Weighing in on consumer marketing trends for 2018

By February 16, 2018 June 6th, 2018 No Comments

I was invited to participate in a panel of marketing industry executives who each provided their expectations for 2018.  Expert panelists weighed in on the macro environment, and evolution of the marketing industry as companies reshape their offerings to meet consumer wants and needs.  The needs to unite customer marketing with a brand’s ability to deliver experiences is one of the key consumer marketing trends on the horizon. My panelist response focused on how marketing teams and agencies need to help brands bridge the gap between customer promise and actual experience:

#BigQ2018: Ad agencies must keep customers coming back

by Julia Ahlfeldt

Gartner’s 2017/2018 CMO Spend Survey paints a sobering picture of traditional marketing efficacy and underlines the non-negotiable need for CMOs and their teams to deliver a higher ROI than in the past. This is in stark contrast to the ‘50% works, but no one’s sure which 50%’ sentiment which has dominated the ad industry for decades. Thanks to accessible analytics, clients now know what resonates with their customers and drives them to repeat buy.

Industry step-change

The implications are significant. Creative must work harder to bring in the bacon and justify value. Easier said than done. Industry excellence is founded upon the celebration of creativity, not the impact on the bottom line or what the customer wants. But times are changing. Publicis’s announcement last year that it planned to redirect award entry fees into digital development investment was a bold move and one that was widely supported.

Given the weight a Gold Lion brings to an agency’s creds, it will be telling to see how entrants remodel their work to deliver far more than the big idea and if the awards industry restructures to honour it.

Selling lemons

Being realistic is, in my opinion, a necessary step in the right direction. Highly engaging, expertly crafted ads create desire and aspiration among customers, and are easy on the eye, but do they set brands up to fail to deliver?

This isn’t the agency’s fault. Clients must take responsibility and give briefs that can be fulfilled at the till-point. There’s little more frustrating for a customer than being sold a Ferrari and getting a Honda.

In the banking industry, this is a major pain point. Not delivering on promises was the second-highest in volume complaint recorded in the annual 2017 Brandseye Banking Sentiment Index, averaging 24% of all conversation. Beautifully shot 30-second spots don’t hide long queues, faulty apps and poor service. These are a higher determinant of a customer’s satisfaction and likelihood of recommending the experience to friends and family than any impressions from ads.

View creativity through a financial lens

It’s certain that advertising budgets will be reviewed far more prudently going forward, with end-goals of briefs being first and foremost to deliver a viable return. And it’s likely that strategists and creatives who tackle new briefs through the customer’s eyes will have the advantage.

Working closely with data, aligning to sales and getting to grips with a business’s operations and customer experience (CX) strategy are essential for an ad agency to understand, especially now that retention receives double the marketing budget than acquisition (Gartner). But this requires upskilling in-house, educating staff on how to build long-term, profitable relationships with customers, and pursuing work that generates profits, not only positioning.

This will no doubt require a far more ruthless approach by both clients and their agencies as to where budget is allocated, and an account for each and every rand and cent spent. But the outcome will be in everyone’s interest: clients get more sales, agencies retain their income and, most importantly, the customer is happy and keeps coming back. Good for brand; good for business.

This article was originally posted on in February 2018. To learn more about how Julia Ahlfeldt helps brands keep pace with consumer marketing trends and thrive in the age of empowered consumers, click here

Julia Ahlfeldt

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