If yours is a large business or organization, chances are that you’re working from a solid marketing and branding plan. (I hope!) Your priorities may have already been established.

For those who work for smaller businesses and nonprofit organizations, that’s not always the case, is it?

Either way, I thought I’d share some results from OnBrand and Bynder’s 2018 State of Branding Report. Its insights may or may not surprise you, but they will certainly give you food for thought about your digital marketing priorities.

Customer experience is the top priority for marketers in 2018.

No surprise here. Positive customer experiences mean happy and repeat customers.

My 2 cents:
I’m glad to see that customer acquisition are retention/loyalty are almost equal here. There were many previous years when organizations spent so much more on acquiring new customers than keeping their existing ones happy.

Let’s examine the key findings and see how they relate to you…

1. Brands want to deliver personalized and targeted experiences yet struggle to find the right technology for their needs. 

In fact, 89% of respondents agreed that emerging technologies play a critical role in developing an engaging brand experience, but 90% struggle to identify the right technologies to serve as an extension of their brand.

My 2 cents:
Even though respondents came from organizations with 500+ employees, study authors say that most are still at an early stage in the marketing maturity curve and the task of navigating the marketing tech landscape is a daunting one. This should give smaller orgs a sense of relief. You’re not as behind as you may have thought!

2. Voice assistants dominate tech investments this year. 

“40% of marketing decision makers will invest in voice assistants in 2018. 39% are developing integrations that run through platforms such as Facebook, Alexa, and Siri, as well as standalone solutions that run on company websites or apps.”

So now the questions turn to the types of voice assistants to use:

“Brands need to consider the delicate politics of gender, personality, and accents.”

Interesting point: 54% of marketers would still prefer a female voice assistant.

My 2 cents:
Smaller organizations can still win big on this one. Connecting with a personal customer service agent must count for something! People still like talking or chatting with a real human being.

3. Influencer marketing is still hot.

Even though study authors aren’t sure of influencer marketing effectiveness, 79% of marketing decision-makers will invest in influencer marketing this year, with 43% planning to invest more, and 22% venturing into the market for the first time.

My 2 cents:              
Businesses and organizations are still using local influencers successfully. I know, it’s a local thing, for sure. 

4. Brand activism is on the rise.

Amazingly, 79% of respondents say that social and cultural issues will play a significant role in their branding and marketing strategy in 2018, while 36% are excited about exploring the trend of brand activism and cause advocacy.

“Nowadays, everyone’s an activist, and brands are no different; there is a wave of brand activism — coined as ‘backlash marketing’ by some — sweeping across the industry… If an organization is not upholding its company values, or is silent on a trending issue, soon enough the world will know.”

My 2 cents:
I love the quote below:

“The most successful brands no longer market to the world but behave in the world; and according to our survey, marketing leaders know this.”

In addition to providing wow customer experiences, customers still expect “brands to contribute to, and even influence, the cultural and social issues in society. Brands that remain silent risk falling out of favor with consumers.”

This is everything that branding is: how organizations behave, serve, and exist. What does your brand stand for? I ask this question all the time.

For smaller organizations, this is part of what I call Small Business Social Responsibility (#SBSR) and there’s a chapter in my book about it. Stand up for your values and beliefs. Your customers expect it.

5. Marketing teams are hiring more tech talent.

In 2018, 53% of marketing managers will be hiring technical talent such as experience designers and developers; 34% will bring on data scientists to their teams, while 55% will hire more creative talent.

“As customer experience becomes increasingly important, brands will need to invest in the tech talent to deliver those experiences.”

My 2 cents:

Fear not, smaller businesses and organizations. Of course, you can’t compete with the big boys on this one. But, I believe that some of the marketing agencies that serve smaller orgs now will rise to the occasion and assist you. They’ll understand your needs and offer you options to scale.

Best of all, if they’re honest and reliable, they’ll focus on what you truly require, not what the current flavor of the month is. Chances are, affordability will always be an issue.

In other words, do what you do well and manage with the talent you have or hire. Supplement where you can with external expertise until you strategically choose to grow.

So, what do you think? Do your top marketing priorities match these results or do they differ? How so? Please share!

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