Report: How to Keep Your Marketing Efforts Relevant in 2017

December 11, 2016

Editor's Note: This special B2B Beat was written by Steve Kearns, who is Content Marketing and Social Media Coordinator at LinkedIn. 

“Two years ago, my former employer moved its headquarters for the first time in decades. As I left our old building on moving day, I marveled at the overflowing recycle bins and donation boxes brimming with service plaques, trophies, file racks, and outdated technology. All obsolete. All left behind. It dawned on me that here was the perfect metaphor for the massive changes taking place in marketing.”  — Heather Rim, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, AECOM

Marketing, like other fields disrupted by the digital economy, is changing at lightning speed. As Heather Rim’s story from the 2017 Relevance Report suggests, gone are the days when we as marketers could focus on one advertising medium to drive success for our business. And it’s clear that what we’ve valued as practitioners and what we’ve defined as best practices will continue to shift as we move into the New Year.

To keep us on our toes, the USC Center for Public Relations, in partnership with Humana, Meltwater and Golin, has released the 2017 Relevance Report, a forecast of topics that will impact society, business and marketing communications in the coming year. We read the report for you and have compiled our favorite extended quotes on a variety of topics from marketing thought leaders:

Topic No. 1. On maintaining relevance as a brand…

Relevance and staying power go hand-in-hand. Because audiences are bombarded with messaging 24/7, your efforts must offer value to a targeted group in order to succeed. Big payoffs come when relevance can be sustained over time.

Caroline Dettman, Chief Creative and Community Officer, Golin

Audiences deal with 9,000 messages, ads, warnings and bits of information each day. Relevance is what attracts and keeps people paying attention to a brand, and moves them to engage. As brand marketers, we should all be obsessed with relevance. We should be asking ourselves these three questions:

  1. Is my brand relevant or irrelevant?

  2. What does being “relevant” actually mean (and why should I care)?

  3. Why should we care?

At first glance, being “relevant” sounds fleeting. Like being “hot” or “famous.” But great brands and people stay relevant for a long time. And they work at it every day, which is why it’s the single most important brand measurement there is.

Relevance + time = $$$

[There are several] dimensions that consistently drive brand relevance like distinctive, effective, purposeful, provocative and welcoming. These ‘building blocks’ of relevance combine in different ways and to different degrees to create unique “Relevance Fingerprints” for every brand and category. [Now] we can pinpoint what makes a brand or a category relevant – and act upon it.

Topic No. 2: On the rise of video and VR as marketing media...

Because the way that our audiences consume content is changing so rapidly, it’s important that marketers focus on creating authentic, engaging and truly immersive brand experiences. Video and VR can help.

Cindy Gordon, Vice President Corporate Affairs, Nintendo of America

As a marketing medium, video has amped up consumer conversion and click-throughs by a minimum of 80%, it’s created a new tier of mega influencers with millions of followers and its mobile variant is jumping by orders of magnitude in volume and views.

And if a picture is worth a thousand words, one minute of video is worth 1.8 million, according to one analyst’s estimate on video’s impact.

Marketers have gotten the message. In 2016, video ad spending exceeded $5.5 billion and video ads will account for more than one-third of online ad budgets. If brands don’t raise the bar in creating real-time, unpolished, and authentic moments in their live streaming efforts, they will pay a painful price with clear-eyed video viewers.

Heather Rim, AECOM

Our marketers are reimagining how internal and external stakeholders interact with our brand story.

We see VR as a powerful way to help people experience, and more importantly, personalize our promise to deliver a better world. We’re shifting away from perfectly crafted one-way messages and static media, and inviting people to join us in virtual worlds and create their own storylines with us. In our new office in central London, United Kingdom, for example, we’ve introduced a virtual reality experience that allows guests to interact with 3D holograms of our projects through our main lobby window using a lightweight headset. Just a few months earlier the solution would have been a beautiful glossy brochure, or a formal welcome video at the front desk.

One of the greatest challenges brands face is to create an emotional connection with their audience – something that’s very challenging to achieve with even the most exquisitely designed communications or marketing materials. But when you literally immerse people in your brand story the potential for engagement rapidly unfolds.

At a recent campus recruitment event, for example, we created tremendous excitement by swapping out our standard brand video for a VR experience where potential employees could interact with a project they would actually get to work on if they were hired. And for the giveaway? No squeeze balls. Google-cardboard Goggles, of course.

Topic No. 3: On the importance of employee advocacy in defining your brand…

Modern audiences have a waning tolerance for corporate messaging. Instead, they prefer to digest similar messages via social media and employee shares or testimonials, making a push for employee advocacy all the more important in 2017. With an established employee advocacy program, you’ll build both internal and external confidence in your brand.

Bob Feldman, Co-founder, PulsePoint Group

“Company as publisher” is the new norm. Corporate reputation management has accelerated in importance, and traditional internal communications has given way to digital “employee activation” on social platforms.

[At] IBM, [a] new “employee cohort engagement expert” is responsible for defining, deeply understanding and engaging a cohort of employees. The expert defines their cohort based on data (role, employee type and observable behavior) and engages them through the content and channels that influence them most to believe, act and advocate for the company.

Corey duBrowa, Senior Vice President Global Communications, Starbucks

Faced with less trusted traditional media and more content in their social feeds, younger consumers are open to information from various content creators in a way they haven’t been before. Edelman’s 2016 Trust Report results show that when it comes to brands that young people follow, “companies that I use” and “employees of a company” outperform journalists and online personalities.

Topic No. 4: On what makes great content shine…

Above all else, content that educates your audiences is proven to be successful. Whereas we used to reserve creative messaging for the likes of our agencies, all marketers now have a responsibility to tell compelling stories across different mediums.

Corey duBrowa, Starbucks

[Audiences] are clear in what content they want to see from brands. The trust report shows there are four key factors that help content to break through:

  1. Informative/teaches consumers something new (87%)
  2. Connected/part of a video series (78%)
  3. Authentic/fits naturally with the company sponsoring it (76%)
  4. Validates/includes a personal story (74%).

Bob Feldman, PulsePoint Group

Creative directors used to be found mostly in ad agencies. No longer. Compelling storytelling, data visualization, long-form video, etc., are now essential tools.

On the emergence of storytelling and content on social media...

Companies and their marketers need to adapt to a world in which social media and content is king. The percentage of individuals who rely on social platforms for news and information will continue to rise, making the need for content marketing a priority for marketing organizations in 2017.

Corey DuBrowa, Starbucks

Communicators are storytellers at heart. We thrive in shaping stories with compelling characters, natural tension and memorable perspectives. In our best moments this content engages audiences and elicits an emotional response. But as the media landscape evolves at a rapid pace and a younger audience is consuming information very differently than that of previous generations, it’s clear that how we bring a story to life requires radical transformation.

Pew Research Center shows social sharing continuing to expand, with 51% of people globally using social media as a platform to send and share information.

At Starbucks, we’ve embraced and addressed [the] changing [media] landscape by putting more emphasis in developing our own content, and leveraging our owned channels as well as new platforms and partnerships to reach our most important audiences.  

The essays featured in The Relevance Report are brief, thoughtful and cover a broad range of topics grouped within the following five categories: media, communications, technology, brand and people. They are designed to give audiences a preview of what the coming year will mean for the marcomms industry, for our society and for their careers. View the full report here.

For more nuggets of marketing wisdom and to keep up with trends in the rapidly changing media landscape, subscribe to the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions blog