The Marketing Year: The marketing trends that shaped 2015 (part 2)

In part two of Marketing Week’s round-up of the biggest marketing trends from 2015, we look back at creative programmatic, the rise of virtual reality and reactive marketing campaigns such as Aldi’s John Lewis spoof.


How to be creative with programmatic

UK programmatic digital display ad spending grew by 66.2% to reach £1.8bn in 2015, accounting for 59% of the UK display advertising market, according to research from eMarketer. By 2016, spending is predicted to reach £2.5bn.

But ensuring the rise of programmatic doesn’t hinder creativity has been an ongoing battle for marketers; illustrated perfectly by the discussions at Marketing Week’s Get With The Programmatic event back in October.

Microsoft UK’s director of marketing comms Paul Davies says: “Marketers are too obsessed with marketing science nowadays. They are dazzled by big data and programmatic but the reality is that it is driving very few of them out of their beds in the morning.”However, this negative view isn’t shared by all marketers.

A poll by media company AOL revealed that nearly half of marketers (48%) think programmatic is actually having a positive effect on creativity rather than crushing it.

Earlier this year, in a bid to maximise sales around the weather, B&Q, with the help of Infectious Media, built a programmatic campaign that sent relevant deals and messaging around weather conditions. “This programmatic activity has allowed us to demonstrate how data can be used to really advance our marketing efforts,” says digital marketing manager Vicky Garfitt.

The Weather Channel’s global programmatic and yield director Barbara Agus adds: “Marketing is an ‘agile’ industry by nature so our premium sales teams should be focusing on holistic, tailored, experiential solutions and bringing creative teams in early in order to deliver highly relevant, contextual and beautifully creative ad messages through the machines.”

The changing landscape of brand architecture


One of the biggest pieces of news this year came courtesy of Coca-Cola and its decision to no longer push its sub-brands and instead move to a single ‘branded house, different identity’ strategy.

As Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson explained, the ‘one brand’ strategy means the Coke brand will be the focus of marketing efforts while its various products will be used only to proffer choice to target consumers.

Coca-Cola follows brands including Unilever and Procter & Gamble down this route. All are increasingly using their corporate brands to communicate to customers in a bid to stand out in an increasingly competitive and digital world. Plus there are also financial savings to be made by going down this route.

To a lesser extent the supermarkets are doing the same thing. Tesco, in a bid to return to growth, is selling off its less valuable brands – think Blinkbox – to focus on the core. Consolidation is happening across sectors as brands realise that they must focus on their unique points of differentiation to win over customers.

This in part is what made Google’s move to introduce a new corporate brand, Alphabet, so interesting. It doing so it moved in the opposite direction to most of the industry by creating a house of brands – which includes Google, Nest and Google Ventures – held by a silent holding company.

Reactive marketing goes traditional


Brands using social media to react instantly with consumers is now a staple marketing tactic.

The likes of Microsoft, which flipped a customer complaint about its OOH Cortana ads to its advantage, and, more recently, Ford Focus, which successfully used Twitter to tap into the buzz after a fan randomly used his car to transport the stranded rap group Public Enemy to their gig in Sheffield, continuing the trend in 2015.

However, this year also saw traditional media such as TV and print getting in on the action.

Kit Kat has credited its moment marketing for helping boost sales this year. It has jumped on events such as the new James Bond film and Black Friday to prove its relevance to consumers. Most recently it aired a blank TV ad to encourage people to take a break from Christmas.

Aldi took this one step further, heading to TV for a reactive campaign that remade John Lewis’ ‘Man on the moon’ ad with its brand message. It took just 12 days to create and has been credited with creating buzz and engagement around the brand and helping it beat out rival competitors to win the Christmas ad battle so far.

Brands now need to be able to think in real-time across media to cut through and engage with consumers.

Making VR a reality

Australian airline Qantas is using virtual reality to help people visualise destinations
Australian airline Qantas is using virtual reality to help people visualise destinations

While virtual reality hasn’t quite gone mainstream (Facebook and Playstation won’t launch their long-awaited devices until 2016), that has not stopped marketers from pushing the technology.

The travel market has been at the forefront of this move, with TUI and Thomas Cook, which both now offer VR headsets to customers to preview holiday destinations, talking up its potential to revolutionise the travel sector.

Marco Ryan, chief digital officer for Thomas Cook, says the technology is not only boosting package holiday sales but also “integral” to the brand’s future strategy. He explains: “Before travellers just had a brochure or information on the website to inform their choices. Virtual reality allows them to get a true sense of the hotel and the excursions they can go on – it’s been a real game changer for us.”

Another industry embracing the technology is automotive. Ford, Fiat and Skoda all had augmented reality campaigns this year as each used the tech to put consumers in the driving seat.

Renault believes that while the technology is still in the “awareness and engagement” stage it could soon be used to boost sales too.

Laura Schwab, marketing director at Land Rover UK, agrees: “Augmented reality can slowly replace showrooms to an extent as people can look at all the features of a car ahead of a purchase from their homes via smartphone and virtual reality headsets.”

Expect branded content and storytelling to deepen even further across VR and wearable devices in 2016.

Brand purpose that goes beyond box ticking

ice cream

Brand purpose is no longer a box ticking exercise for brands and, if done well, can add meaning to products and services, boost trust and of course increase sales. That was the key takeaway from consultancy Radley Yeldar, which product an index of the top 100 companies on this measure.

At Unilever its brands continued with their CSR drive. For example the launch of a new Ben and Jerry’s flavour ‘Save Our Swirled’ was aimed at driving awareness around climate change. The corporate Unilever brand has also been involved with the 2015 Paris climate conference, pledging to become “carbon positive” by 2030.

Unilever isn’t alone. Philips is also aiming to improve brand sentiment by talking up its health care products, with its most recent campaign showing people with respiratory illnesses being taught how to sing thanks to its portable oxygen concentrator (POC) product Simply Go Mini.

M&S also teamed up with Sport England’s This Girl Can to launch a limited edition t-shirt range as it looked to harness the campaign’s positive message towards gender equality.

At the Festival of Marketing 2015, Lord Sugar encouraged marketers to abandon these “sickly’ emotive messages and focus on product.

But, Eva Barrett, global head of marketing comms at Philips, hit back, saying: “We all have infinite choices on who to buy from these days but what makes brands stand out are brands who don’t just try to sell products but have a purpose and stand for something. It isn’t just about products.”