With consumer demands constantly evolving, brands must adapt their marketing and PR approaches accordingly. Natalie Merrix takes a look at which trends communications professionals should be on the look out for in 2019.
In the last couple of years, we’ve seen a sharp increase in the popularity of podcasts. According to Ofcom, the number of weekly podcast listeners has almost doubled in five years – from 3.2m in 2013 to 5.9m in 2018. The steepest growth is among young adults aged 15-24, with around one in five now listening to podcasts every week.
Whether you need entertaining on your commute or want to make the housework a little more bearable, podcasts are a convenient, accessible, and (usually) free medium. What’s more, in today’s tumultuous political climate, podcasts create a sense of community and a place for people to escape and discover like-minded individuals who share their views and interests.
For brands, the most straight-forward and popular way of capitalising on the growing podcast trend is to sponsor an episode or series. Generally, this works by a brand paying the podcast narrator to talk about their product or service but in a natural and authentic way.
For those with enough of a story to tell, brands can opt to create their very own podcast series. Trader Joe’s – an American grocery chain – did just that and surprisingly, it was hugely popular. Featuring key staff, the episodes attempted to answer all of the burning questions their loyal shoppers had about the company, from what it’s like running a grocery chain to whether they’ll ever open an online store. In fact, the podcast performed so well that at one point, it was ranked number five on the iTunes chart – just below The New York Times’ podcast which gets more than one million listeners per day.
Of course, podcasts won’t work for all brands but they do offer a fantastic way to get in front of a targeted, engaged audience predominantly made up of Millennials – a typically harder-to-reach generation.
If you use Instagram or YouTube, you’ll more than likely have seen your fair share of sponsored posts from online influencers. Whether it’s someone posing with their Daniel Wellington watch against a scenic backdrop in an exotic location, or a video featuring a lifestyle blogger cooking up convenient recipes from Hello Fresh, you can’t escape it.
At one stage, influencers seemed to be taking over the world, attracting huge audiences and fan bases both online and offline. But it looks like we’re all starting to grow a bit tired of these celebrities pretending to be interested in a product in exchange for a hefty pay cheque.
In 2016, research carried out by Twitter and analytics company Annalect, revealed that people trust social media influencers as much as their friends. But in a survey conducted by Shareable in 2018, only 37% of adults aged 25 to 34 and 55% of those aged 18 to 24 agreed that they trusted what influencers on social media told them.
Brands are now turning to ‘micro-influencers’ – described as “perfectly ordinary digital citizens with follower counts as low as 1,000 who are being courted for their influence”. The whole point is that they are not famous but they do have higher engagement, and therefore loyalty and trust, with their fan bases.
In a world of constant advertising, celebrity endorsements, fake news, data breaches and PR scandals, consumer trust in brands is at an all-time low. The latest Edelman Trust Barometer revealed a flatline in trust across a number of institutions, including government and the media, but trust in businesses had actually fallen to 43%.
On top of this, countless studies conducted over the last couple of years have revealed that Millennials are seeking more authenticity in their lives generally. They want to know what’s in the products they buy, “pierce the corporate veil” and look what’s behind a brand.
While this shift in consumer trust clearly presents a challenge for brands, it can also be seen as a fantastic opportunity to build more meaningful relationships with customers, increase sales and encourage repeat business.
User generated content, open and honest communication, consistent messaging, raising the profile of key people within the business, embracing feedback, and compelling story telling are just some of the ways brands can improve consumer trust.
Analysts have predicted that by 2020, around 50% of all internet searches will be carried out through voice search. And while some have disagreed with this rate of adoption, there’s no denying that voice search is becoming increasingly popular.
A study by Adobe found voice search is infiltrating more and more aspects of consumers’ daily lives. Beyond primary activities like playing music (70%), checking the weather (64%) and setting reminders (46%), people are increasingly using smart speakers and voice assistants for bite-sized information like online search (47%), checking the news (46%) and basic research (35%).
What does this mean for brands? Recommendations include:
- Writing content in a concise but conversational way that could be read aloud in answer to a question
- Optimising FAQ sections to provide you with a bank of ready-answered questions
- Reviewing SEO strategy with voice in mind and ensure content includes keywords that people are likely to be searching for
- Improving local SEO to ensure those looking for local business information will find you
- Keeping company information up to date, particularly on Google My Business
Whether or not it takes off as quickly as predictions suggest, voice search is on the rise and comms professionals need to be ready as it increasingly becomes a channel that consumers gather information about brands.