as Marvel Entertainment’s “Deadpool” and HBO’s “Westworld.”
The trend will continue to grow in 2019, with organizations such as Disney Parks launching experiences that include the “Star Wars”-themed addition, Galaxy’s Edge.
By focusing on these experiences, marketers can make more powerful connections with consumers and bolster their brand—another crucial marketing element many seek to strengthen.
“For years, digital marketing has gotten most of the love (and budget) as organizations shifted emphasis away from the nebulous and hard-to-measure world of branding,” Brad Plothow, vice president of brand and communications for Womply, says.
Plowthow points to several reasons online marketing’s popularity: Campaigns are easier to measure, efforts often have a direct effect on an organization’s bottom line and executives can easily understand digital marketing successes—placing bigger emphasis (and budgets) on creating more.
However, the growing mountain of digital marketing content makes grabbing attention harder than ever.
“We’re reaching a saturation point where a highly efficient digital marketing program has become table stakes instead of a differentiator,” Plothow says. “As a result, the pendulum will shift toward building a great brand as the best way to stand out.”
Branded experiences can be an excellent way to grab attention. With the growing rise of using virtual and augmented reality tools to enhance marketing messages and put consumers in the driver’s seat, marketers from several industries will look at integrating experiences into their campaigns.
“We’ll see larger and more integrated approaches from brands outside of the entertainment world,” Cox says.