In November 2018, the Boston Interactive Media Association (BIMA) invited Undertone’s CRO Danielle Rollo to sit down with marketing leaders from across the industry to discuss the major takeaways from the year. “A Year in Review: The Brands’ POV” focused on the digital media trends, tactics, and strategies of 2018. What worked and what missed the mark, and where does the industry go from here. Joined by representatives from Bose, L.L.Bean, PF Flyers, and Follain, Rollo led an all-star panel that produced some fascinating key takeaways.
Check out some key takeaways from the panel and see what you should be thinking about as we enter 2019.
2018 In Review
For all four brands, 2018 marked a year of big marketing changes and reassessing of goals. Each brand pointed to a significant marketing highlight, which helped to reveal what’s working in the market right now.
For Bose, 2018 was all about data and technology. For them, “how good something is just as important as how not good something is. [They] look at anything and everything [they] possibly can, from the smallest element of a campaign to the largest. [They] want to know if something performed poorly so that [they] don’t do it again.” The advances in data and tech this year enabled them to better understand their reach, demographic, and delivery.
Like Bose, L.L. Bean used data to build their “Be An Outsider Campaign.” They applied extensive research results to divide their customers into segments. Each segment was marketed to individually and with personalized messaging, an approach that proved highly successful and true to their brand messaging that focuses on the individual experience.
PF Flyers began the year with a modest marketing budget, and instead of trying out a few smaller campaigns, worked instead on one big initiative. They worked with New Balance to re-create a baseball cleat from the film The Sandlot in honor its 25th anniversary. This campaign helped connect the brand to its heritage, be a part of the zeitgeist, and show off the brand’s fun side.
Like PF Flyers, Follain found a way to make a small budget work in a big way. As a venture startup, Follain spent 2018 trying to find scale in the beauty vertical and educate consumers about how beauty can actually be good for your health. Focusing on education, they turned to social media, particularly influencer/video strategy. This helped promote their brand across the channels where their customers actually are and deliver their message in an engaging, approachable way.
Key Takeaway: 2018 was a year of change across the industry. With the rise in programmatic, personalization, and AI, these big, fast changes can be overwhelming. The companies above saw success by focusing on one growing market and being as strategic as possible with time, budget, and energy.
The Year in Video
In terms of 2018 trends, video was at the top of everyone’s lists. Its effectiveness and popularity skyrocketed in the last year and compared to text, 72% of people would rather use video to learn about a product or service. The brands adapted their strategies to this ever-growing platform in a variety of successful ways.
For PF Flyers, 2018 was all about short, snackable content. They focused on video content for Instagram Stories, which best reflected their fun and youthful brand identity. Like PF Flyers, Follain’s video efforts were social-first. Their influencer testimonial videos have performed best, and have led them to branch out from Instagram into Snapchat, space not often used by beauty brands.
With a more holistic approach, Bose spent 2018 working with a wide variety of video techniques and platforms. Not only do they create 0:30s and 0:60 second TV and internet spots, they have brand videos, influencer videos, unboxing videos, across every social platform. This wide-reaching technique allows them to continually test different formats to discern which performs the best with whom.
Key Takeaway: As video grows in popularity every year, it’s become more clear that there is no winning video strategy but there are winning video strategies. Each video has to be appropriate for the platform, the format, and the consumer. We’re far from the days of adapting TV spots—the time to take personalized video content seriously is now.
Finding the Right Influencer
More than ever, consumers are gravitating toward experiences that are authentic and personal. They are more likely to believe a real person over an advertisement about how good a certain product or brand is, reasons which help account for the rising popularity of influencer marketing. But when using influencers as an advertising strategy, the key to success is finding the influencers that best match your brand, as each marketer stressed.
For Follain, despite being in the beauty business (a genre rife with influencers), beauty gurus are not where they direct their influencer dollars. Instead, they saw much better traction in 2018 with vegan and healthy lifestyle influencers. For Follain’s clients, it’s important for the brands they support to put health before anything else and would have seen an (on-the-surface-fit) regular beauty influencer who uses unnatural products as not in line with their principles or the principles of the brands they want to support.
For L.L. Bean, big-time influencers are not what they are looking for. Because of their target market, the brand instead employs student ambassadors/influencers. They help the students get to know their brand and the products and support them in the creation of unique branded content. L.L. Bean then helps promote the content through social publishers and sites like Thrillist, helping their student ambassadors to spread their content to a larger audience. Like Follain, it’s all about creating the right content for the right market.
Key Takeaway: There’s no one-size-fits-all influencer—not even a Kardashian. Customers value authenticity, and this authenticity can be highlighted or ruined by an influencer. Often it’s worth stepping outside the traditional influencer space to find the people who will best connect with your consumers.
What’s on the Horizon?
As we close out 2018, the BIMA panelists offered some predictions for the major marketing trends for next year. For many of the companies, it’s all about voice. Both L.L. Bean and Bose focused on not just the technology aspect of voice, but what it means to truly connect the technology to your brand identity.
For L.L. Bean, connecting voice technology to outdoor living is all about figuring out how they can use voice to make the user experience better. They plan to spend the next year discovering how users want to interact with voice technology as they go on adventures, and then market towards them with this information.
For Bose, it’s also all about finding the connection between voice and brand identity. They think there is still some work in the space for brands to really build this connection, but once it’s accomplished, it will bring about a major change in the industry. Like L.L. Bean, 2019 will be all about testing out how users want to interact with them through voice, and then developing a plan around user-needs and wants.
In 2019, PF Flyers will try to get back to advertising basics—storytelling elements, deeper emotional connections, focus on the consumer—and they hope the industry will follow soon. They’d like to see more meaningful influencer connections that are truly genuine, connecting the brand and the consumer in an authentic, meaningful way.
Key Takeaway: These brands reminded us of the key to successful marketing: giving the consumer a great, unique experience. Technology will continue to advance and offer new ways for marketers to reach an audience but at the end of the day, it’s all about creating a meaningful experience for the consumer. No matter the platform or technology, maintaining a brand identity and prioritizing personalized creative will always be the cornerstone of success.
Taking these ideas and strategies into the new year, we look forward to seeing where they’ll take us and what exciting new trends will arise in 2019.