5 Branding & Marketing Trends for 2018

Most people simply could not wait for 2017 to be over. While it may have not been the best year overall *cough Donald Trump*, it gave us the opportunity to reflect on what was and what could be. On a whole, it was a year of filled with changes in the digital marketing space. We saw that Facebook was still king of social media and the preferred tool for marketers; but it also battled some bad press with its overhyped VR platform. We also saw an increase in live streaming content and platforms as well as with many marketers adding a YouTube channel to their marketing plans.

As you bade farewell to 2017, we’re sure you reflected on what your brand achieved last year and think about your strategy for 2018. To move forward, it’s best to take a step back and assess your overall brand performance for the year, identify areas you succeeded in and those where you could have done better. The best brands are agile and always evolving their strategies to fit with this digital age.

So while you continue to plan your branding and marketing strategies for 2018, here is our list of 5 things to focus on for 2018.

1. Better Engagement Matters

Let’s face it, nowadays Facebook organic reach is at zero. All content Facebook shows you on your profile is targeted specifically at you, making it difficult for companies to reach out to newer users and customers. Many companies are therefore looking at ways to improve their engagement with their target audience rather than increasing their reach.

The old “Quality over Quantity” adage holds true here as companies prefer to engage with their customer base using authentic content rather than manufactured ones. It’s like baking a cake from scratch versus one from a box. Which one tastes better? Branding and marketing needs to consider two-way marketing as consumers have a bigger voice than ever before. RapidKL did this when the MRT Line was launched. They posted on Facebook more frequently and asked for feedback from their riders. They can also be quite sassy in their posts but this gets a reaction from their audience which is what they are looking for.

Another hindrance to organic reach is the cost. You can still reach out to a wider audience base but you need to pay. The more you pay, the more reach you will have. But with organic reach being non- existent, is this really the best strategy? This is not feasible for everyone; especially not startups and smaller companies whose advertising budget is rather small. In this tough economy, the better bet is to go for marketing content that provides you good bang for your buck, including utilising free social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter. You could benefit from ‘micro transactions’ and not dump your whole marketing budget on one ad campaign but rather break it up into smaller ad campaigns targeted at certain demographics. This way you can get a wider reach and gain real engagement from your audience and followers. Which bring us to our second point.

2. Streamline Your Channels

You need to balance your multichannel approach in marketing and serving customers provide an integrated and streamlined brand experience no matter how a customer reaches out to or find you. As a business, you should already have a website and a Facebook page; these still matter. But as the divide between generations and social media grows smaller, it would do your business well to be visible on all the social media channels. Obviously you will figure out which is the best for your business but don’t discount having both a Facebook and Instagram account as this allows for a wider reach for your customer base. McDonald’s Malaysia is an example of this. Their utilisation of social media includes an official website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and a delivery app.

In this day and age, it’s not just youths who have a Facebook page or a YouTube channel. Again, with the ever present smartphone, and multigenerational influence, even older people (think grandparents) have an Instagram account or a Facebook page. We have also noticed a trend where many distinguished leaders open a LinkedIn account. Why? Because it pays to be on all social media platforms. Multichannels will allow you to customise content based on your audience or channel. You could do a short ad snippet on Instagram and a longer story-like post of Facebook. Experiment small, then double-down on what works for you!

3. Technology Empowering Better Location-based marketing

Companies need to leverage on technology to harness location and time-based demands and behaviours. There are many apps that use our location to market things to us. Although digital marketing has been around for a couple of decades now, location based marketing has only started picking up the last couple of years. A good example to use here would be Waze. We’re pretty sure most of you know about Waze and have even used it so you would surely have noticed ads popping up for the petrol station or coffee shop along your journey. Waze and even games like Pokemon Go are lucky in the sense that its users voluntarily contribute data which makes the apps quite accurate and therefore more user-friendly.

Some things you should consider for this point would be knowing online and offline local area marketing as well as space and time patterns of the app users. This will help determine the best periods for marketing your products and services to the public and help you become the best in town at what you do.

4. On-Demand Content/Services Expected by Customers

We live in an era where literally everything is at your fingertips and everyone has a smartphone. So, on-demand content should be on a marketers radar. Youth are using their mobile phones to order food, cosmetics, get a GrabCar and even to watch the latest series and movies. To better engage with your target market, you need to be able to provide useful content that is always available on multiple channels, you need to be able to produce content quickly as well as remain culturally relevant. A good example is the mushrooming of DIY channels on YouTube such as Nifty and home cooking shows like Tasty. Their parent company Buzzed saw that a lot of its users liked videos which showed useful DIY content so they created their own line of DIY channels.

Let’s not forget the mushrooming of On-Demand Services too. Need to get somewhere but can’t drive or don’t have a car? That’s where Uber and Grab come in. Want something to eat but don’t want to go out and get it? Foodpanda to the rescue! There are even concierge companies like GoGet and Lazybum who will literally help you get your errands done; even if it’s just getting you a slice of Raspberry Ripple cake from a bakery far from home. These services capitalise on convenience for their clients; after all why bother picking up your laundry if you don’t have to? On-Demand means just that though – so if you are expanding your business to include an on-demand option, you need to be available 24/7 (via customer service or a helpline). It’s best to choose a niche platform and create unique experiences for your customers. We expect more of these types of services to open up in 2018 since people seem to be getting lazier by the day.

5. Partnership/Influencer Marketing Becoming Mainstream

Influencer marketing is basically a modern type of ‘word-of-mouth’ marketing. Get a famous person to push your products or services and your audience reach is tremendous – depending of course, on who the influencer is. Popular brands are willing to pay big bucks to get a famous YouTube or Instagram influencer to do an ad for them. For this to work for you, you need to find influencers with tribes that are relevant to you or co-brand with complementary partners. You don’t want just anyone to push your product!

There is a noticeable shift in how the general public searches for reviews of everything from books to movies to facial creams. There seems to be less trust placed in traditional ‘expert’ reviews and more on social media. Case in point being the latest Star Wars movie. Although it has an excellent score on Rotten Tomatoes, it seems to have been a disappointment to many Star Wars fans and has seen Disney and Lucasfilm defending the movie. This is just one way that the general public can influence a product.

In the next year expect to see a shift as Influencers come up with their own products rather than promote an outside brand. We have noticed more and more famous influencers recognising the potential millions they could earn from marketing their own brand of hijab or whitening product so why hawk someone else’s? We can point to Neelofa as the perfect example. She has earned way more from the sales of her headscarves than she did from her initial TV appearances. She is a true celebpreneur – using her status and celebrity to influence her target audience to buy her product. Her recent appointment as Director of Air Asia is proof of her prowess. But she is not without flaws; recently she came under fire for seemingly endorsing beauty pills to infants! It would be best to ensure any influencer you work with fits in with your brand and is savvy enough to be able to get you and your product noticed for all the right reasons and avoid controversy.

Also worth mentioning is Instagram star FaizDickie and YouTuber Mat Luthfi. FaizDickie gained a massive following just by cultivating various personas such as Kak Leha, Sarabanon and Naebella (to name a few!) in various everyday situations. His parodies really resonated with his audience and he even has a special term for his followers – Village People. Mat Luthfi on the other hand, found fame via YouTube by posting videos aimed at youths covering issues such as how to deal with exams and attending a job interview. Both these social media stars have also gained various sponsorship deals as their following grew and marketers saw their massive reach. Of course this leads to the chicken-and-egg issue- which came first, the entrepreneur or the celebrity? In the end though, does it really matter, if your influencer is getting you the clicks and sales.

So these are the points we will be keeping an eye out for in 2018. From a local perspective, Malaysian are gearing up for General Elections in 2018. These elections will have a huge impact on Branding and Marketing and you will see politicians from both sides using social media platforms to reach out to the masses. There will be lots of engagement with potential voters on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook but lets hope no one starts tweeting at 3 am from the toilet (again, cue Donald Trump!).

It will be the third elections where social media and Branding and Marketing is being used to woo voters and we are definitely curious to see what technology and platform each party will focus on.

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