2018 digital branding trends: More personal, less automation, more heart.

By Chloe Mark | December 2017


It's an age-old question: what will you do differently next year? Sometimes, the answer turns out to be true, other times, not so much. With the digital branding predictions for 2018, we can wholeheartedly say we hope most of them do come true. In general, we are shifting towards more authentic efforts. Marketers and brand strategists are predicting we will move away from certain automated tactics and closer to campaigns that rely more heavily on creativity and compassion. Read about what though leaders foresee and what key takeaways you can use for your 2018 branding strategy.

Here comes Gen Z

They're not just high schoolers now. Gen Zers, now as "adult" as 22, are entering their careers; they are increasing their influence in the economy. With this audience – plus millennials – in mind, marketers need to keep moving more towards digitally-driven interactions, like on social and via video. These demographics are listening to social media influencers (read about creating Brand Ambassadors) and recommendations they read from friends on social. They are also looking to make purchases online. 

"Consider that 29% of 'older Gen Z' members listed the most influential method of marketing as seeing or hearing about a brand on social media....In addition, 81% of Generation Zers report watching at least one hour of online videos a day." – Digital Branding Institute


  • Produce more video
  • Consider chatbots or live chat
  • Boost investment in brand ambassadors


Interactions, not transactions

As Billee Howard wrote for Forbes,

"Today marketers are being tasked with crafting interactions with customers instead of mere transactions" – "Top 3 Disruptive Marketing Trends for 2018."

When you write out your marketing strategy, the end goal should no longer be "sale." Instead, it should be the interactions that lead to more long-lasting emotional connections. Many times, a sale is one-and-done process whereas an emotional memory lasts through several future interactions with your brand. 


  • Think of ways to increase meaningful interactions with your audience rather than simply more sales conversions



Know them (better)

At first, artificial intelligence and branding don't seem to go hand in hand. But now, as companies use AI to better personalize a consumer's experience, they're two peas in a pod.

"In the emerging field of AI-powered ecommerce, data is the new currency. Ecommerce departments must centralize their customer and order data and enrich this data profile by integrating their marketing, ecommerce, and back-office technologies together."  – Smart Insights

This doesn't mean AI is taking over the customer-business interaction. Instead, AI can be used as as a way to better know your audience and better serve them in terms of interaction. From there, data and feedback gathered from AI can be used as a way to think creatively about how to continually provide a better customer experience. 


  • Use AI as a tool to better your customer interactions
  • Gather insight from AI


Don't get too automatic

For the past few years, we've been very caught up in automation – drip campaigns, lead scoring algorithms and blasting out ad campaigns. These tricks do still have their place, however, they are also not the most powerful tools in your kit any longer. 

This is a good reminder to always consider the situation before deciding your route. We tend to think automation is the be-all end-all marketing solution, but it isn't supposed to be. For example, a drip campaign can be useful if it's as a followup to a specific group of people regarding content they asked for. However, in general terms, "it is almost impossible to send out a series of emails that will apply to a large contact list and expect to see high engagement rates" as Hubspot points out. Be sure to remember authenticity and personalization comes first, so if your automated campaigns risk losing that feel, take the time to go old school or at least consider other options.


  • Personalization over automation
  • Pair automation with manual or other creative approaches


Squash gender stereotypes

Image source: Marketing Week

A global analysis from Unilever found that, "50% of ads showed a negative or 'not progressive' stereotype of women and less than 1% showed funny women." Brands everywhere are taking a stand against this, focusing on campaigns that do not encourage gender stereotypes, joining causes like Unstereotype Alliance. This is also being enforced by the Advertising Standards Association, announcing new regulations according to such standards. 

Besides just the ethics, you should also care about this because "more progressive advertising is 25% more effective in delivering better branded impact" according to Unilever.

For more research and information on this initiative, read the full story from Marketing Week


  • Don't rely on stereotypes, especially gendered ones, to promote your brand
  • Be more creative and authentic when speaking of your company


You care, we care

"91% of Millennials say they would switch brands in order to be associated with one with a cause." – Digital Branding Institute

Branding has always been emotional, but with more millennials and Gen Zer's on the scene, it's more important than ever. If your organization stands for a cause, the impact you have is clearer to your audience. When choosing an organization to support, find a match that aligns with your core values and messaging. It will not only help your organization get more pleasure out of helping the cause, it will also help underline your brand and messaging in general.


  • Support a cause
  • Live your core values
  • Be clear in your content efforts that you do both of the above


After reading this, we hope you feel as excited as we are to see this come to fruition in 2018. As always reach out to the marketing specialists at ArcStone with questions or projects!

Topics: Digital, Digital Marketing, Design and Technology

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