When I was thinking of writing on the topic - events and disruptions that changed marketing in 2017, I thought I should go back to examine what were the predictions of how marketing would change in 2017 and wanted to know if some or many of them came true at all!
As I scanned through various predictions, the ones that caught my attention were - marketing in 2017 would move to interactive content, adopt influencer marketing, use mobile video, embrace live streaming, use chat bots, create short-lived content, improve personalisation, adopt a mobile-first strategy, become purpose driven, use marketing automation, practice data-driven marketing, adopt IoT etc.
What was interesting here for me, was most of these predictions were around tools, techniques and methods and not how it will change or help the life of consumers and fit in to their needs – become more customer-centric. The predictions that came true were the ones that were centred around the consumer and ones that appealed to their heart and ones that were reimagined & rewired differently.
Here are examples of how some brands truly changed the marketing landscape around these trends. Let’s look at them one by one.
In 2017, Virat Kohli was not keen on endorsing Pepsi but a healthier brand. Never in the history of marketing has a sports person in India with such a name and fame – one who has millions of fan followers taken such a position. It meant giving-up brand endorsements worth several millions of dollars. Virat as a brand was highly conscious of what he stands for and what he believes in. In my view, his appeal amongst his fans went-up and so did his brand equity!
As marketers become more purpose-driven, true engagement with customers will begin to happen. There is a very thin line dividing ‘selling with belief’ and ‘selling without belief’. The new millennial consumers are looking for authenticity and believability in brands, to be engaged with them.
2. Data-driven Marketing
Burger King’s ‘Google Home of Whopper’ campaign was a brilliant imagination of integration between IoT devices and a brand. The fact that one could reimagine a TVC with an in-home device to build engagement with consumers is a great example of how marketing in the future needs to be seamlessly fused with technology in new ways.
Forever 21 ‘Like2buy’ campaign on Instagram was a great example of interaction and engagement. The Instagram Campaign had some lovely images of various products from Forever 21 and the consumers could click on the product to know more about it or how much it costs, and it took them to the Forever 21 product website directly. It was the called ‘Instagram’s missing link’ between product and consumer, from being a browser to a shopper to converting into revenue!
4. Chat Bots
What chat bots can do is to turn marketing into great customer service! Be it SBI’s SIA Chat bot or HDFC Bank’s Eva or ICICI Bank’s iPal or Birla Sunlife or Bajaj Allianz’s chat bots, marketing is now becoming conversations – between consumers & brands and the trend has just begun. With petabytes of data, the analytics that will sit on top of these conversations will drive insights like never before. Large scale adoption is still an issue but hybrid usage – inter-changeably between physical and digital experience will be key to its success in the future.
5. Influencer Marketing
Axis bank launched #AxisThoughtFactory, their digital lab for innovative technology solutions in the financial sector, using influential tech bloggers and it created a lot of buzz within the tech community. So, did OLA Prime time with some celebrities like Milind Soman, Narain Karthikeyan, Abish Mathew being a part of it and triggering a lot of excitement and conversations. There are not too many brands that have used influencer marketing well, but there are green shoots being seen in the horizon and brands will start to embrace them more and more.
So, what can we make out of marketing predictions of 2017?
The usage and adoption of the marketing trends, predicted in 2017, is not as widespread and scaled as yet. There are interesting cases here and there and some lovely examples but the hype cycle around the trends are yet to catch-up in India.
For example, marketing automation as a trend is hot, but the success of marketing automation begins and ends with great content. The need to intelligently use a platform-based approach, customer intelligence methodology & thinking needs to be married with some imaginative content to appeal to consumers. This has to be integrated with some interesting story-telling through analytics. There is a lot of be done here from the side of brands and marketers, if these trends need to become mainstream.
This requires a new breed of marketers who can combine business, technology and design. However, Indian consumers are moving faster – adopting every new technology or device that is coming their way. They are moving from ‘Prime Time’ to ‘My Time’- an astounding 2.3 million hours of watch time, with mobile devices accounting for 82% of the watch time. As per App Annie, every month, 180 million Indians are watching YouTube on the mobile.
Marketing in a VUCA world is increasingly getting complex every day. And 2017 was no exception. As more and more customers get digitally empowered, they will have more access to data, information and will also be more networked than ever before.
Marketers and brands therefore must change the levers of marketing to appeal to this increasingly discerning audience in 2018. The art of brand storytelling needs to be married to heart of marketing technology, if marketing wants to own the customer experience and the conversations.
(S. Swaminathan, is a co-founder and CEO of Hansa Cequity, a leading customer and data-driven marketing company.)