January 9, 2019: We’re back! We hope you had a happy, healthy, and relaxing holiday season.

AdAge polls industry execs for 2019 trends; 38 percent of fashion and beauty brands see influencer collaborations as the biggest marketing opportunity this year; Kroger and Microsoft team up to pilot connected store experience; ARF research suggests that two-thirds of American households have OTT subscriptions; and CES is back and better than ever

Here’s what’s worth knowing this week:


2019 Predictions from Ad Execs

The Story

AdAge had 20 industry execs predict what will happen in 2019 and beyond. Don’t worry, we broke down the biggest trends so you don’t have to.

Trend 1: Data, Transparency, and Government Regulation

What they said: “There’s going to be a much longer arc around this movement around data transparency and management. I can see… where managing your own personal data is just part of your life, like managing your finances.” – Jen Wong, Chief Operating Officer, Reddit

What we’re saying: The ability to detect and manage influencer fraud came to the forefront of the media conversation in 2018, when leading brand marketers demanded industry reform. While some influencer marketing technologies were relatively quick to adapt, social media platforms were much slower. In 2019, government entities will continue to push for regulation, and social media platforms will need to be even more transparent about how they are leveraging users’ data.

Your opportunity: As a marketer, it’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest news coming out of the social marketing world, and when platforms announce plans to remove bots/fraudulent activity, closely monitor the influencers you work with to make sure their levels don’t radically change.

Trend 2: The Influence of Blockchain and Cannabis

What they said: “Blockchain and cannabis [are going to] lead a lot of innovation, disruption, and growth in the consumer and business economies over the next five years. I see blockchain technology changing everything, from currency to the Internet of Things, and I see cannabis disrupting everything that it touches, from health care to culture to government and regulation.” – Jason Deland, founding partner and joint global CEO, Anomaly

What we’re saying: Too soon to tell. While 2018 saw cannabis and blockchain enter mainstream culture, but both present significant risks when it comes to influencer adoption. While cannabis may be legal, decades of social stigma and brand safety scrutiny has a majority of influencers wary to engage. The risk of compromising brand relationships or having their accounts be disabled is too high – none of the major platforms allow cannabis ads, while Snap will allow the occasional CBD play on a case-by-case basis. Similar to AI, blockchain is an emerging technology with a lot of potential and massive buzz, consider it experimental at best. 

Your opportunity: Is cannabis culture a brand safety risk or opportunity? For marketers who see it as a risk, that position should be incorporated into your influencer vetting process and campaign briefs. Just because ads are not allowed doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, and marketers should be vigilant. For those who see it as an opportunity, cannabis influencers can be essential to providing deeper insights into cannabis culture to ensure your messaging is relevant and aligned to social platforms’ guidelines. As blockchain technology matures, marketers can monitor influencers’ willingness to be compensated in cryptocurrency as an indicator of opportunities to test.

Trend 3: Experience Design Strategy

What they said: “The ‘experience’ will replace the ‘idea’ as the most-coveted marketing and communication currency. And experience excellence will separate brand leaders from all that follow.” – Michael Kahn, global brand president, Digitas North America

What we’re saying: Optimizing for the Influencer Experience (iX) will come to the forefront in 2019. Platforms are no longer battling for more advertisers, but instead for more creators. As such, it’s no longer enough to make something “grammable;” brands need to offer influencers a special, VIP experience. As platforms, brands, and marketers continue to understand and recognize the value that influencers and creators bring to organizations, they will need to invest in and optimize for those experiences in 2019 if they want to be influencers’ preferred brand or network of choice.

Your opportunity: Marketers have the opportunity to rethink physical experiences and in-store train employees. When employees see a consumer taking a photo, they should ask how they can help with the lighting, props, etc. because every piece of content matters — you never know who has influence. Keep in mind that the “Instagrammable moment” you just designed for your restaurant, hotel or store likely won’t appeal to an influencer who is always looking to create new, original content.

Trend 4: Voice and other Sensory Enabled Technologies

What they said: “Multisensory commerce — touch ID, voice shopping, etc. — will become a natural extension across the billions of connected devices transforming our world. With more touchpoints and channels in the customer journey than ever before, the marketing field is ripe for new interpretation, innovation and transformation.” – Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communications officer, Mastercard

What we’re saying:  The future of voice-enabled, location-based purchases starts with voice ordering, but will soon include “Alexa, read me reviews for this product,” “What did XYZ influencer think of this product?” or, technology could even enable customers to hear influencers share their own reviews directly. Influencers may literally become the “voice” of the brand. It also speaks to the customer journey acceleration that will occur as voice search evolves to voice commerce.

Your opportunity: Marketers in all types of retail and e-commerce need to understand what these types of voice-activated integrations mean and what information needs to be available to enable an entirely voice-activated customer experience.


Now Trending: Fashion & Beauty Collabs

The Story

New research from Glossy suggests that 38 percent of fashion and beauty brands see influencer collaborations as their greatest opportunity this year.

Tell me more.

In a recent survey of 149 fashion and beauty brand executives from Glossy’s research panel of industry insiders, 38 percent said that the brands they work for see collaborations as their greatest marketing opportunity this year. Coming in at a distant second was pop-ups (chosen by 19 percent of respondents), followed by events (chosen by 14 percent).


Influencers value long-term relationships with brands and don’t want to work with brands for one-off campaigns; they want longevity, they want to contribute, and they want to be heard. Influencers’ value to marketers expands beyond content creation alone – marketers can leverage influencers’ unique knowledge about the business, industry, trends, consumers, creativity, and content to discover opportunities to gain a competitive advantage or increase market share.


Kroger’s Futuristic Grocery Store

The Story

Kroger and Microsoft have teamed up to pilot a connected store experience using Retail as a Service (RaaS) technology to bring the ease of online shopping to the in-store grocery experience.

Details, please.

Kroger has remodeled two stores to test out the new features, which include “digital shelves” that can show ads and change prices on the fly, along with a network of sensors that keep track of products and help speed shoppers through the aisles.

What’s Kroger saying?

“Kroger is building a seamless ecosystem driven by data and technology to provide our customers with personalized food inspiration.” – Rodney McMullen, chairman and CEO, Kroger

What’s Microsoft saying?

“Together, we will redefine the shopping experience for millions of customers at both Kroger and other retailers around the world, setting a new standard for innovation in the industry.” – Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft

What’s next?

As stores become “smarter,” the role of employees will begin to shift. Employees will become influential store advocates in their own right, serving as another layer of social proof for consumers looking to make purchases.


The evolution of the smartphone and other smart devices has resulted in a world of continuously connected and always-on consumers – even when they’ve opted out. The result is a new breed of consumers who have come to expect similar capabilities for physical in-store environments.

As such, the current opportunity for retail marketers isn’t necessarily the creation of net new touchpoints, but instead is the ability to seamlessly merge the online and offline worlds, using data to drive both design and experience. It’s what Amazon has done so well – combining high-tech retail with an in-store connection by using the convergence of data and personalization to drive the enhancement of the CX (i.e., scannable QR codes, infrared tech cameras, fully cashier-less checkouts).

Marketers have the opportunity to expand the use and value of influencer- and user-generated content, and can start by bringing ratings and reviews in-store, knowing that consumers have come to expect ratings and reviews just about every time they purchase something. Consider organizing some of your store based on ratings and reviews (i.e., a five-star aisle, a most popular item section, influencers’ favorite products).


When Your Coworker Reminds You GoT Comes Back This Year

The Story

New ARF research on over-the-top (OTT) TV suggests that two-thirds of TV households have OTT subscriptions. While linear TV viewing is still the norm (around 75 percent of all viewership), OTT viewership has quickly expanded and skews younger and more affluent than linear TV.

What else?

More than 100 scripted programs were streamed in 2018, and it’s likely that there will be even more in 2019. Virtually all major networks are making at least some of their programming available via OTT and it’s easy to see why – it allows networks to deliver consumers the content they want when they want it.


Hulu’s CEO Randy Freer said it best: “it’s a great time for content; not a great time for cable networks.” As such, cable networks that have yet to diversify their offerings beyond linear programming will fall behind as this new era of subscription-based content offerings and OTT will continue to win the battle for consumers’ attention.

Additionally, as the dominant model shifts away from linear TV and towards OTT, there’s also been a loosening of structural conventions, liberating creators from traditional episodic structures. Writers of streaming shows are no longer constricted around episode lengths and the number of episodes in a season is no longer dictated by the traditional network schedules. As such, influencers have the opportunity to begin disseminating their content via OTT, knowing that the format is preferred by consumers.


CES Roundup

The Story

CES is officially underway in Las Vegas. Here’s the latest and greatest from the event.

Let me hear it.

TV is getting bigger and better (@LG and @Samsung, we see you). Bezel-less and border-less devices are trending. 5G is the talk of the town, again. L’Oreal, P&G, and other big brands are hunting for startups to fuel existing product lines. Check out live coverage from the event here.



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