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‘The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing.’ – Tom Fishburne

We’ve all had that experience where we enter a store excited to browse and then quickly flee from overly ambitious sales personnel, seemingly salivating after our wallets and purses. The classic wisdom goes something like this: ‘People love to buy. People hate being sold to.’ At a most basic level, good marketing is ingrained in the experience so that consumers are aware of it as little as possible.

While fundamental tenants remain consistent, the implementation of these trademark strategies is always in flux. The advent of new technology and shifting societal trends constantly create opportunities for adventurous and diligent marketers to hone advantages over competitors. Let’s take a look at five marketing trends that are poised to top the charts for 2019.

#1 Content

Content is King. You’ve probably heard this proud maxim before. People aren’t on the internet or reading a newspaper or watching TV to be sold to. They show up in search of information or entertainment – something that adds value to their lives. While they’re enjoying the true intent of their search (the content), marketers can be at work, pitching products or services. The trick is to do so without straying far from the target of the consumer’s search: authentic, substantive information.

While the ubiquity of the internet and digital marketing didn’t invent the need for content-driven advertising, it certainly changed the face of it. People are increasingly wary of a bait-and-switch – having their attention subtly (or not-so-subtly) redirected onto advertising. When they detect that motive, many people have a very strong adverse reaction. The trick is to properly align the marketing with the content so that the results are organic and in line with the consumer’s original intention. The key to success in 2019 is original and relevant content as illustrated below.

Example of Good Content-Driven Advertising: a consumer reads an article about No-Trace backpacking and clicks a link to lightweight, sustainably-produced camping equipment.

Example of Bad Content-Driven Advertising: a consumer reads an article about No-Trace backpacking and is interrupted by a pop-up ad for a low APR credit card.

#2 Personalization

There exists a basic paradox with large-scale marketing: the need to reach the maximum number of potential customers while making each individual feel specifically catered to. With its trademark slogan ‘It’s Not for Everyone’, Hendrick’s Gin famously made masterful use of this conundrum. By capitalizing on people’s desire to be part of a select (and selective) subset, Hendrick’s beefed up their popularity and their sales. Basically, they made all Hendrick’s drinkers feel special.

With the availability and accessibility of modern tech and customer relationship management (CRM) programs, it’s irresponsible not to tailor your approach to your target market. Consumer analytics have the capacity to tell you everything from who is interested in a market to who is browsing your domain. As personalization becomes increasingly refined, marketers are able to identify individuals by interest – not just issue generalities based on demographics.

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Intent Data

One form of personalization provided by Artificial Intelligence (AI) is called ‘Intent Data’. If you’ve ever purchased a product or listened to a song and then been presented a message started with ‘You may also like…’ or ‘Because you watched…’, you’ve experienced Intent Data at work. Increasingly, these sorts of algorithms are being used to tailor marketing based on individual preferences.

#3 Chat Boxes

A few years ago, you probably started seeing these popping up (literally) on the websites of large customer service entities such as banks and cell service providers. Today, you see them on the homepages of many small to mid-sized companies. The proliferation of chat box providers makes purchasing, installing and customizing chat boxes feasible for almost any company who can afford to staff the vendor side of the interaction. Some chat boxes are also designed to field a standard range of inquiries using AI.

Worldwide, the chat box market is growing at almost 25% annually and will reach $1.25B by 2025. A growing number of consumers are comfortable with or even prefer the interface. It splits the difference between the broad, impersonal nature of an FAQ page and the frustrating or potentially intimidating experience of calling customer support.

#4 Voice Search & Artificial Intelligence

With the rising prevalence of virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant and the continuing refinement of voice recognition technology, voice search is becoming increasingly popular. With this shift in how consumers search for products and services comes to an opportunity for companies to refocus their Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy.

Simply put, what people say is slightly (but significantly) different than what people write. For instance, in voice search, consumers are much more likely to use longer, more detailed phrases. This means that businesses that have focused their SEO on long tail keywords (keyword phrases that are three words or more) are better positioned to attract business from people using voice search technology. AI is being used in business by app developers, hiring managers and marketers with good, and interesting results.

#5 Micro-Influencers

There was a time in recent memory when product endorsement was almost exclusively the privilege of movie stars, athletes and other celebrities. For several reasons, this has dramatically changed in recent years. One, celebrities are expensive. Two, celebrity endorsements don’t necessarily make sense (What does Roger Federer really know about shaving technology?). Three, the ubiquity of blogs and privately held domains have led to an upswing in micro-influencers.

Strategies involving micro-influencers are more-or-less ‘peer marketing’ approaches. Individuals build up an online following by demonstrating expertise in a certain area (e.g. cooking, sewing, rock-climbing). Their followers, ostensibly other devotees of that passion, look to them for advice on what to do and what to buy. With certain products and services, micro-influencers can be a much more effective (and cheaper) avenue the traditional endorsements.

Always Be Evolving

If you Google ‘Top Marketing Trends’, and open ten different articles, you’re likely to find ten different compilations of advice. While based on data, marketing strategy remains largely subjective, leaving a good deal of room for experimentation and personal preference.

One ironic constant in marketing is that it is always changing. As technology advances at an escalating rate and our increasingly populated world are tied ever closer together, marketing strategies will continue to evolve more rapidly. Always do your diligence and keep up with changing topics, tactics and trends. You may still elect to take out a radio spot or an add in the local paper, but you should do so based on all the information at your disposal.

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