As 2019 sprints out of the starting blocks, we’ve shared some thoughts on the trends for the year ahead. We’ve tried to avoid shiny predictions of the future, instead focusing more on practical developments that marketers can sink their teeth into now.
News and world events will continue to provide a dramatic and uncertain backdrop for business and consumers alike.
Business leaders will find it increasingly difficult to focus purely on the business of business in isolation of these wider events. Brexit is a case in point as companies struggle to prepare for the multiple contingencies this presents.
Don’t let a good crisis go to waste
More companies will respond to these events by launching business solutions that ease the burdens these issues present. For example, expect to see a rash of Brexit friendly products and services launch throughout 2019 in areas such as recruitment, travel and beyond – a holiday village in Cornwall is already offering visa-free vacations!
As a result of all this uncertainty, consumers will look to brands they can trust to provide clarity and reassurance. After all, brands have always been a simple way of guiding consumers to products, services or content they can trust.
Our What Works Where research in 2018 showed that a combined 94% of marketers feel brand awareness and brand positioning are their most important objectives, while business strategy is their number one challenge.
All this combined with the fact that brand value represents an average of 20% of a business’s market capitalisation means that brand strategy will be firmly in the spotlight for 2019.
2019 should be the year that companies double down on long-term brand building as a way of increasing saliency, trust and relevance.
Stand for something or fall for anything
The last few years have seen a lot of debate around purpose-driven brands. In the year ahead, the conversation will evolve into something more nuanced.
We’ll see fewer companies building their entire brand around a specific cause or simply “greenwashing” their brand. Instead, there will be an increase in well-known brands showing where they stand on critical issues of the day and become more culturally relevant as a result.
For example, HSBC has kicked off the year with its bold “Global Citizen” campaign which talks to their heritage as the world’s local brand while also contributing to the wider conversation.
We’ll see an increasing convergence between brand and business strategy. Building an unstoppable brand is no longer just a marketing thing as it affects the whole business across client, employee and candidate experience.
Omobono’s Halo Model helps companies do this by bringing together the three key drivers of brand, people and platform to build better business experiences in this way.
Over the last year, we’ve seen a significant uptick in employer branding work at Omobono which we expect will gather pace in 2019. According to Glassdoor, 69% of job seekers say they wouldn’t even take a job in a company with a bad brand, and organisations investing in employer brand are three times more likely to make a quality hire.
Companies are thinking hard about what their brand means to employees and candidates in order to attract and retain the best people.
More borders outside, fewer borders inside
As borders harden in the outside world, companies will seek to break down their own internal silos. As Antonio Lucio, CMO of Facebook said last year, “2018 will be a breakthrough year for shifting from the boundless options and multiple devices of the Information Age to the Experience Age.”
Companies are starting to realise that delivering compelling customer experiences requires greater collaboration across the organisation, meaning 2019 will all be about working together.
Step forward the new marketing leader
As the lines around marketing begin to blur, a new breed of CMO is emerging with more influence than ever before. Empowered by the CEO, they will act as a change agent across the organisation, working more closely with their colleagues in HR, technology, CSR and of course sales.
By combining their communication skills and strategic insight with a better knowledge of how the business works, these new leaders will see their role evolve beyond just campaigns and onto big business initiatives.
Insight, insight, insight
While marketing won’t necessarily own CX in 2019, it has the opportunity to lead through audience data and insight.
CMO’s will focus on bringing the voice of the customer into the organisational decision-making framework and culture. CEO’s will expect them to play more of a role in influencing new ways of thinking and behaving not just outside the organisation but inside it too.
Opportunity focused sales enablement
Large business will apply a marginal gains philosophy to pitching for business, particularly when contracts are worth tens or hundreds of millions of pounds and the stakes are high. In a process where win rates can be as low as 5% companies must learn to focus on the close.
Increasingly marketing is seen as a useful partner to sales because more creative pitch collateral combined with a richer more enjoyable pitch experience on the day can have a material impact on win rates.
Last year Omobono launched its own division in response to demand for this kind of real-time, opportunity-focused sales enablement.
Macro trends such as fluctuating oil prices and caution over when (not if) the next downturn arrives mean marketing budgets will come with greater expectations. CMO’s will need to be inventive and resourceful to achieve results.
They’ll continue to invest in automating as many mundane tasks as possible as well as look to agencies to respond with new smarter ways of working.
Less is more
According to our What Works Where research, content marketing received 21% of marketing budget allocation – yet so much content marketing is just noise. Expect to see brands focusing less on quantity and more on quality. Armed with better insight into the audience, they will be investing in highly creative, signature pieces of thought leadership which provide a better value exchange for the audience.
Some companies still have a way to go on the journey of digital transformation, but many leading organisations now see adaptable technology platforms as a standard weapon in the enterprise arsenal.
While smart new tech such as AI and XR (VR + AR) will undoubtedly play a huge role in the future, technology overall will become a much more intrinsic part of the organisation. Therefore, companies will need to look beyond the tech stack to find new sources of power – marking the beginning of the post-digital era.
One such source of power is creativity. A recent IBM study of 1,500 CEOs revealed that creativity is the single most important skill for leaders. A key ingredient for creativity is diversity of thought and hiring the right talent. Building a culture that fosters this will become more of a focus than ever. Applying a more disciplined approach to creativity will also be important according to HBR.
In response to all these changes, the agency world will continue to evolve in 2019. We’ll see consulting firms consolidate their position within marketing and the big networks continue to experiment with their offerings.
Ultimately though, clients need new ways of working that are more reflective of today’s business world.
Our approach has always been to help clients shatter silos, blend skills and get different stakeholders working together across the organisation. As an agency, we’re spending more time in the room with clients than ever before, thinking real business problems through in real-time.
Our philosophy is built around the idea that individually we can be strong, but together we’re unstoppable – which is why we’re looking forward to whatever 2019 throws at us.
We are the digital experience company for business brands.
In today’s connected world, experience is brand.
So we help you create better experiences for your customers, employees, partners and stakeholders. Ones that work in empathy with them to achieve their goals, engage and delight them, and build brand loyalty.