Market Well: How Brands Can Leverage The Top Marketing Trends Of 2017

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Our must-read column, Market Well, explores the key marketing strategies that are essential for the growth of a wellness business.

Every month, Vicky Ellison, who is also the Director of Marketing for Equinox in the UK, examines how brands can create and maintain a marketing campaign that connects with both their intended audience and potential investors.

Providing valuable insight into the methods, services, and tools needed for both new and established businesses to drive exposure and boost brand value, this month Vicky is reviewing the top marketing trends from 2017 and exploring how wellness brands can leverage them…..

2017 has been a year of dominant themes and surprising twists in marketing. As many trends look set to continue, let’s take a look at the year in review and the learnings we can take into the New Year.

Data & Personalisation

Driven by an emphasis on measurement, a need for personalisation to create effective communications and accountability as budgets tightened; the focus on data in marketing has grown over the last few years to become a key topic of 2017.

Under Armour is often considered to be at the forefront of data usage, seeing the potential to use technology to guide users of its various platforms towards physical improvement. This year the company became the world’s largest digitally connected fitness brand. The brand’s single view of the customer, a key strategic initiative, is allowing it to be highly personalised in everything from workout recommendations to apparel.

Read More: Under Armour Wants To Be A Dashboard For Health and Fitness

But, there is still a distance to go in the world of data use and marketing. Speaking to Marketing Week, L’Oreal’s CMO Stephane Berube explained how brands need to convince consumers of the benefits of sharing their data to allow for more personalised ads, which will lead to increased sales. He commented: “From an industry standpoint, we have not done a very good job [of explaining]why data can bring relevancy and more meaningful content,”

With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) being introduced next May, data is becoming an even bigger focus, as companies strive to be ready to provide more transparency around how they store and protect personal data.

This data conversation is certainly not going away anytime soon, as brands take their digital and data analytics capabilities in-hand to try and crack the data and personalisation code.

Brand Transparency

This year saw brands answer to consumers as the demand for transparency peaked.

As non-profit organisation Truth in Advertising filed complaints against Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop company for the Actress’s questionable wellness advice, while courts granted preliminary approval of the suit against Jessica Alba’s The Honest Company for deceptively marketing products as natural when they contain synthetic ingredients.

Samsung took out print ads apologising for exploding phones, Uber got its comeuppance after covering up breaches in data protection laws and poor corporate culture, and Facebook and Google’s measurement systems were exposed.

It started with the advent of social media giving consumers insight into brand worlds that weren’t previously available and has continued to a point where customers demand openness from the companies they interact with. The New Year is a good chance for brands to take heed from these cases and get their own houses in order.

Market Well: How Brands Can Leverage The Top Marketing Trends Of 2017

Image: The Honest Company

Ecosystem Brands & The Importance Of Physical Stores

Big brands are growing through acquisition. Apple has taken over 9 businesses this year including its latest deal with Shazam, and few could have missed the announcement of Amazon’s take over of Whole Foods.

The Whole Foods acquisition followed a series of pop-ups by Amazon and similar activations by digitally native brands like Google with its ‘Made by Google’ store in New York.

Brands aren’t just using these physical spaces for retail. As engagement and experience continue to be buzzwords of the year, having owned locations is allowing companies to interact with consumers in a fully sensory way.

Influencers

According to influencer agency Mediakix, brands spent over $1bn on Instagram influencers alone this year. In 2017, there has been a greater focus, however, on the return on this investment and the importance of adhering to industry regulations.

The last 12 months have seen some high-profile cases of influencer misalignment such as L’Oreal cancelling a contract less than 48 hours after it began with trans influencer Munroe Bergdorf, following a controversial blog post.

Mediakix highlighted the issues by creating two fake accounts and watching brand offers roll in to engage with their well-followed ‘influencers’.

2018 won’t see the influencer trend diminish, but it will likely call for more brand diligence.

Deeper Sponsorships

In a quest to be more authentic, brands have been working to deepen sponsorship arrangements.

Ishveen Anand, CEO of OpenSponsorship attributes the changes in sponsorships to the way that fans now consume sport through new channels. Following athletes on social media or watching games on YouTube and Facebook clips have given rise to content and engagement opportunities outside of the typical brand awareness tactics.

Gatorade showcased this by featuring Serena Williams with a baby in its empowering sisters in sweat video, and by hosting a recovery table of Gatorade drinks at her wedding.

For sponsorships to be effective, in 2018 we will continue to see more creative thinking in this space.

Sustainability & Purpose As A Marketing Message

In the face of relentless negative political news, 2017 saw brands putting out messages of hope and unity.

Perhaps the best-known example was Heineken’s ‘Worlds Apart ‘campaign, featuring unlikely pairs of strangers discussing their differences over flat-packed furniture assembly and a beer.

This escalation of cause-based marketing looks set to continue, as brands see the commercial advantage of connecting with consumers on an emotional level. Although not wholly attributable to its advertising, Heineken’s profits rose by a third through the first half of the year, despite some cynicism in the marketing world around whether its ad would lead to sales.

Following a report published by Unilever in January, revealing that a third of consumers choose brands based on their ethical and social impact; perhaps the cause that became most talked about this year is that of sustainability.

Nike introduced Flyleather, footwear made using reclaimed leather through a process that reduces water use by 90% with an 80% reduction in carbon footprints vs traditional methods. Adidas meanwhile, partnered with Parley to launch Ultra Boost trainers made from plastic found in the ocean. There are numerous examples, and certainly more to come.

Brands Trying To Keep Pace With Social

The pace of social change isn’t slowing and brands are clamouring to keep up.

From Snapchat to Instagram stories, brands are finding the best ways to engage while testing out new technologies, from customer service chatbots to social commerce.

This area of focus is set to grow as Gen Z are reportedly 2-3 times more likely to be influenced by social media than sales or discounts. According to a study by Fluent cited in AdWeek, 81% of Gen Z consumers report watching an hour or more of online video per day, opening up a large area of opportunity for brands if they can successfully connect with this growing group of potential customers.

Brands are still working to penetrate dark social, and as online hangouts become more commonplace with apps like group video chat Houseparty gaining huge traction, this will be an area to watch in 2018.

Market Well: How Brands Can Leverage The Top Marketing Trends Of 2017

Image: RXBAR Facebook

Wellness Infiltration Of Other Markets

One thing is for sure, wellness is sticking around. From hotel groups like the Intercontinental group launching EVEN hotels in Asia, promising to ‘keep travellers healthy’, to Kellogg acquiring protein-bar company RXBar for $600m – companies that weren’t previously linked to wellness are moving into the space.

Tapping into the consumer trend for self-improvement, Neom launched a series of Wellbeing schools in its UK stores, while across the pond, Target launched Target Takeoff, an accelerator programme designed to help wellness focussed startups.

The examples are endless and set to continue, let’s see what 2018 brings.

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