What are the challenges ahead for marketers?
AS 2018 settles in, here I assess the key challenges marketers in Northern Ireland are likely to face in the next 12 months:
:: Disruption the new norm? - A key theme for marketers in 2018 will be the disrupted nature of politics, business and culture. With the Brexit vote still resonating through society and the economy, many marketers are getting used to the idea of disruption as ‘the new normal', with exit negotiations set to continue until 2019.
Another powerful force set to disrupt marketing is the arrival of the new GDPR legislation. Under the wide-ranging rules, applied from May 25, organisations will be compelled to conform to a much higher standard of transparency in the area of customer data management and privacy.
This legislation requires careful navigation in the coming months, and has the potential to disrupt areas such as email marketing campaigns, website design, and customer traffic data, among others. Marketers are advised to be fully aware of how the legislation will affect their specific organisation, which will become a legal imperative in 2018.
:: Brand promise - Last year, a trove of leaked financial documents, dubbed the ‘Panama Papers', brought the murky world of offshore finance to the world's attention. Then in October another leak, this time called the Paradise Papers, once again put a spotlight on the financial dealings of the rich and powerful.
It's hard to judge what the brand impact of these revelations will be into 2018. At the very least, they underscore the importance of anticipating such developments – and preparing reactive plans in advance.
But at a deeper level, they are likely to feed the existing debate around the role of corporations in society, and how fair brands are being with customers.
:: Integrity & transparency - In 2017, technology giants Twitter, Facebook and Google found themselves embroiled in controversies regarding content posted on their platforms.
In response to these issues, Twitter has already launched a Transparency Centre to serve as an information hub, detailing all the advertising taking place on the platform at any one time. It will show users who is targeting them with adverts, and indicates the company is seeking to cooperate with politicians in the US, where the Honest Ads Act was recently tabled.
In October we saw Facebook and Google join Twitter in committing to a ‘Gold Standard', initiated by the Internet Advertising Bureau, with the aim of increasing brand safety and reducing ad fraud.
Growing concerns throughout 2017 around trustworthiness have led brands to turn increasingly to user-generated content. Indeed, carefully managed communities and influencer relationships can be invaluable to brands, since they are viewed by customers as being more authentic than traditional marketing.
:: Augmented storytelling - As each year passes VR and AR make steps forward and most recently, Apple have released an AR developer kit for the iPhone, which could spark a scramble to capitalise among the third-party app community.
Whether small and middleweight brands will be able to monetise AR is unclear. But 2018 is almost certain to bring some eye-catching applications of AR to a street corner or table top near you.
To support the marketing community, CIM Ireland will be exploring all these topics with a look at VR and other new technology in January, data protection in February, and much more. Check the events programme at www.regions.cim.co.uk/Ireland/home
:: Carol Magill is CIM network manager for Ireland