Chug an honesty pill. Be as transparent as a ghost. Individualise the way you talk to your ‘targets’. Be able to overlay and understand performance data in real-time. And embrace evolving channels such as wearable tech.
Those are the fundamental ingredients for a brand to be successful in 2015, according to leading Australian marketers and communicators.
David Chenu, general manager of marketing services at Horticulture Australia, believes the next year or two is not about technology change – although he says that will still occur, even faster than currently – but will be more about style, substance and the essence of what is communicated.
“Consumers relish integrity and purity of communication,” Chenu says. “The integrity and honesty of brand communication will be the answer to resonate through continuing, confusing clutter.”
Jono McCauley, director of creative strategy at Elevencom, is in total agreement.
“In 2015, brands that ‘sell’ less and ‘do’ more will be the ones that pull ahead of the pack,” McCauley says.
“Consumer-controlled media filters out the sellers and takes notice of the doers. Doers are always innovating and solving real consumer problems in fresh and interesting ways. If the doing is clever enough, it sells itself.”
McCauley warns marketers should never underestimate their customers. “Living this strategy involves being totally transparent and surprisingly honest.”
2. Consumer power
The customer as an evolving, increasingly savvy and “highly empowered individual” is a theme reiterated by Gunjan Allen, marketing development manager at Airtrain.
“Today’s consumer has access to a wealth of information from numerous channels and that makes them more connected, but also more fragmented,” Allen says. “A brand needs to connect in that consumer’s world to be taken notice of. Brands will be welcomed into their consumer’s life if they’re on the same page and share the same thoughts, needs and ideals.”
Lynne Ziehlke, the market development manager at the Australian Macadamia Society, is also nuts about the customer.
“It’s a case of back to the future with the customer at front and centre as the hero,” she says. “Social media has made everything so transparent that the best thing you can do is have a great product and credible narrative.”
3. Data and content tools
But Gunjan Allen says marketers need to be highly informed about their customers if they’re to enjoy the necessary degree of intimacy.
“2015 will see marketers become a lot more sophisticated when mixing existing marketing tools with new emerging technologies,” she predicts. “Taking data from traditional research and overlaying it with data from social media comments, customer service feedback and observed digital behaviour.”
Pete Davis, national advertising and media manager at Sanitarium Health Food Company, can see 2015 being a year focused on integrating online behavioural data, customer insights, communications activity and purchase activity into automated marketing tools.
“These tools will not replace thoughtful marketing strategy and programs, but they will inform choices, measure results and hold performance as the benchmark of success,” Davis says.
“The lines will continue to blur between planning, creativity, media, engagement and customer service; and performance data will amplify strength and brutally expose weakness in real time.”
Jessica Byrnes, head of marketing and business development at check-in.com.au, agrees that optimising content performance will be crucial to ongoing success.
“With the continued rise in the power of digital influencers, marketers will need to adapt their strategies to effectively identify, connect with and monitor and optimise content performance,” she says.
“Tracking social shares and engagement, industry pick-ups and referral sources will be key to monitoring the performance of marketing programs and influencer partnerships.”
Byrnes predicts a continued increase in the power of digital influencers.
“Digital Influencers will become a more widely used and recognised resource for digital marketers. With influencers acting as an impetus to their audience, brands and marketers will learn to turn their efforts to specific individuals to connect with a new audience of potential buyers rather than their target market as a whole.”
5. Visual storytelling
Looking ahead, Gunjan Allen believes visual storytelling will take the concept of ‘storytelling’ to a whole new level.
“Technologies like Blippar will further enhance customer-brand interaction, creating videos and experiences to help achieve the cut-through that brands need,” she says.
“The clever marketers are also realising that media is now consumed on the go and the mobility of devices now allows brands to reach their consumers at the right time and at the right place – a trend that will continue to grow in 2015 and beyond.”
6. Wear it
Andrea Paterson, group marketing manager at Intuit Australia, says the cool kid on the block in 2015 will most definitely be wearables, such as Google Glass and Apple’s iWatch. And, like Allen, she is excited about evolving tech being able to target customers at appropriate times wherever they are.
“The opportunities for businesses to interact with their target audience 24/7, geolocated, and eventually with sensors to determine the mood state of the wearer, are staggering and scary in equal portions,” she says.
“With wearables, mobile has therefore taken an interesting leap back into marketing top of mind. Without this innovation, I see only modest change from smartphones, tablets and the mobile web.”
Unfettered access does come with a warning – be original.
“The last three years have been dominated by booming media fragmentation led by innovative digital channels and, more recently, spectacular content marketing,” Chenu says.
“Some advertisers have got ahead of the curve, others have just followed and copied – and the consumer knows the difference.”
Paterson also craves innovation, advising marketers to constantly grow and, simply, be better.
“Social media could be a rollercoaster with Facebook’s growth stagnating in many markets and upstarts like Ello nibbling away at their user base. Facebook’s safe for now, but we all remember MySpace…”
8. Don’t flout it
Which brings us to Paterson’s final piece of advice – don’t push your brand too flagrantly.
“Native advertising will likely continue virtually unabated, though this may also hasten its eventual demise if audiences lose patience with the extreme commercialisation of their news content.
“That said, with Outbrain’s growth curve still decidedly upwards, it is clear their algorithms are hitting the mark. Even if the ‘14 actors who you didn’t know were actually gay’ doesn’t interest you, stories just like it are luring clicks by the millions.”
Hmmm, here are ‘eight marketing trends you need to embrace for 2015’:
- accept consumers are now empowered and increasingly savvy
- appreciate that honesty and purity of communication is vital
- understand that action, not rhetoric, will attract and help retain customers
- develop automated marketing tools as a crucial means of measuring performance and setting benchmarks…in real-time
- don’t over-commercialise your offering or content
- don’t treat your market as a whole, but use different influencers and channels to engage customers on an individual basis
- embrace evolving tech, particularly wearables, to connect with consumers on the go
- don’t copy…innovate
Jackie Crossman is the managing director of Crossman Communications.