What does the future of marketing look like? Last year, MOI Global undertook a six-month project to find out. Consisting of three global dinner discussions, a survey and top marketing thought leadership from some frankly badass panelists and speakers, Disrupt Forum 2017 uncovered many of the answers.
We started by dissecting the anatomy of the modern marketer. Today’s buyer has all the power, and any marketer who wants to redress the balance needs to adopt a new way of thinking. But no marketer is an island. And no single skill set will do. Instead, both MOI’s Anatomy of the Modern Marketer survey and the panellists from our first Disrupt Forum dinner revealed the key characteristics we should identify, promote and nurture in the Modern Marketer.
Sitting alongside a readiness to learn and to adapt is a hunger to improve. Many of today’s marketers choose opportunity and corporate fit over cash reward, and are aware of how their development and progression helps the business. This means they are focused on organisational goals, alongside their own.
Marketing is no longer a single discipline, but multifaceted. The Modern Marketer is part scientist, part creative, and while technology has brought the need for a whole new set of digital skills, traditional marketing skills are as relevant and crucial as ever: the need to understand data, finance, and to build a strategy, hook an audience…
Hook an audience. Isn’t that old-school in this age of inbound marketing and user-generated content (UGC)? Well you need to inspire and compel them to collaborate with you in the first place, or why would they bother? And collaboration skills are key internally too – 78% of marketers who took our survey chose ‘collaborator’ as the most important personality trait. Marketers who can work with and learn from other functions will have a broader perspective and a bigger ideas pool.
Perhaps the most important trait of all in an ever-changing world is curiosity. “Stay hungry,” says Disrupt Forum panelist Geraldine Kor, director of marketing, DXC. “If you are constantly hungry, you’ll always be curious and be seeking.” The ‘Modern Marketer’ is always alert to new trends and opportunities, always seeking new ways of doing things, always ready to listen, learn and adapt.
The best marketers put understanding customers at the heart of their marketing, obsessing not just about who and where they are, but also their attitudes, behaviours and actions. They understand that the customer experience they provide is what differentiates their company from the rest.
So what did we learn? As hard as we tried to find it, there’s no single set of skills, training course or process today that will remain fit for purpose for very long. But for marketers not daunted by change, there’s a world of opportunities.
A friend recently complained to me that the targeted ads that persistently stud her social media feeds are not only disruptive but also frequently irrelevant. She uses social media primarily to keep track of friends and to follow artists and crafters that could offer her inspiration or technical knowledge.
As she vented her frustration, I wondered why the ads she saw were still so consistently missing the mark despite the great leaps in ad targeting technology. Surely there must be a better way for brands to reach audiences through social media.
Surprisingly, though almost two-thirds of social media users are irritated by the number of promotions that clutter their feeds, and 26 percent actively ignore marketing content, a whopping 62 percent follow at least one brand on social media.
According to the GlobalWebIndex, 42 percent of social media users are there to “stay in touch” with their friends, while over a third are also interested in following current events, finding entertaining content or killing time. Though 27 percent of users find or research products on social media, most usage is skewed toward building relationships. As such, it’s clear why many social media users are annoyed by ads they find intrusive, irrelevant or boring.
While this data helps us understand why users may find ads abrasive, it also gives us a glimpse into why they are so open to following brands on social media. Today’s hypercompetitive ethos is not limited to brands or ads. Consumers want to know about the latest trends in fashion and technology, and they want to know first. By following brands, users can keep tabs on the latest and greatest.
Following also allows consumers to interact with brands more directly and to voice their dissatisfaction when brands misstep. A full 46 percent of users have “called out” brands on social media, and four out of five believe that this has had a positive impact on brand accountability. The good news for brands is that when they respond well, 45 percent of users will post about the interaction, and over a third will share the experience with their friends.
Brands should note that 60 percent of callouts are in response to perceived dishonesty, which should lend some context to the fact that 30 percent will unfollow a brand that uses slang or jargon inconsistent with the brand’s image. This can be a costly mistake, as 76 percent of users aged 13 to 25 stopped buying from brands after unfollowing.
The news may seem bleak, but the truth is that these facts draw a clear path for brands that want to tap into the unprecedented consumer access offered by the social media revolution. Here are some tips to keep in mind.
1. Be authentic
Above all, brands need to strive for authenticity. Consumers have shown that they are not only open to branded social media content, they welcome it, provided the content is useful and relevant rather than disruptive to their experience.
From social media usage statistics, we see that users are most interested in staying connected and entertained. Brands that share news of upcoming trends or offer content that stands on its own merit can add value to users’ social media experience while reaching out to a more receptive audience.
In its somewhat brief history, social media marketing has managed to become the optimal source for pushing brand identity and launching marketing campaigns. As more and more brands get on the bandwagon to establish their online presence, murmurs of social media marketing’s decline have also been shaping up in some quarters. Unfounded or not, the recent proliferation of fake news, fake profiles, daily outrage, political warfare, and privacy concerns have definitely dented the image of social media in the public eye. However, numbers tell a different story. Despite diminishing trust over certain issues and internet penetration still in its growth phase in India, Facebook users in the country crossed the 240 million mark in the middle of 2017.
In its somewhat brief history, social media marketing has managed to become the optimal source for pushing brand identity and launching marketing campaigns. As more and more brands get on the bandwagon to establish their online presence, murmurs of social media marketing’s decline have also been shaping up in some quarters. Unfounded or not, the recent proliferation of fake news, fake profiles, daily outrage, political warfare, and privacy concerns have definitely dented the image of social media in the public eye. However, numbers tell a different story. Despite diminishing trust over certain issues and internet penetration still in its growth phase in India, Facebook users in the country crossed the 240 million mark in the middle of 2017. Continue reading…
It’s worth taking a moment to consider which font will best communicate your information. For example, most people know that Comic Sans is a faux pas for more professional situations. But what fonts should you use?
According to a study we conducted over at Venngage looking at the most popular font types in America, it might be worth basing your font choice on where most of your audience is located.
We analyzed the 50+ fonts we offer to see which font types people favor, and how their preferences vary depending on location. Our analysis focused in on the top 25 most populated cities in America, since they’re the ones creating the most content.
For the second time in the two years since rolling out clickable ads, Instagram is updating the look of what people are supposed to click. This time the Facebook-owned photo-and-video app is tweaking ads’ call-to-action bars to better blend in while still standing out.
Last year, Instagram made its ads’ clickable element more obvious in an effort to make people more aware of the option and assuage advertisers’ concerns with the app’s direct-response options. A few months after replacing its ads’ call-to-action button with a horizontal bar that ran along the entire bottom of an ad’s photo or video, the company set the bar’s background color to switch from white to blue after four seconds to draw more attention to it.
Now, instead of blue, the bar will dynamically change to the main color contained in the ad’s photo or video, the company announced on Monday. Instagram will change the color of the call-to-action bar to better coordinate with the primary element of the native ad that grabbed the user’s attention.
According to an Instagram spokesperson, the redesigned look is meant to ensure that an ad’s photo or video is its standout element and to make people’s feeds feel more natural. It may also ensure that Instagram can insert more ads into those feeds without making them look overloaded with ads.
The blue call-to-action bar had been the most obvious signal that a post was an ad, though it only turned blue after a post was on screen for at least four seconds. By making the call-to-action bar feel more like a part of the photo or video, the difference may not be so obvious to people swiping through their feeds. If that proves true, then Instagram may be able to insert more ads — and relieve Facebook’s ad-load pressure, which is expected to decelerate the company’s ad-revenue growth this year — without overdoing it.
Marketers continue to spend more money on social campaigns, and they continue to struggle to appraise what they receive in return for that money.
Measuring return on investment (ROI) was the most commonly cited challenge facing social marketers, according to a study conducted by Simply Measured, a company that sells analytics software for marketers to measure the ROI of their social campaigns.
The social analytics firm surveyed almost 1,000 ad agency employees that span 111 countries and specialize in social marketing, roughly half of whom held the job title of social media manager, marketing manager or director of social media. Of the survey’s respondents who were asked to identify their top three challenges, 61.4 percent picked measuring ROI was picked by 61.4 percent, followed by “tying social to business goals” at 35.5 percent.
Attributing social marketing spend to business results has been an increasing area of focus for marketers, as well as for social platforms. The more money marketers pour into social media, the more they expect to know how that money converts into revenue for their businesses. And social platforms like Facebook have seen this as an opportunity to solidify marketers’ social investments and siphon spend from more established channels like TV and search.
During Facebook’s most recent earnings call (PDF), COO Sheryl Sandberg described the company’s shift in emphasis away from “proxy metrics,” such as video views and brand lift, and toward “sales metrics” because “the more that we can tie ad viewing to sales, the stronger our case is with our clients.”
Engagement before conversions
However, for sales metrics to take hold, marketers need to wean themselves off proxy metrics, such as likes, comments, shares and retweets. And they have not yet.
According to the survey, 57.8 percent of respondents said that engagement metrics were the metrics they used the most to gauge a social campaign’s success, whereas 23.6 percent cited conversion and revenue metrics — e.g., website traffic, conversions and revenue — as their most-used metric to measure success.
Compounding matters, marketers are more interested in analytics tools that enable them to count engagements than they are in conversions. Per the survey, 52.7 percent of respondents said that tracking engagement metrics is the most important feature they seek in a social analytics tool. By comparison, 39.4 percent cited the ability to track conversions as their most sought-after capability.
Perhaps because of marketers’ preoccupation with engagement metrics, social data plays a somewhat restricted role in informing clients’ social strategies. While 61.5 percent of respondents said they use social data to assess campaign performance, only 36 percent said they use social data to measure ROI.
Marketers’ favored social channels
The hierarchy of social platforms that marketers spend the most money on mirrors that of those they use the most in their campaigns. Respondents’ six most-used social networks are the same six social networks on which they spend the most money, and in the same order: Facebook takes the top spot, followed by Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest. If it weren’t for 27.1 percent of respondents claiming to use Google+, the mirrored hierarchy would extend to include Snapchat in the seventh position.
While the two charts share the same order, the stats differ drastically. Facebook is far and away the platform that most respondents spend money on. And even though fewer than half as many spend money on Instagram, the Facebook-owned photo-and-video app outpaced Twitter by more than double.
The divide likely has to do with Facebook and, to a lesser extent, Instagram being largely pay-to-play platforms for brands, thanks to their respective algorithms that sort the posts in people’s feeds. In other words, marketers may not feel as pressed to spend money on Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and LinkedIn because they are able to reach enough people organically. However, that thinking wouldn’t apply to Snapchat, which is typically considered a pay-to-play platform. Snapchat’s relatively small standing may have to do with it being inaccessible to many advertisers, though that has begun to change.
Simply Measured also surveyed agency employees about influencer marketing. Marketers have warmed to incorporating people with large social followings into their campaigns, but not necessarily to the point of dedicating a share of their budgets specifically to this type of marketing.
According to the survey, 54.9 percent of respondents said influencers are an important part of their marketing strategies, though only 18.7 percent said they “strongly agree” that influencers play a vital role in clients’ social strategies. However, 66 percent said they have no dedicated budget for influencer marketing.
The fact that brands are not earmarking dollars specifically for influencer marketing may have to do with the channel serving more of a supplementary than standalone role. Asked how they use influencers in their social strategies, 59.2 percent of the respondents said that influencers serve to extend the reach of campaigns, a role similar to that of PR outreach.
Social analytics software preferences
Finally — and perhaps the least surprising finding in a survey conducted by a social analytics software provider — 52 percent of respondents said they need social analytics software to do their best work. The runner-up resource was “human resources” at 35.7 percent, followed by publishing software at 12.3 percent. For this question, as with the biggest challenges question, respondents were asked to select their top three most important features.
Of the respondents, 47.2 percent said the platforms’ tools are their primary way of collecting social data for clients, followed by 31.1 percent that rely on third-party social analytics tools and 10.4 percent that manually monitor their clients’ social accounts. The remaining 11.4 percent use some combination of the aforementioned methods.
When Melissa Ralston, marketing director at BIC Graphic North America (asi/40480), thinks about her ideal writing instrument, she imagines a multifunction pen with a highlighter and a ballpoint. Luckily for her, that pen already exists – along with an increasing amount of seemingly space-age features on other pens across the market. For example, we can already write in 3-D, with a pen similar to a hot glue gun, that draws objects and words with a piped out plastic medium.
“Writing, in many ways, is an experience,” Ralston says. “People all have their favorite types of writing modes; it’s an extension of their preferences and their unique styles.”
As technology improves, consider the places writing instruments could go. Maybe one day, we’ll even have a pen that picks itself up and writes what you said without a single touch of your hand. The possibilities are endless – and some could be here sooner than we think.
Over the past 10 to 15 years, technology has touched every part of the writing instrument – even down to the ink and what it falls on.
“There’s always a time when you write that the ink sits on top of the paper, no matter how good the ink-tip combination, no matter how good the paper,” says Joe Fleming, president of Hub Pen (asi/61966). “In the last 10 years especially, there have been developments in the chemistries of ink that have made the absorption power of the ink tremendously better, so the ink gets sucked up into the paper really quickly.”
The result? “You can have a really heavy ink lay down without the fear of blobbing or smearing or the left-handed problem of getting ink all over your hand,” Fleming says.
David Goldfarb, product manager for the writing instrument category at Evans Manufacturing (asi/52840), and Ralston both note this is due to special hybrid inks that are in continual development. These inks are a combination of gel and ballpoint ink, so they get the smooth lines of gels and the quick drying time of ballpoints.
“Pens have always been exciting, and the sexy part of the pens has always been the writing quality,” Fleming says. “If you’re writing on paper, the key is going to be the ink-tip combination. I really can’t see pen-to-paper going away any time in the near future. It’s always going to be about the ink-tip combination until we change the substrate of what we’re writing on.”
Writing instruments are also becoming more multifunctional by the day, even without the benefits of so-called “smart” digital pens.
“Pen manufacturers are combining more features in pens including screen cleaners, styluses, flashlights and phone holders,” Goldfarb says. “They are becoming multifunctional tools at an affordable price.”
He notes that some pens even have charging banks for other devices – a development that likely arose with the advent of smart pens that can also digitize what you write, record audio and store files. Smart pens are following their own line of evolution as well. Eventually, suppliers expect they’ll be more universal and able to work with any device, along with incorporating an increasing amount of applications and tools like screen cleaners and USB drives.
Other innovations on the way for writing instruments cover different parts of pens: the barrel and plunger style. “Some of the new features starting to emerge for writing instruments include illuminated imprints, new textures such as soft touch and additions found on the top of plungers, including spinners or cartoon heads,” Goldfarb says.
Ralston sees the same progress, pointing to an increase in the amount of requests for full-color imprints on pens, along with other special options that require research and development.
“We work with our customers, suppliers or engineering to experiment with new decoration techniques, barrel enhancements, ink systems and grip materials,” she says. “Technology has penetrated many industries including the pen industry, so manufacturers are designing pens to keep up with the changes. Every year, as we review our writing instrument product development, we work with our supplier and designers to develop the next best thing.”
In 2017, one of the unique things manufacturers have begun offering is a light-up pen barrel. A logo is laser-engraved onto the barrel of a pen, and when the plunger goes down, it activates a small battery inside that triggers a light, illuminating the logo.
As a testament to how quickly technology changes, Fleming says that eight years ago, Hub Pen tried to create these, but it didn’t work because the batteries were too small and didn’t have enough power to make it a consistently lit-up pen. The company didn’t introduce any at the time. But now, batteries have gotten smaller and last longer so Hub Pen was able to introduce a line, and business for them, Fleming says, is booming. But there’s still a ways to go with the product.
“No matter how good the batteries are, they’re still very small batteries,” Fleming says. “The logo has to look good whether the light’s on or off. That’s where some experimentation is in order, to make sure you have the right substrate and the right paint or lacquer, so when people are unable to activate the light because the battery’s gone out, it still looks good.”
Overall though, the main issue in the evolution of writing instruments, Ralston says, is something the promotional products industry struggles with on a daily basis: the speed at which it adapts to the new technology.
“When I think of the next best pen, a lot of it is adapting to what’s going on externally outside of our little world of pens,” she says. “We need to be prepared to follow the trend of what the next big thing is to make sure we have that application available on our pens. It’s just thinking differently about how we market them and how we can adapt quicker.”
And we should never stop dreaming about what that future writing instrument might be. Technology changes daily, and knowing what to expect is near impossible.
“You look at sci-fi on TV and in books,” Fleming says, following a trip to Hong Kong where he saw an incredibly realistic hologram. “It’s not too much of a jump from a holographic image to writing in the air and transferring information that way so you don’t need a substrate. That would be the next big leap. I can’t see it happening any time soon, but I never expected to see a holographic image that fooled me, either.”
The Persistent Pen
So will pens and writing instruments ever go out of style? Not likely, suppliers say. They’ve been a staple in society for so long that even though people are potentially writing less down, the trusty pen perseveres – plus, according to studies, handwriting improves cognitive development and sparks creativity.
“The writing instrument is over 6,000 years old,” Ralston says. “It will continue to evolve with time, as history has shown us, but never become obsolete. The existence of our recorded history and literature depends on this relationship between paper and pen and we don’t see that ever going away.”
Cavemen first picked up sharpened rocks or pieces of metal or bone as writing tools, carving pictures into cave walls. The ancient Chinese, Babylonians, Sumerians, Greeks and Romans did the same, using pointed objects to carve into everything from turtle shells to wax tablets. But they were faulty, with the carvings fading away after a time.
And so each evolving culture developed their own form of ink, made from organic materials like berries and minerals, alongside the invention of parchment and papyrus. From there came the reed pen, an early form of the quill pen developed around 700 AD. Around the 16th century, in a revelation that would lead to the modern-day pencil, people discovered they could use graphite to write. Metal pen nibs arrived in the 1800s, sparking the invention of fountain pens, the design of which was patented in 1827. The first ballpoints came in 1888, followed by the mechanical pencil in 1906, felt-tip pens in 1910, gel pens in 1984, and now, digital smart pens.
“There’s not a day that goes by that people don’t use pens,” Fleming says. “And it’s going to be like that for the foreseeable future. It’s a low-cost item with daily use. There may be a slight decline, but it’s so ingrained in society that unless something radical happens, you’ll still need pens every day.”
Additionally, writing instruments are just good business. Go anywhere during the day and you’re likely to see a cup full of promotional pens, free for the taking. Look around your desk right now and see how many you have – maybe one from your dentist, the local bank or a tourism company. It’s an easy way for a brand to promote itself, and sales numbers prove it. The category remains one of the five largest in terms of promo product market share.
“Writing instruments continue to be popular, have a strong re-order rate, are inexpensive with a high impression rate, and are appreciated when received,” Goldfarb says. “There is still a big upside to using pens as an advertising tool.”
Fleming agrees, noting that with Hub Pen’s new line of light-up pens, sales are up more than 50% for the group.
“Pens are the new matchbooks,” he says. “They’re everywhere. They’re inexpensive and they’re a good medium for carrying a message. For our industry I think they’re terrific.”