Every year around this time we all step back to reflect and look forward. Moving into the New Year here are the five digital marketing trends shaping the future of marketing in 2018. Buckle up; we’ve got a lot to cover. 


  1. The Future of Marketing is Contextual

    It’s unfathomable to think a company spent 1/190th of the advertising budget of their closest competitor and outsold them by 3X, but that’s just what Tesla did. Mercedes Benz is an advertising powerhouse, yet was outdone by something more powerful, context. While Mercedes Benz was telling the world to buy their cars, Telsa was having a conversation about living fossil fuel free. That allowed them to break through, and drive sales without the need for advertising. 

    Advertising is designed to distract away from the consumer's task at hand, while context seeks to match it. To see the power of context look no further than Facebook. Each time you log on to Facebook there are over 1,000 posts awaiting you, yet their algorithms only show you the ones contextual to you to the moment. This is why we've seen organic reach on social media decline below 1%. Without context to the moment, there is no way our messages will make it through. Context is the future of marketing because consumers demand it, the new media environment supports it, and it is proving to be a much greater driver of consumer action than advertising. 


  2. Purpose becomes the heart of marketing 

    The next mega-trend shaping the future of marketing in 2018 is the notion of Purpose. High performing marketing leaders say they’ve become more focused on purpose-driven marketing. Top marketers are 2.2x more likely than underperformers to leverage purpose-driven methods. The reason is simple, consumers demand it. Recently I worked with a team of researchers at the Economist and found 79% of consumers prefer to purchase products from a company that operates with a social purpose (data to be published by the Economist Insights Team early 2018). Purpose-driven marketing is a holistic approach to growth and the new heart of marketing.

    While traditional marketing tells about products and services, purpose-driven marketing is contextual by aligning with conversations our audience cares about past just our products. Just as Tesla did with the conversations about moving away from fossil fuels, brands like Cotopaxi are aligning with their consumers by supporting social issues such as healthcare, and sustainable living. Cotopaxi uses their platform to talk about improving the welfare and education of their workers and those in their supply chain. This aligns with their eco-conscious adventure bound customers by focusing on improving the world, not just selling more products. They are happy to read about why Cotopaxi uses Lama wool, and their efforts to save the farmers of Peru. 

    With purpose driving the conversations Cotopaxi is able to create authentic experiences their consumers are looking for allowing them to break through in the highly competitive outdoor sports arena. As a result, they sold over $900k of a single sweater in under 30 days, then repeated this success with a backpack a few months later! Profits of business must be expanded to included stakeholders such as employees, and our communities. This change how we view the profits of the business allows brands to relate to their worlds in new and powerful ways, allowing them to break through where other methods can’t. Marketing of the future must have a heart. 


  3. The Future of Public Relations is Participatory  

    Social media upended the notion of publishing, and only slightly the notion of public relations. Our new contextual notion of marketing also opens up the doors to the future of public relations and shows us the power of participatory propaganda. The traditional idea of public relations is about controlling the narrative by controlling the press, however, our modern world shows that collective engagement to be a more powerful ploy at narrative setting than publication. The future of PR is participatory.

    Alica Wanless is the queen of Participatory Propaganda and has shown this to be the key reason Brexit, Trump, and ISIS have been so successful as of late. To see the power of participation we don’t have to look any further than the 2016 US presidential election. Following the election, if you were to search for “Election Results” the first result on Google was a fake news story stated falsely that Donald Trump had won the popular vote. This article had over 325 backlinks, hundreds of comments, and over 450,000 shares on Facebook. The CNN “Election Results” page on the other had only had 300 backlinks, no comments, and 1/10th of the shares on Facebook. CNN was hands down the more powerful publication, with a reach of millions. The fake news site was a bottom rung publication, yet via engagement it was able to change the narrative. 

    The future of narrative control lies in driving engagement with an audience. It is from this engagement modern channels take their queues, placing participation as the key to the future of public relations.


  4. The Future of Marketing Automation is More

    When I wrote Marketing Automation for Dummies back in 2013 automations only took place across two main channels email and your website. At the time there were limited data sources (CRM, Website, MAP) and one execution point, the marketing automation platform. In the 2016 the State of Marketing Report we found the best in class marketing organizations use 14 tools on average and creating cohesive customer experiences requires integration and automation across dozens of channels, data sets, and applications. The future of marketing requires us to see automations across this hyper-connected network, and not just with in our marketing automation tools. This is marketing automation 2.0.

    A traditional marketing automation platform ingests data, and executes via email or the website. This limits its possible automations to be run off of a small segment of your total data, and only execute on two of dozens of channels. In a recent conversation with David Dorman, Director of Growth at Digital Ocean, he explained this very issue to be one of their greatest challenges with their traditional marketing automation platform. 

    To solve the issue Doorman added two new tools Tray.io, and Segment to his marketing stack. Now Digital Ocean has full access to their back end data, with the ability to segment and automate actions with in Tray.io which are not possible with in their marketing automation platform. Such as identifying key usage trends of a customer and alerting sales via slack of any changes. Digital ocean can now go as far as identifying a key customer within their app, automatically pop up a net promoter score survey, and take action on that result via any channel instantly.

    Digital Ocean is not alone. In the “State of Marketing,” Salesforce Research we found the strategic use of tech innovations delivers positive results. For example, 85% of high-performing marketing teams that are implementing loT-based marketing rate their results as effective or very effective at helping their company to create a cohesive customer journey.

    The future of marketing is about creating contextual experiences. To create these we have a greater idea of marketing automation past the walls of the marketing automation platform like Digital Ocean has. The future of marketing automation is now taking place across a hyper connected network of apps, tools, and data far exceeding the idea of marketing automation from just a few years ago. 


  5. The Future includes Chatbots 

    In the 2017 State of Marketing report we found High performing marketing leaders  say one third of their budget is spent on channels they didn’t know existed five years ago — and they expect that to reach 40% by 2019. With the rise in channels, it becomes very hard to manage all of these one to one communications manually. Enter one of the major digital marketing trends of the decade: the ChatBot. 

    According to a 2017 study done by Myclever, over 70% of consumers prefer to engage via Chabot rather than an app. The study also showed consumers see chat bots are the fastest way to get content, help, and the answers to their questions. The future of marketing is experiences, and consumers see Chatbots as a positive way to better experiences with brands.  

    In a recent conversation with AdRoll’s head growth hacker Brendon Ritz he told me Chatbots now accounts for almost half of their demo requests. Jay Baer has even begun using a Chabot to communicate with his audience. Jay and his team are seeing almost a 10X increase in open rates, and a 5X increase in click troughs via chatbot interactions over email.

    Chat bots also are also benefiting from the marketing automation 2.0 framework. Data can now be combine from lots of different sources, analyzed, then directed back to any channel including Chabot’s. Since chatbots can engage with in social channels, applications, and websites they can provide a native, personal, authentic, and purposeful experience able to break through where other marketing methods can’t.

    The future of marketing in 2018 is hyper focused on context. To create these contextual experiences marketers must realize it will require a network of tools executing across many different mediums. If you want to dig deeper into these digital marketing trends the following slideshare goes deeper into each of these five mega trends shining more light on the future.

The Future of Marketing 2018 from Mathew Sweezey

Best of luck in the New Year, and may all of your experiences be contextual.