Your success in online marketing depends, in part, on your ability to keep up with the latest trends and news. Capitalizing on fads, while somewhat gimmicky, has paid off for thousands of brands, and being able to shift with the changing tides of consumer expectations and behaviors is a practical necessity if you want to remain relevant—especially in the hyper-competitive market of the modern era.
At the end of each year, I like to take some time to reflect on some of the most important—or most surprising—trends in the online marketing community. These are strategies, approaches, or new ways of thinking that dictated the direction of thousands of companies, and helped to reshape the online marketing paradigm we all share.
So what were the most dominating online marketing trends of 2017?
1. Brands leveraged political tribalism. In the wake of a controversial 2016 Presidential election, and controversial actions like Trump’s immigration ban earlier this year, brands have incorporated more political messaging in their content. Brands like Facebook, Apple, and Google voiced their opposition to the immigration ban (and some other forms of legislation) openly, and dozens of other brands used subtle messaging in their advertisements to let their customers know what side they’re on. Typically, getting political in marketing and advertising is a risk, but with perceived higher stakes, and a millennial generation that will make purchasing decisions based on brand values, 2017 was a much more welcoming year for political statements.
2. Brands used memes to communicate with their audiences. Maybe it was a reaction to the increased political seriousness on the internet—after all, people need a lighthearted occasional break from heavy topics. Or maybe it was the rise of young, tech-savvy people into more positions of leadership. Either way, brands are capitalizing on memes and digital trends more often. Consumer-focused brands are the most common here, oftentimes using reaction images and gifs to convey characteristics of or reactions to their latest products, but even nonprofit organizations and police departments have gotten in on the action.
3. Multichannel experiences became crucial for audience cultivation. It’s no longer enough to centralize your online presence on one channel. Posting only on a company website, no matter how strong it is, limits your potential reach, and spending too much time on any one social media platform will artificially narrow your audience. That’s why 2017 saw more brands working on aligning their brand vision across multiple channels. This is about more than just being on multiple platforms at once; it’s about using complementary, appropriate messaging that falls in line with your brand standards and gives consumers a coherent narrative experience as they browse through those different channels.
4. We witnessed the (temporary) resurgence of popups. A few years ago, most adults remembered the scourge of popup ads as a remnant of the early age of the internet. But recently, they’ve made a bit of a comeback. Mobile links lead to a page that forces a popup ad, and on mobile devices, it’s harder to ignore and close. Fortunately, Google and other brands have taken a strong stance against the “new wave” of popups, but that hasn’t stopped other marketers and advertisers from trying to take advantage of them in the meantime.
5. Live streaming took off. Last year, I predicted that 2017 would be the year of live streaming, with more brands capitalizing on the opportunity to give their audience more of a real-time, immersive experience. That prediction has appeared to come true, with small, local companies and big brands alike funneling their resources to provide more live updates. Platforms like YouTube and Facebook have done more to emphasize live streaming video options, and brands are looking for any opportunity they have to take advantage of them.
6. Mobile-based user experiences were prioritized more than ever. It seems like every year for the past decade, online marketers have invested more time and resources into maximizing the experiences of their mobile users. This year was no exception to that rule. In 2017, we saw a boost in the number of brands relying on accelerated mobile pages (AMPs), and Google started rolling out its mobile-first index to emphasize mobile content even further. Best of all, brands are starting to realize that simply making your site “mobile-friendly” isn’t enough to give your users an ideal mobile experience; instead, you need to plan your site and your experiences with mobile users as your main priority.
7. Marketing automation took off. Marketers lust after the potential of marketing automation, and the increased prevalence of machine learning algorithms and AI interfaces is making them drool even more. In 2017, nearly half a million companies—482,765 to be exact—were using marketing automation technology, with just 6 companies representing 57 percent of the market share. Marketing automation is getting better and more sophisticated, capable of handling more tasks and processes, and more companies are feeling pressured to invest in the technology—or else get left in the dust. I imagine this is a trend that will continue for the next several years.
These trends have helped usher in a new era of online marketing, and I’m excited to be a part of it. How will these trends hold up? Are they long-term additions to the suite of tactics available to modern marketers, or are they passing fads, destined to fade within the next few months and years?
It’s hard to say, but I’ll offer a prediction in my upcoming article, “7 Online Marketing Trends That Will Dominate 2018”—stay tuned for a sneak peek at what could be next year’s hottest trends.