6 Marketing Trends of 2018 as Seen by Portada

What: A recap of the most important trends in the marketing industry in 2018, including digital content marketing. As seen through the eyes of Portada: What went right? What did we learn?
Why it matters: With one foot in the next year, it’s time to evaluate the paths we took in 2018. We need to see what knowledge and best practices can help us ride the trends in 2019.

Back in 2017, we thought about how to prepare for the new trends the new year would bring us. Last December, experts in marketing and digital content marketing made their predictions public. We started the new year with our hopes high, ready to face the future. Marketing leaders dealt with disruption and emerging technologies. They promised to mature beyond their initial hype. As the year unfolded, we saw those predictions become true. As a result, marketers found different ways to manage the new opportunities each trend brings.

In this recapitulatory article, we take a look at some of the paths marketing and digital content marketing took us in 2018. So far, one thing is certain: the more we evolve, the more we learn. It is time to take a glance over our shoulder. We need to be ready to welcome 2019 with the best possible tools.

1. Artificial Intelligence and Digital Content Marketing

We’ve been hearing for a while about how AI is getting more sophisticated. Brands are adopting AI-powered solutions. They have found it to increase user engagement. However, “Integrating AI with a site’s chat box or Facebook messenger will require perhaps even more creativity and understanding of the brand’s target market,” predicted in February Amanda Hinski, CMO at YMCA, for Forbes. “AI still has to address customer needs and problems just as aptly as a human agent. It helps if the AI experience delights customers in a fun and lighthearted manner.”

In 2018, the ways intelligent machines can help marketers and advertisers multiplied. Through AI technology companies, several brands are already using smart systems and devices. They deploy them for things such as accurate customer segmentation. They also use them for improved customer interactions. “We can’t even imagine where technology will be taking us,” said to us earlier this year Bruno Lambertini, CEO at Circus Marketing. “Data combined with AI and Robotics, with a boost from 5G connectivity, is an explosive combo that opens a thousand opportunities in the world of marketing and communications.”

AI helps numerous brands to enhance their marketing. Actually, most of us interact with AI every day and marketers are increasingly betting on it. Entertainment platforms such as Netflix and Spotify use AI to provide unique, personalized recommendations to its consumers; in fact, about 80% of the content viewed on Netflix is chosen through the algorithm recommendations. Another brand that has pioneered in the use of AI and AR is Sephora. It has its virtual assistant that gives makeup recommendations to its users. BMW, Campbell’s, Hilton, Dior, Lowe’s, Nordstrom, Skype, Levi’s, Taco Bell, Apple, Under Armour… Chatbots are everywhere; according to an infographic by 16 Best, they will power 85% of sales interactions by 2020.

AI Continues to Grow

Recently, Samsung announced it will invest US $22 billion in AI, 5G, and AutoTch, and just last week, Honda launched its new virtual sales-assistant on Facebook Messenger. If these examples weren’t enough, let’s remember how in November Lexus launched the first ever ad commercial written by an AI machine.

Jivox, a marketing technology company, recently announced the launch of two new AI capabilities. They offer brands a first-ever fully personalized customer experience across all paid and owned digital channels. That includes social media, native, display, video, and mobile advertising, and the brand’s email and website. We’ve been interacting with AI for some time, but as most marketers know, we are just starting to discover how much it can really do. And in spite of how we could be afraid of machines, the truth is they help us do better marketing. In the words of Rishad Tobaccowala, Chief Growth Officer at Publicis Groupe, “Because of AI, certain things that machines can do better will be done by machines. But but people plus machines have been found to be better than machines in most cases. The human touch is the difference.”

2. Multicultural Marketing

After marketing crises such as Pepsi and Kendall Jenner‘s failed ad last year, voices all over had a lot to say about diversity. They talked about the correct way to address multicultural audiences. As obvious as it may sound, not every brand knows that ethnic groups should be talked to in ways tailored according to their cultural nuances. As a result, we reached throughout the year to several experts in multicultural marketing in order to find out what is obvious and what is not.

The first thing they all agreed on was that, since the US population is increasingly multicultural, everyone should be doing multicultural marketing. “Looking at the US population current data, as well as the projections, I’d be hard-pressed to believe there are many businesses that wouldn’t benefit from multicultural marketing,” observed Marissa Fernandez, Marketing VP at the NFL, a couple of months ago.

“Multicultural marketing is no longer an afterthought or checked box. It has become a key strategy for business growth,” explained along these lines John Sandoval, Senior Brand and Latino Marketing Manager at Intuit. “It’s time for brands to acknowledge this diversity as well. As long as you have customers purchasing your products, you should be considering multicultural marketing.”

Difficult Path

However, it’s not that easy. Some businesses limit themselves to translating a general market campaign into another language. Or they have an influencer that doesn’t really fit talking about a product. In order for multicultural marketing to work, you need to know who you’re targeting. And as a result, you also need to make sure the connection is real. In the words of Albert Thompson, Digital Strategist at Walton Isaacson, “Consumers are very smart, they can look at a brand and they can tell immediately if it’s for them or not. They may not know if it’s exactly the best for them, but they do know when it is not for them. You have to know you’re being scrutinized or evaluated as to whether you make sense to that person… specifically, they would ask themselves, ‘Do you make sense to spend my heart and money against?”

As the diversity of the consumer market keeps increasing, more and more brands realize that establishing real connections with multicultural consumers is no longer an option, but a must. Everyone has seen the numbers: minority buying power in the U.S. is growing more quickly than the white consumer market, to the extent that the white population in America will constitute only 44% of the total population by 2060, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. 29% will be Hispanics.

On September 25, members of the Agency Star Committee got together in a panel to discuss how multicultural insights make general market initiatives more effective. Their answer is simple: “The buyer out there is multicultural, there’s no way around it,” declared David Queamante,SVP, Client Business Partner, UM Worldwide. “If you’re going to focus on the non-ethnic half of the population, you’re going to miss the mark, period. If you’re not incorporating a multicultural media mix, you’re trying to move the needle but you’re only pushing on half of the audience.”

3. Direct-to-Consumer Brands

Direct-to-consumer brands formed an important trend that grew in 2018. It pretty much exploded in the last years. Big companies like P&G aren’t growing so much as they used to because of these brands that don’t need any intermediaries to reach the consumers. This helps the interaction and engagement a great deal, since consumers feel like the brand actually listens to them.

survey by Diffusion and YouGov has revealed that 81% of US internet users said they would buy at least one item from a D2C brand in the next five years. More specifically, 36% said they would make 1% to 19% of their purchases from D2C brands in the next five years. Convenience was the leading motivator; 27% perceived buying D2C brands as easier than going to a traditional store.

Attraction of DTC Brands

DTC brands are so attractive and successful that Unilever purchased the Dollar Shaving Club, a brand that allowed male consumers to receive economical, stylish razors at home without having to pay for a pricey Gillette razor. After Gillette’s market share fell from 70% to 54% from 2016 to 2017, it decided to launch its own on-demand, direct-to-consumer products. Another example is Covergirl, another brand that has decided to face its DTC competitors full on. After 57 years of selling through retailers, there is now a 10,000 square-feet “makeup playground.” It is equipped with a host of state-of-the-art technology where consumers can test and try products, no intermediaries involved.

4. Voice Search

Voice-based devices are another technology that has been evolving in digital content marketing in the last years. According to Mark Browne, MarTech editor at Portada, Voice search increased by 35-fold between 2008 and 2016, but brands don’t have to re-invent the wheel to make sure they’re on top of consumers’ search results.

  • The smart speaker market spend is ballooning. It will grow from $4.3 billion last year to $23.3 billion in 2025, according to Allied Market Research.
  • Amazon’s Alexa led in revenues in 2017 but Apple’s Siri is expected to grow the fastest. More will be spent in North America on smart speakers than anywhere else in the world.
  • The biggest adopters of smart speaker technology are affluent educated millenials as well as young gen X and children, according to Global Market Insights.
  • More than 40-percent of adults “used voice search on a daily basis in 2016,” Forbes Magazine reports, noting that comScore predicts that “50 percent of searches will be voice-based by 2020.”
  • Most voice searches according to Forbes are also local. They put an emphasis on the ability of the search engine to deliver up local results.

Voice search poses the natural next step. But we see little direct advertising through voice assistants so far. When users make a voice search, smart speakers usually present only the first organic result. Smartphones may present more results, but still not as many as a manual search. Therefore, brands need to concentrate on SEO to identify the real keywords for digital content marketing in order to produce content that puts them among organic results.

5. Influencers and Digital Content Marketing

The panel had the presence of Yamile Elias, Leonardo Vargas, Giustina Trevisi, and José Camargo

During the last years, the trend of using influencers as a tool to amplify a campaign or digital content marketing message grew to a great extent. Vivian Baron, Founder and Creative Chairwoman of Band of Insiders explained at the Band of Insiders Breakfast at Portada Mexico. “It is no longer about the relationship with the media. It is about how we amplify our client’s message correctly. There’s great interest placed on influencer marketing. There’s also a great lack of knowledge around it.”

In spite of this lack of knowledge, many brands have tried to take advantage of the opportunity that influencer marketing represents. Unfortunately, not everyone succeeds. “Digital platforms are so strong today that influencer marketing can have a hugely negative effect,” Baron said. “It should be taken very seriously.”

Getting it Right

However, it’s very easy to get influencer marketing wrong. After surveying more than 4,000 European respondents about influencer marketing, a report by Bazaarvoice shows consumers are tired of the repetitive nature of the content. They don’t like the decreasing quality of posts. According to the study, 63% of online audiences feel that influencer content has become “too materialistic.” They say it is “misrepresenting real life.” Forty-nine-percent of consumers believe there’s a need for effective regulation. It’s needed to define stricter rules as well as best practices for content.

“When used superficially, the influencer marketing tool can lead to crises as the ones we’ve seen recently,” commented Vivian Baron. “Sometimes there’s a great potential but it doesn’t hold up. It’s very important to design a long-term strategy. It allows you to create a critical mass of loyal followers. This in an industry where loyalty is virtually non-existent.”



6. The Soccer Opportunity

The year 2018 was great for sports. Not only did we have the Winter Olympics in South Korea at the beginning of the year. We saw the most important media opportunity that a sports event can bring: the FIFA World Cup in Russia. No brand in its right mind would miss the digital content marketing opportunities in the tournament. Just after it started, the Chair of Portada’s Sports Marketing Board Joe Favorito prepared an analysis of certain brands using the World Cup to activate their products, such as Kellog’s, SleepScore, and Vivo were his cited examples of brands working closely together with soccer in order to achieve results.

As Jason Howarth, VP of Marketing at Panini, explained in a panel at Portada Los Angeles on May 10, the relevance of the Hispanic market was undeniable from the start. When they found out at Panini that team USA had been disqualified, he “realized we needed to seize all the other opportunities we knew would exist in the U.S.,” he said. “When you go around the country you see all the Messi and Ronaldo jerseys. You quickly realize the U.S. team is probably not the focus of most fans anyway.” He and other marketers knew that the biggest opportunity lay on the Hispanic consumer, who would be rooting for their origin country’s team.

Power of the World Cup

IKarina Dobarro spoke to us just before the tournament started. She is VP, Managing Director, Multicultural Brand Strategy at Horizon Media. “World Cup not only delivers reach and engagement of Hispanic fans. It delivers a level of cultural connection unparalleled to any other sports property. It will be key for brands to determine how to stand out from the crowd. They need to find an authentic way and be creative in finding touchpoints to capture Hispanic fans across devices and time zones.” And with everybody trying to stand out, creativity is really important.

“The lessons learned from World Cup activation and engagement continue to grow,” wrote Favorito after it was over. “The effective implementation of social campaigns tied to the games were in record numbers. Spanish language broadcasts in the U.S. drew solid audiences. That in spite of the fact that the U.S. did not qualify for the event. Many of the elite Spanish language countries exited a little earlier than expected. Still the drama and life displayed by first-timers like Peru and the continued growth and engagement of Mexico led to an even bigger bounce. It was bigger than what was expected. It made World Cup in Russia an overall global success, and not just in soccer, but in sports business.”