Penquin MD, Veronica Wainstein, takes a look over her shoulder at what worked and what didn’t in 2018, and gazes into the crystal ball for 2019’s marketing trends...
Every day seems to move at lightning speed and 2018 already feels like a distant memory. It was a great year for brands and people and in order to look forward into 2019, I first wanted to capture a few moments and trends that I saw emerging from the past.
Authenticity and vulnerability were two themes that dominated the media landscape. From everyday people, to celebrities, to media and for brands.,transparency was clear across the board and no one could hide from anything.
With social media bringing out both the best and the worst in people, there was a big focus on standing up to be heard and challenging people and brands to do better. Campaigns like the #MeToo movement that was initially coined by Tarana Burke in 2006, started to rise at the end of 2017 and hit a media frenzy in 2018. Women and men showed their vulnerable side and society was forced to face up to sexual harassment in the workplace.
Brands like KFC ran out of chicken, Enterprise products were recalled and who can forget the fiasco of Lady Doritos? Nike came under fire for their political ad campaign, and the Twitterverse was once again banned together with the ‘What would you do if all men had a 9pm curfew?’
Controversy is not a theme that is taboo any longer. People and brands are in the spotlight and we are no longer shying away from naming and shaming.
Because of this, we are forced to be that much more transparent – which I believe is a really good thing. We can no longer live in a world where we are permanently shiny and sparkling - the real truth is sometimes ugly and that’s ok. We can’t be perfect all the time, but if we make mistakes, then take to the stage and own that shit. Many brands - and KFC being one of them - totally owned their disaster. They did it in a humorous and honest way that can only bring a smile to your face and easily forgive any inconvenience it may have caused.
Celebrities and influencers are now also being held accountable for their endorsements of brands. The recent Netflix documentary Fyre was for me a pivotal moment in understanding why brand ambassadors need to be authentic in their engagements. Now I know that the organisers of the Fyre Festival conned not just the celebrities, but also staff onsite and offsite as well as the general public and brands at large. However, this was one example of celebrities being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to Tweet or Instagram a post for the event showing their support. Bottom line, if you don’t have all the info, have proper documentation/contracts in place and don’t 100% buy into the concept or brand and wouldn’t even consider buying or recommending it to friends and family, then don’t put your name to it. We can’t be conning consumers into believing our recommendations are authentic if we wouldn’t take cash out of our own pockets to buy.
So let’s talk about 2019 then shall we.
Lets be honest
I truly get giddy with excitement about how honest we can now be about brands. We’ve spent so many years trying to portray an image of perfection and now we have an environment that demands honesty. People want to engage, they want to feel a part of it, they want to be heard and they want to know that there is action off the back of their comments.
Brands that open their arms up to this conversation will dominate the media landscape for 2019. My business partner/mentor/friend Darren Leishman recently highlighted to me that the power currently sits with the consumer and the only way for the ‘sellers’ to balance the playing field is to be listening and helping – not selling and closing deals, but opening relationships!
Having attended Websummit2018 in Lisbon last year, I got to see first hand how advanced the rest of the world is on the tech front. It was overwhelming to see how many tech startups there are and how technology is improving human life every day. I preached quite thoroughly at the end of the year that we should be embracing the bots and what they have to bring to our lives to make it all more convenient. Personal AI assistants, Marketing Bots, Smart Houses and more are just a few examples of how AI and machine learning are revolutionising the way we live.
The beauty of living on the ass-end of Africa is that we have exposure to all these new technologies without the mass expense of having to do all the research and development. Our opportunity is to gather all the intel and make use of existing tech to better our lives, how we engage with each other and how we use the tools to better serve our customers. We don’t have to invent the wheel, we just have to learn how to change the tyre to best fit our needs. Get on board, go to conferences, do the research, there are remarkable developments out there, just waiting to be launched locally.
DATA DATA DATA
We have been hearing this preached to us for a couple of years now and today we have access to so much information it sometimes feels overwhelming. I truly believe that the data is useless unless you have some pretty smart people to sift through the rubbish and analyse the valid insights you can use to propel your business forward.
Do yourselves a favour – whether you are a brand or an agency, invest in strategic data analysts. You have to find the people that love nothing more that trawling through heaps of data to find a handful of gems. We can’t continue to try and be everything to everyone. We need our communication to be more focused – this means less is more. We only need a couple of really good insights to make the magic happen.
The second part to that is that your strategy and creative should be joined at the hip. There has been an ongoing debate of whether the strategy should lead the creative or the creative should lead the strategy. It’s a bad case of chicken and egg and the crux for me is that the two actually work best in tandem.
If you are using the insights from the data effectively, then ‘cracking the big idea’ should be a combined effort for both strategy and creative. We should no longer be working in silos. Collaboration breeds great ideas – the simple old saying of ‘two brains are better than one’ applies. So get close, get real, park the ego’s and come up with something brilliant… together.
The same principle of collaboration applies for me on this. I see 2019 being a big year for brands to continue pushing the content creation and partnering with the right media owners is key to getting your message out there. A one size fits all for media no longer applies! Media owners need to be prepared to change from standard commercials to more inventive campaigns.
Media owners should be getting involved far sooner in the strategic and creative process. We shouldn’t be trying to retrofit a concept into a 30 second commercial or 4 x 3 billboard. We need to be designing and creating concepts around the media type. If this means that media owners need to be employing more creative and strategic people to brainstorm with brands and agencies, then do that. Again, I refer back to the principle that the consumer (in this case the brands and agencies) have the power and the only way to shift that is to ALWAYS BE HELPING. I know that personally I am more likely to buy into a media campaign if it is just that… a campaign. An idea, a concept, a burst of creative and strategic genius. If it’s good enough, you don’t have to sell it to me, just shut up and take my money, but you are gonna have to really apply yourselves further than just emailing me a rate card.
Be savvy with your marketing budget
The days of endless marketing budgets are gone, so agencies have to justify every single investment made. What this essentially means for media agencies is that the days of bulk package purchases are gone. Media strategists will have to plan in such a way that every single spot maximises reach to the correct target audience. This means a lot more granular data analysis in media teams. It isn’t good enough anymore to plan on the demographics of a channel, you will need to plan on the demographics of each and every single spot. Agencies who fail to maximise on media budgets will start to lose clients to agencies who don’t simply act as a middlemen between the media houses and clients. Media agencies should add value by combining in-house data with that of media research companies and planning accordingly.
So that’s a sum up of what I believe is in store for us for 2019, but I would love to hear your thoughts and if there are any other topics you would like to discuss and unpack with me, then drop me a mail or give me a call… I’m always up for a good debate.
Roll on 2019!
If you want to understand how this will effect your business, set up some time, and let's see how we can help you achieve your goals.
Penquin MD & Communication strategist