We're all entering 2017 with a little bit of PTSD. 2016 ravaged us all emotionally across political, racial, gender, cultural, and so many other lines. I hope for your sake that your professional world didn't see the nearly the amount of turmoil (or celebrity deaths) that your social media feed did.
Let's take this opportunity to be uniquely optimistic as marketers, shall we? 2017 lies before us, and it's ours for the taking. But if we don't learn from the past, we're destined to repeat it. So with the benefit of hindsight, here are the 10 resolutions we all need to make as marketers.
I will stop referring to "Millennials" as a singular entity.
At this juncture, I probably don't have to convince you that Millennials and their $200 billion in spending power warrant your attention. You've seen the same 10 million "marketing to Millennials" headlines that I have. The problem, however, with most of those articles isn't the emphasis placed on Millennials. It's the singularity that's still being applied. How can we treat a group of people containing both 18-year-olds and 34-year-olds as a monolith? The media and spending habits of a teenager still living with her parents vs. a young professional preparing to start his family are night and day. If your media plan isn't more focused on life stage than it is on age bracket, your messaging could wind up in some embarrassing places. Dig deeper. (This Nielsen report can give you a good start.)
I will flip a gender stereotype on its head.
If 2016 taught us anything, it's that gender inequality is not nearly the thing of the past that we had been pretending it was. We spend a lot of time patting ourselves on the back for how far we've come, but it's apparent that we're not spending nearly enough time focusing on how far we still have to go.
As marketers, our work plays a tremendous role -- for better or worse -- in the establishment, proliferation, and maintenance of gender stereotypes. We need to take that role seriously. Plenty of brands have paved the way in bucking gender stereotypes in their campaigns. In 2017, be a part of this needed transition away from harmful gender roles in marketing. Not every brand can muster a #LikeAGirl-level display of empowerment, but we can all make a difference, however small, by approaching our messaging, casting, and targeting with a little more awareness.
I will stop lamenting ad blocking and start adjusting.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau estimates that about a quarter of U.S. internet users have installed ad blockers on their desktops. Increasingly, there are wide swaths of lucrative consumer segments who are becoming almost entirely unreachable via traditional online ads.
You can cry about that. Or, you can suck it up, realize that those people aren't likely to be influenced by your online ads anyway, and then move on to devise a better way to actually connect with them. So be an adult. Don't ignore ad blocking. Don't hope it will go away. Recognize it as a new reality and adapt.
I will reevaluate my influencer marketing strategy.
Speaking of adapting to the new reality of ad blockers, when's the last time you gave your influencer marketing strategy a good hard look? If it's been a while (or if your answer was, "What influencer marketing strategy?), then let 2017 be the year you correct that.
Influencer marketing defies the ever-mounting challenges that traditional ads face in breaking through the noise with valuable segments. When done right, influencer marketing lets your brand tap into new audiences in an authentic way. Working with influencers enables you to borrow the trust that they have already established with their given audiences. This approach isn't new, but it is increasingly important -- and the industry is already shifting accordingly. For example, in October, 72andSunny announced that it is opening a social media influencer division called Sundae that will help marketers better tap into a network of creators with big digital followings. Look for others to follow suit in 2017.
I'll give serious consideration to chatbots.
Similar to influencer marketing, marketing via chatbots represents a step away from traditional online advertising and toward a strategy that better recognizes and aligns with natural online consumer behaviors. Yes, chatbots have been around for a long time now, but from a practical marketing standpoint, they've only just recently become a legitimate playing field. So play, why don't you?
I will outsource something new.
Is there a task or function in your organization that has changed hands multiple times over the past few years? One that never quite seems to get locked down or fully handled? One that seems widely despised across teams? Is it possible to outsource this headache once and for all? If so, make 2017 the year. I know outsourcing traditionally internal functions can require new expenditures, but you'll be surprised by the lift in morale and productivity you might see when you free your team of a perhaps minor yet always-irritating daily task. It could be something as significant as a core analytics function, but it might even be something as simple as weekly kitchen cleaning duties, if that's currently being shared among the team.
I will bring something else back in-house.
Of course, the pendulum should swing both ways. If you're going to hand off an internal task to a third party in 2017, you should also consider reclaiming one. It could be an easy area for cost savings, but it might also prove to be a way of shaking things up a bit and exposing your team to new ways of thinking or new skills development. The examples in the prior point could apply equally well here. Are there currently outsourced analytics functions that could come in-house? Your team might benefit greatly not just from the cost savings, but also by getting closer to its data and developing those skills for itself. Likewise, depending on your office culture, you might be surprised to find out that cancelling the Friday cleaning service gives your team a good excuse to get away from their desks and lose themselves in the therapeutic unloading of a dishwasher once in awhile.
I will take a stance -- and put my money where my mouth is.
Do something that means something in 2017. Do something that makes you and your colleagues proud of your organization. Better yet, do something that perhaps not everyone will agree with -- but that aligns with your organization's mission and values all the same.
Not every initiative has to be as grand as Starbucks' "Race Together" campaign or Wieden + Kennedy's #BlackLivesMatter website statement. But if you start thinking along those lines, you're headed in the right direction.
I will spend less time in meetings.
What could you do with an extra hour in your work day? Or even an extra half hour? You don't need to work longer to get that. Just make a concerted effort to be more efficient in certain areas. Meetings are a prime place to start. If you have a handful of standing meetings every week, get into your calendar and look for ones where you can reasonably halve the duration and still retain the meeting's value. Propose those shorter durations to everyone on the standing meeting invite and use the excuse of a new year's resolution when doing so. You'll probably be surprised by how few people object and how many thank you for it (and then follow suit in applying this idea to their own meeting roster).
I will help my employees -- and myself -- be healthier.
It's OK to let your personal new year's resolutions bleed into your professional ones. That doesn't mean that you need to buy all of your employees high-end gym memberships. But the desire to be healthier and happier in the new year should apply to work life as well, and pursuing such goals as an organization can go a long way in building a strong (figuratively and literally) team. Demonstrate a commitment to fostering a healthy environment for your team. Put some more fruit in the kitchen. Organize lunchtime strolls around the neighborhood. And sure -- give everyone a stipend toward those high-end gym memberships if you can.
It's a new year. Let's be better people. And better marketers.