Digital Marketing Trends for 2018: The Experts Weigh In

For the last several years, marketers have been pushing more and more of their chips against Digital (often stealing from traditional marketing budgets to do so). Finally, in 2016, digital advertising spend surpassed TV for the first time … and, by the time 2017 ends, that gap will have widened by roughly $10 billion.

But it’s not just about budgeting for digital, or merely “doing” digital; it’s about strategically executing digital marketing efficiently and effectively, and rising to the demands and expectations of the modern marketplace.

With 2018 just a few months away, it’s time to review the lessons learned this year and start planning for next. We interviewed marketing experts — across a wide range of industries — to get their two-cents on the most critical digital marketing trends in 2018. Here’s what they had to say …

 


 

How do you see digital marketing evolving in 2018?

 

“Digital marketing will evolve in several areas such as video marketing, social networking, content marketing, content personalization, and identifying and cultivating brand ambassadors.”

Fran Howell, Director Digital Media, Johnson & Johnson Diabetes Institute

 

“2018 will be remembered as the year that established content marketing strategies died and were reborn into a different animal. The glut of content online has become nearly overwhelming, as has the lack of original, compelling content. Marketers must comply and reconsider their content strategy by moving from a volume play to a quality play, driven by creating content around topics their company is credible speaking to.”

Jeff Price, VP Marketing, PrimePay LLC

 

“Live video will continue its dominance. In fact, at an average of just 3 seconds per view, Facebook is generating over 3,000 years’ worth of watch time each day! In 2018, this trend will continue sprouting as more brands decide to dive in.”

Ryan Somers, Head of Digital Content & PR Director of Global Sponsorships, SAP

 

“[In life sciences], digital marketing can improve through the collection, synthesis, and communication of pharmaco-economic and/or real-world data to the extent allowable by laws and regulations.”

Ken Pugh, Board Member, Prohibix LLC; past VP Commercial Development & Interventional Oncology Marketing, Americas, at BTG plc.

 

“While there’s lots of talk about machine learning — like there was about big data in previous years — B2B digital marketers will be challenged to apply emerging technologies in 2018 and will, instead, focus on increasing their adoption of more mature tools such as marketing automation and implementing tools that will help connect the dots from lead generation to closed sales.”

Sally Duda, Digital Marketing Operations Manager, Change Healthcare

 

“Broadly speaking, I don’t see us on the verge of a material transformation in 2018. Digital marketing isn’t a one size fits all box, so chasing the latest and greatest isn’t always appropriate. Understanding what the customer values and how that meshes with business objectives will still be a pillar of a good digital strategy. That said, customer centricity will become an even bigger topic in 2018 and marketers who place emphasis on outside-in strategies will outperform those who don’t.”

John Neilson, Digital Marketing Leader, GE Water & Process Technologies

 

What do you think is driving these changes, and why?

 

“Mainly competition and customer expectations. B2C expectations are now B2B expectations — so it needs to be digital, it needs to feel customized, and you need to get it right the first time.”

Janis Fratamico, Vice President, Marketing Innovation, SAP North America

 

“With the explosion of data throughout the marketing stack, marketers are focused on how to use that insight to make meaningful, informed decisions to create more targeted campaigns that can be measured and refined. Previously there was a broader approach of ‘if we put it out there, they will consume it,’ and the approach will become more refined to direct relevant content to the buyer when and where they need it.”

Jenn Lyons, Director of Marketing, Genex Services

 

“For attribution, there is so much money being spent on social and emerging digital channels, but what is it actually bringing in? We know we need to be there, but we need to be thoughtful about where and how much. We can’t know that without proper metrics and attribution. In this environment, we all need to be smarter with our marketing dollar.”

Ajinkya Joglekar, Director, Digital, Comcast

 

“I think the persona of the guy or gal at home and how they choose to consume products is now applied to their business persona. They want immediate access to the top-rated products and the ability to fully understand their benefits, competing products and reviews to make sound business decisions — and perhaps be able to reduce the pain and amount of time associated with the procurement process.”

Kathy Meara, Director, Customer Marketing, erwin, Inc.

 

“Digital marketers have become more skilled at utilizing marketing automation. They are now ready to take the next step to fully exploit its capabilities. As they do so, they will begin to realize that marketing automation may not be enough to demonstrate ROI and their contribution to the bottom line.”

Sally Duda, Digital Marketing Operations Manager, Change Healthcare

 

“Words, images, maps, status updates, comments, emojis, numbers, infographics, sponsored ads … Zzzz. This is a normal social news feed you scroll through with rote tedium every day, eyes glazing over the cluttered landscape until an auto-play video catches your attention and you stop dead in your tracks. No matter what it is — a quick-hit recipe, the trailer to the ‘Blade Runner 2049’ film, a new wacky flavor of Lay’s potato chips — you stop scrolling and watch, even if it’s for just a moment. And that’s the power of this medium; the ability to stand out from the crowd.

Vince Driscoll, Digital Content Director, ASI

 

What digital marketing trends will affect your marketing organization in 2018?

How will these changes affect your day-to-day operations — and/or your marketing budget?

 

“Our team will invest additional time, energy and budget into our video content strategy in 2018. We will utilize our brand ambassadors for content development and delivery across social media platforms that reach our target audience.”

Fran Howell, Director Digital Media, Johnson & Johnson Diabetes Institute

 

“Big shifts away from physical events. Big shifts to digital strategies. Bigger focus on content than ever before.”

Janis Fratamico, Vice President, Marketing Innovation, SAP North America

 

“Quality content requires quality personnel. I suspect we’ll see marketing budgets focus more attention in two areas: editorial/communications professionals and marketing analytics experts (marketing analytics guiding the editorial/communications professionals’ writing topics).”

Jeff Price, VP Marketing, PrimePay LLC

 

“Nirvana would mean that operations become more efficient. We shift budgetary dollars to produce high-quality assets that serve specific points along the buyer’s journey. We improve websites that offer immediate service, all mobile-friendly, and we increase our social footprint to join in and encourage conversations.”

Kathy Meara, Director, Customer Marketing, erwin, Inc.

 

“There will be a need to reallocate spending from other (perhaps more traditional) areas of marketing in order to free up additional spending in digital marketing. Also, budget for pilots must be secured to experiment and evaluate new digital marketing solutions.”

Ken Pugh, Board Member, Prohibix LLC; past VP Commercial Development & Interventional Oncology Marketing, Americas, at BTG plc.

 

“At SAP, we partner with some of the most amazing sports leagues, teams, and players around the world. Live-streaming allows us to piggy-back off of these events, by creating digital opportunities specifically targeted at our audience. An example occurred at the World Cup of Hockey last year when we were able to stream to the public what would’ve previously been a private, fireside chat between SAP CEO, Bill McDermott and NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman. The results were amazing and we positioned ourselves as thought leaders.”

Ryan Somers, Head of Digital Content & PR Director of Global Sponsorships, SAP

 

How difficult will it be to adjust to these changes?

 

“It’s extremely difficult, particularly when sales is not in sync with the necessity of the change. This forces a stronger alignment between marketing and sales than ever before.”

Janis Fratamico, Vice President, Marketing Innovation, SAP North America

 

“Operationally, it should be an easy transition. Bureaucratically, it may be a tough sell to senior leadership who generally devalue any function for which a bottom-line ROI cannot easily be measured.”

Jeff Price, VP Marketing, PrimePay LLC

 

“It will be difficult. For example, there’s no silver bullet of attribution, and aligning data sets can be challenging. Brand safety will be easier as long as the publisher can implement 3rd party tags.”

Ajinkya Joglekar, Director, Digital, Comcast

 

“Data analysis is a skill set that will become part of the core strengths of all marketers.”

Jenn Lyons, Director of Marketing, Genex Services

 

“If you’ve never done video before, there will be an adjustment period but it shouldn’t be too difficult. If you have a good script and a willing, flexible staff, you’re closer to producing a solid video than you might realize.”

Vince Driscoll, Digital Content Director, ASI

 

“I think it will be difficult, mostly from an organizational perspective as multiple functions including marketing, communications and IT will need to work together. Establishing an organizational commitment to the strategy and how success will be measured is an important first step. There is also a potential talent gap. Employees with more of a t-shaped skill set will be able to contribute in a more meaningful way than those who go deep in one area.”

John Neilson, Digital Marketing Leader, GE Water & Process Technologies

 

If your prediction is right, what new goals/successes would you pursue?

 

“Accurately measuring marketing’s contribution to the business, and creating plans using quantitative analysis in addition to qualitative data.”

Jenn Lyons, Director of Marketing, Genex Services

 

“We’d likely create a brand safety metric to show that we are alongside content that aligns with our brand. For attribution, it’s to show that while people may experience ‘banner blindness’ or skip online videos, these still contribute to sales. No one questions a billboard, though no one can quantify precisely how it works.”

Ajinkya Joglekar, Director, Digital, Comcast

 

“I mentioned that the average video is viewed for merely 3 seconds. A successful live-stream needs to hook the viewer instantly. And as new viewers are joining every few seconds, the content needs be engaging throughout the duration, which by the way, should remain short in length. However, when done correctly, we have the opportunity to create our own narrative to truly showcase how SAP software is literally changing the game, in ways that were never quite possible before.”

Ryan Somers, Head of Digital Content & PR Director of Global Sponsorships, SAP

 

“You must relate to your customers and prospects wherever they are in the sales cycle, and that means providing compelling, digestible content and multiple means to engage. We also should remember that our messaging needs to be about them, not about us. While credibility is important, we have to explain how we can help them, not just tout our accomplishments and awards.”

Kathy Meara, Director, Customer Marketing, erwin, Inc.

 

“We’ve been on board with video for over a decade now, but the pursuit of live stream video is what we’re focused on for 2018. ‘What networks should we be on?’, ‘How often?’ and ‘In what capacity?’ are all questions we’re pondering now for our social media strategy going forward, with the goal being brand impact.”

Vince Driscoll, Digital Content Director, ASI

 

“At the most basic level, I’d want to see that customer acquisition costs have gone down and that leads are more sales ready than before. Beyond that I’d look to establish digital as a bigger part of competitive differentiation by measuring changes in domain authority, churn among digitized customers and improvements in customer outcomes tied to digital.”

John Neilson, Digital Marketing Leader, GE Water & Process Technologies

 

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