Four Marketing Trends to Watch in 2017

Four Marketing Trends to Watch in 2017

The ball has dropped, the glasses are being washed, and most of the confetti has been vacuumed up. Take off your party hats and what’s left? All of 2017, that’s what! For marketers, the challenge can be boiled down to this – how to be relevant and engaging without being obnoxious. A tall order to be sure, but let’s start by examining some of the trends experts agree should be on everyone’s radar this year.


#1       Smaller is Better

Big ad agencies will have their work cut out for them in the new year, as many brands now feel better served by boutique or specialized shops. This move away from industry goliaths was likely accelerated by the eye-opening Association of National Advertisers report highlighting a number of unsavory business practices. Without naming the guilty, the report described the existence of cash rebates, media mark-ups, dual rate cards and conflicts of interest – all generally undisclosed to the buyers.

Likely Reaction

There are two predictable reactions to the ANA revelations. First, large agencies might promote their creative teams as standalone, independent units that are not beholden to headquarters, possibly going as far as a rebrand under the corporate umbrella. Why not focus on the talent, rather than the history and the swanky address? Second, buyers will insist on more transparency and accountability from their agencies, no matter the size. Watch for contract audits and requests for additional documentation as long as existing agreements permit, and when it’s time to renew, these clauses will be on the table. All in all, the airing of this dirty laundry will ultimately be healthy for the industry and its participants.


#2       More Refined Measurement

Back in the dark ages of digital advertising (circa early 2000s), it was possible to easily manipulate the results of ad campaigns. But algorithms got smarter and eventually, computers grew frighteningly adept at sniffing out suspicious activity. However, human error (willful or accidental) still can occur, and depending on the scale, this can cast a shadow over an entire company. The most noteworthy example of late was Facebook, which announced errors measuring viewer audiences for three consecutive months in late 2016.

Likely Reaction

Kudos to Facebook for admitting that certain metrics were being overstated in their favor, but this shot across the bow of advertisers will certainly impact their actions, as they are under increasing pressure to justify ad spend. One immediate reaction has been that advertisers will rely less on Facebook data, preferring to gather their own or farm it out to “disinterested” third parties. Another could be a call for stricter, standardized industry definitions. What exactly constitutes a “view” anyway? With billions of dollars at stake, these questions will get answered.


#3       Zero-Based Marketing Budgets

If you see a connection between the first two trends and this one, you’re not alone. Zero-based budgeting is simply requiring marketers to justify all expenditures, rather than basing budgets on those from the previous year or some other (non-zero) baseline. It is commonly seen as a cost-cutting measure, and companies like Unilever and Diageo have admitted this publicly. But what do they really mean?


Is This A Bad Thing?

Marketing departments are no different from any other in that all must be accountable for their part in the success or failure of the company. If you were to receive a blank check in the mail and were invited to buy whatever you wanted, you know what would happen. But if the check came with strings attached (such as buy only what will improve the value of your house), you would be more careful and prepared to explain your reasoning. Still, this development has the power to change client/agency relationships dramatically. Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson even suggested that it could lead to companies paying agencies to pitch them!


#4       Ditch the Labels

Sure, everyone has heard of Millennials, Boomers, Gen X, and the like. But what do these labels mean? Do they describe specific attributes that are useful to advertisers, or are these monikers just shorthand for different age brackets? Increasingly, the labels are being seen as lazy marketing. Instead of saying “Millennials” (that is commonly defined as those born during the 17 year stretch from 1977-1994), why not be more specific? If you gather prospect/customer data with even a modest degree of accuracy, you already know exactly how old these folks are. That’s information you can use with precision.

Pinpoint Targeting

To effectively segment a population group, you must be able to identify them by common traits and behaviors, and they must be more homogenous than the adjacent groups. Is someone born in the late 1970s really the similar to someone born in the early 1990s? Not at all – we have so much data available to us now that arbitrary labels are meaningless. Instead of marketing to Boomers, we can market to suburban, multi-cultural, truck-driving families with parents in their 50s with three or more children participating in high school sports. That information is valuable to advertisers.


Back to Basics

Some marketers are calling 2017 the year that everyone gets back to basics. We will focus on better data collection, more transparent campaigns, clearer pricing, etc. This may turn out to be true, but keep an eye on these four trends. They are pretty basic as well, but also will make your marketing department run more efficiently and honestly. In 2017, these are great qualities for your brand.

Michael Ciota