The Top 15 Trends That Drove Marketing In 2017

It was only 60 years ago that the Don Drapers of the world were using playful magazine ads to persuade women to wash the dishes in Playtex gloves and doctors were endorsing Lucky Strike cigarettes.

Fast forward to 2017. Digital advertising is expected to top TV advertising for the first time ever this year. So, what’s an advertiser to do? How do you keep up with the ever changing ad landscape with each new technological advance? If you aren’t an innovator, you can at least learn from the best. Here’s our 15 for 17: the top 15 marketing trends that shaped the ad game in 2017.

15 for 17

The Top 15 Trends that Drove Marketing in 2017

  1. Automation FTW 

Back in 2014, nearly 70% of businesses were using a marketing automation platform. It’s safe to say that that number has grown even larger in the 3 years since. With such an increase in automated marketing, companies have implemented innovative strategies to make the most out of their marketing.


Takeaway: Don’t wait, Automate.


2. Paid But Personal

In 2017, paid advertising on social media is almost a necessity. The downside? Millions of businesses are competing on a single platform for consumer attention. The result? Lots and lots of noise. Social users’ newsfeeds began to fill up with mountains of ad content. Naturally, with all that extra pollution, people’s resistance to ads on social media only increased. To combat this, social media sites began to change their algorithms. With the updated algorithms, users were able to choose which posts or ads they did or didn’t want to see based on what was most relevant to them personally—a brilliant solution to an rising issue. Users were happy. Social platforms were happy. But your local businessman? Not so happy.

Luckily, there’s a solution. It’s imperative to continue utilizing paid ads, but the content of ads must be personalized. Your content should touch a nerve and make them want to get acquainted with your business. This helps you not only combat new algorithms but reach the right people while making a lasting impression. Users happy. Platforms happy. Businessman happy. Win, win, win.

Takeaway: Personalize, don’t generalize.


3. All Hail The King! Video Reigns Supreme

Is video eating social media? Yes, it is. In fact, it’s eating the entire internet. Two years ago, Facebook projected the value of video ads on its platform. They learned that 74% of the total Ad Recall can be achieved within the first 10 seconds of a video. Even more compelling? New stats have revealed that every day 500 million Facebook users are watching videos– and that number is only increasing. And Facebook is far from being the only social platform to utilize video! In fact, there isn’t a single social platform out there now that doesn’t use or incorporate video in some way. So sit back, watch and enjoy the show! Video is here to stay.

Intel on Pinterest:

Cb2 on Instagram:

Colgate on Facebook:

The Takeaway: Video each event to stay relevant 


4. Be There Or Be Square (Or Vertical)

The Rise of the Square and Vertical Video Format

Sorry, 16×9. This was the year when square and vertical video broke through for good. When Facebook’s vertical video format went live last year, it’s popularity skyrocketed and has continued well into 2017. Jeep even secured bragging rights as one of the best ads of the Super Bowl with their spot titled “Portraits” which showcased vertical formatting.

(JEEP “Portraits” from Catch&Release on Vimeo.)

Meanwhile, square video wasn’t far behind, all thanks to Instagram. In 2017, Instagram inspired a ton of square creative. Take Sonic for instance who creatively thought outside the square video box and took square to a whole new level. One of the coolest Instagram campaigns of the year involved Sonic making square shakes in real life— all inspired by Instagram of course and naturally available for purchase through the Instagram app.

Takeaway: It’s hip to be square


5. Long Live Live Ads

Brands continued to embrace livestreaming throughout 2017. And for some serious next level livestrreaming, some companies even produced live commercials. By far the most impressive was Target’s live four-minute commerical/ music video  from Gwen Stefani that aired during the Grammy Awards.

Takeaway: Be a livestream feind.


6. They’ll Get’cha Goin’ and They’ll Get’cha Comin’:

The Rise of Omni Channel Marketing

Remember when we used to make buying decisions inside the actual store? We made our decisions by physically touching products and (gasp!) even trying them on for size. Now, most of our purchases are decided ahead of time after we’ve interacted with a business or brand in a variety of different ways (long before we actually ever make a purchase or physically set foot in the store). This is known as “omni-channel” marketing. The focus of omni-channel is to provide a seamless purchasing experience across as many channels as possible.

Take for example a new refrigerator. You see a fridge you like in a TV commercial, research it on your cell phone, order it on your laptop and finally pick it up in store. Harvard Business Review reports that of 46,000 surveyed shoppers, a whopping 73% shopped on more than one channel (only 7% shopped online-only, and 20% shopped in-store-only). Findings showed that they spent 4% more, on average, every time they visited a store and 10% more online in comparison to single-channel shoppers.

King of the omni-channel game in 2017? Neiman Marcus. Their marketing team’s goal was to remove as many roadblocks as possible that separate how customers interact with their brand. And they killed it.

Take a look at 4 ways their omni channel campaign took marketing to new heights this year:

  1. White Glove Online Service: Imagine you’ve got a big event coming up so you’ve been searching Neiman’s website for red heels size 6.5 and a long sleeve dresses sizes 2-4. The next time you search for those items, the site will not online pull up results for you on their site, but also include results in your criteria that are available to purchase at the closest brick and mortar location.
  2. Geo Location:  Neiman’s has also made use of geo location in big ways. They include information on relevant local events and new arrivals for brands you’ve shown interest in, all of which are incorporated into email marketing and printed direct mail campaigns.
  3. The In-Store Memory Mirror: Such a fun and useful tool! The memory mirror allows users to record 360-degree videos of themselves trying on clothes in the store. These videos can be saved in the store’s mobile app to view later when you’re ready to purchase.

4. The “Snap.Find.Shop.” App: This handy app lets users upload a photo of shoes, bags or clothing that they like. These photos are then run against the Neiman Marcus database using smart image recognition. Once something similar is found from Neiman’s database, customers can buy it on the spot online.

Takeaway: More channels = more revenue.


7. It’s All About You: Experiential Marketing Takes a Front Row Seat

Customer experience is the heart of marketing for every industry. While it has always been a marketing focus, 2017 embraced customer-centric philosophies completely centered around the customer’s experience. Experiential marketing’s focus is on engaging your audience with a real-life invitation to engage with (or experience) your brand, what you make or what you represent. The primary purpose? For consumers to experience your brand in a tangible, offline way that encourages an online dialogue.

Who led the pack this year in experiential marketing? Guinness Dark Lager.

For a few weeks in the U.K., Guinness hired actors and actresses to wear Guinness branded flight attendant uniforms and entered bars where they surprised bar patrons with a chance to win all kinds of prizes. To play, there was only one requirement: purchase one pint of Guinness. After ordering, they were able to shake a prize-generating mobile tablet that displayed what they won. They could win everything from passport cases to keychains. The ultimate prize? A free trip to Dublin (via private jet of course) with four friends of their choosing.

What we like about this experience was the brand’s ability to maintain its authenticity. Guinness didn’t have to change anything about its actual product- it simply changed its marketing strategy.

Takeaway: Offer an experience for maximum impact.


8. Hey—We Get You! Shared Experience Plays a Pivotal Role in 2017’s Marketing Strategy

Shared experiences can shape our perception of a product. After all, our opinion of a product doesn’t just come from our personal contact with it. How we perceive an iPhone, for example, is influenced by what we know about the brand itself and how others feel about it.

So what’s the easiest way to shape someone’s perception in a positive way? Easy! Make them feel understood. The best way to do this is by relating to them through common, shared experiences. Duluth Trading Company took the cake this year by showcasing their brand in an extremely honest yet relatable (and humorous) way.

“Is your underwear too tight? Don’t worry. We get you.”

Takeaway: Drink the Koolaid and share in your experience.


9. Dynamic Marketing through Diversity

Advertising’s embrace of diversity has been building for years, but it definitely reached a new peak in 2017. This summer, Gap launched the remarkably inclusive “I Am Gap” campaign. Their campaign takes a look at a range of personalities—found via street casting, rather than via a modeling agency—that the retailer felt really captured the spirit of its brand.

Another highlight? Coca-Cola’s Super Bowl spot #AmericaIsBeautiful

Takeaway: Draw a bigger crowd by representing more people.


10. Authenticity: The Key to Connection

It’s 2017, and the reality is that we live in a consumer-run world where brands are welcome to drop by, but only if they ditch the salesy messaging and behave like regular people. Today’s market really just wants brands to relax and be real.

One of this year’s best examples of authenticity was Dove Body Products which discussed “real beauty” in their campaign. What exactly is real beauty? There isn’t a single type. There are hundreds of forms of beautiful. It isn’t fitting into a box or trying to conform to a certain ideal- it’s just you, exactly the way you already are- real and authentic.

Takeaway: Be real for maximum appeal.


11. Social Validation

Social validation is a psychological behavior where, basically, people copy other people. While most people like to think of themselves as individuals and independent thinkers who aren’t influenced by external forces, the truth is that we all ultimately want to feel like we belong. And what better way to feel like you belong to certain community than to copy it’s behaviors?

This idea is what fueled Wanted Shoes online campaign this year. On the brand’s social media product pages, they encouraged customers to show themselves wearing Wanted brand shoes in real life scenarios. This “social proof” on product pages has helped drive website conversions up 30%. Why? Because it quite literally helped consumers to see themselves in other people’s shoes.

Takeaway: The (social) proof is in the pudding. 


12. Female Empowerment (Influencer Marketing 1/3)

The rise of female empowerment in advertising has been happening for years, but 2017 saw some seriously potent executions. Among the standout campaigns: a powerful ad by NikeWomen of a young girl performing a song with revised lyrics.

Takeaway: Girl Power

13. Agents for Change (Influencer Marketing 2/3)

Big brands decided to use their voice this year to advocate for change. Among them was Audi who took the opportunity to advocate for their commitment to equal pay for equal work. Their emotional ad comes from the viewpoint of a young girl’s father, who struggles with how to tell his daughter that men are more valued than women in today’s world.

Takeaway: Use your voice for good.


14. Getting Political (Influencer Marketing 3/3)

Equal pay wasn’t the only thing brands took a stance on this year. 2017 saw many companies use their ads to make political statements. The property-sharing platform Airbnb used their Super Bowl spot this to show a diverse group of people over text that read: “We believe no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love or who you worship, we all belong. The world is more beautiful the more you accept.”

Takeaway: Political is the new policy.


15. Changing the Formula: Brand Over Product

In 2017, advertising has become more focused on brands than on actual products.

Take WordPress’s dive into advertising this year:

What did we learn from their ad? Not once does it mention a single feature or benefit of the product, or even fully explain what WordPress is. Why? Because it’s not about how easy it is to build websites on their platform, it’s about building a personal connection with the brand. WordPress wants you to identify with the everyday people featured in their campaign. The ad is about how the brand makes you feel. And if you feel good, then mission accomplished.

The Takeaway: Product pushing is dead. Long live the brand!

Bringing It All Together: 2018 and Beyond

In the past, advertisers had fewer things to worry about: magazine ads, newspaper ads, and 30 second television or radio slots, etc. Now, ads are so common that we tune them out completely. Marketers are navigating rough waters, attempting to win our attention amid a swiftly changing tide filled with consumer backlash. 2017 has been the perfect example of just how hard agencies must work for consumer dollars, but the hard work is paying off. After all, with so many platforms available to continually remind us that there’s a beautiful bag out there with our name on it, a seller’s market just might be on the horizon.

…You know, I just might buy that bag after all – Facebook says it’s just gone on sale.

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