by MarkLives (@marklives) What are the expectations for the marketing and advertising industry in 2018? We emailed a panel of key industry executives for their take on the macro environment, budgets, changes in messaging, movement in the industry and any consumer and communication trends they’ll be looking out for. Next up is Prakash Patel of Fogg.

Prakash Patel

Prakash PatelPrakash Patel (@PrakashPatel_1), a seasoned strategist and data-driven digital marketer, is managing director of Fogg Cape Town. Previously, he was CEO of Prezence and chief digital officer of FCB/Mesh. Prior to moving to SA, Prakash spent over 18 years at some of the world’s largest and independent data and digital agencies in the UK. Now he is trying to keep up with tomorrow today and helping brands add value in the #TraDigital era.

First there were websites, then there were social media platforms, apps, VR/AR and now there is AI, bots and cryptocurrencies.

The advancement of digital, technologies and platforms in the past will be nothing to go by, as the velocity of change in things to come is going to be unprecedented, unpredictable and in a constant flux of adaptation and evolution. Just think about these statements for a minute, then pause and contemplate the possibilities that were once impossible now made possible.

  • In total, there are 400 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, which equates to 65 years of video every day, or
  • The claim that the supercomputer known as IBM Watson will soon be the best diagnostician in the world, according to Andrew McAfee, one of its creators, based on its ability to access and store more information than a human brain.

With the festive season gone and most of us back to work, global political and economical uncertainties continue, and consumers are watching their rands. I am sure most marketing strategists and marketers will be busy working out their strategies for the coming new year, from better understanding who their customers are through to embracing new and emerging technologies in order to connect with their customers in far more meaningful ways.

So, here are a few trends and traits in no particular order, that I believe all marketers need to (continue to) think about in the coming year:


That old chestnut — my no. 1 reminder each year. South Africa has always been a mobile-first country and, with the growth of smartphones, it’s no surprise that mobile will continue to be (or should be) top of mind for the marketing and digital industry. If not, as a reminder, it was reported last year in the Effective Measure Mobile in South Africa Report that a whopping 70% of South Africans browsed the web on their mobile, while 44% surf the web in bed and a further 35% go one step further and reach for their smartphones as soon as they wake up. The opportunity continues to grow as the mobile becomes an extension to ourselves, and most marketers have learnt that mobile marketing is now core to their business. In this modern era, consumers interact with products and brands at any time, in any place and across numerous channels — from apps to mobile web, social media sites through to messenger and now even chat bots and geo-targeted ads based upon your geographical location.

So, make mobile experience one of your top priorities, as consumers are more likely to buy and recommend from a business that has a better mobile experience. Plus, it’s worth bearing in mind that a mobile friendly site is a prerequisite for Google’s search algorithm.

Customer experience (CX) and omnichannel

I’ve covered this topic extensively over the years, and have had the privilege of working with a number of brands in defining and producing their total customer experience across all touchpoints by producing a strategic roadmap that brings C-suite executives together across departments and functions. In today’s world, if we continue to see our consumers through the lens of our marketing channels, we have already lost the battle to be customer-centric or consumer-focused. Throw away the rulebook from a strategic perspective and start this year by truly understanding your entire business’s total CZX… from how your consumer researches and finds your brand and reviewing your products both instore and online to engaging with your brand from making a complaint through social media to buying your product, experiencing it and reviewing it for everyone to see.


On the subject of experiences, in my opinion, one thing that has never changed in marketing is that it is still about storytelling and the experiences we deliver.

“Experiences are the new luxury good.” —Will Dean.

One of the biggest developments with respect to experiences and marketing has been virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) over the past few years — something we believe is changing the landscape in a far deeper and more personal way. Why?

“Virtual reality was once the dream of science fiction. But the Internet was also a dream, and so were smartphones and computers. The future is coming and we have a chance to build it together.” —Mark Zuckerberg.

VR/AR is no longer only for films, music videos, games or luxury sectors. Science fiction becomes a reality for all who wish to embrace it. So, what makes these technologies so powerful and unique?

  • Media drive our senses in a way we are designed to perceive the world. Traditional media is about communicating in 2D by producing multimedia that can be watched on some display, eg TV, phone, tablet or computer.
  • Virtual reality is about communicating in 3D. Simply put, it allows us to transport our customers right into these experiences. They can look around, move around and interact. It feels real. You are virtually immersed in a unique experience
  • It can create the experience of presence, or build a strong sense of empathy and have a powerful psychological impact on its user. For example, go and experience The New York Times VR.

AI and chatbots

According to Forbes writer, Blake Morgan, chatbots are the future of CX and have the power to replace search windows and many apps in the not-so-distant future. For me, it’s far more than simply replacing customer experience or search.

We saw a huge growth in 2017 with the emerging trend in artificial intelligence (AI), where some brands have already embarked on this new journey here in SA and reaping rewards, learnings or feedback, while others are still grappling with how it may be used or asking the question what it is. But as soon as I say “virtual assistants”, the big story of 2017 (such as Siri, Alexa, or now even IBM Watson), most people get it.

Chatbots are simply an AI program designed to imitate a conversation with a person in real time, that isn’t limited by technology because the AI tech is built into the software. A program that is constantly learning after each and every question and answer.

The opportunities are endless as companies continue to use AI to connect, engage and communicate with their customers in ways that were not possible before. But, after judging the 2017 SXSW Interactive Innovations Awards, I believe there’ll be more adoption of voice computing as touchless interfaces evolve away from fingers and swipes that will make voice assistants far more versatile in the year ahead.

Content marketing

As we say now, content is KING (in context); content will continue to dominate conversations around marketing and campaigns — as without good, purposeful relevant content, what is a great idea or website? Content marketing is seen as the ‘engagement’ fuel that powers all digital communications, from search to social to emarketing to drive awareness and reach through to creating websites that entice, convert and retain customers through always-on content-driven plans.


More data has been created over the past few years than in the entire previous history of the human race. So, with all that data, the focus is now more on data quality rather than the amount of data you have.

One of the most-talked about challenges by marketers is the actual transformation of data into actionable insights. Otherwise, it’s just data that becomes both the challenge and opportunity. Size or amount doesn’t matter; it’s what you do with it that will make the difference. The opportunity comes down to focusing first and foremost on the data quality and accuracy and. once established, mining the relevant data to glean insights and applying intelligence to drive more impactful data-driven strategies (an area I wrote about on MarkLives a few years back).

Cryptocurrency and blockchains

Talking about data, this brings me to my final trend that has revolutionised the world’s financial system. Cryptocurrency is a form of digital money that is designed to be secure and, in many cases, anonymous. It’s a currency associated with the internet that uses cryptography, the process of converting legible information into an almost uncrackable code, to track purchases and transfers.

How this new phenomenon will effect marketing is still unclear, and according to AJ Agrawal, a contributor to Entrepreneur, he believes that cryptocurrency might make it more difficult for marketers to collect the kind of data on consumers that often informs advertising strategies.

Currently, it’s easy to collect huge amounts of information on potential customers to attract leads, largely because the platform marketers use, such as Facebook or Google, owns the data and sells it to you. Marketers can use this information to figure out audience segments, test which ads work better than others, predict customer behaviour and more.

However, with cryptocurrency, information is anonymous, secure and encrypted — making it difficult for marketers to figure out who bought what, and how customers are responding to marketing tactics.

But this is only part of the challenge within this complex cryptocurrency world, as it is argued that the opposite may be true, in that the ledger (a blockchain is a massive, decentralizsd ledger; entries in the ledger are generated by transactions using a particular cryptocurrency), should make it easier to track what consumers are spending and where. At the end of the day, cryptocurrency is just another form of payment and not a vehicle that completely changes how consumers shop.

For now, marketers should closely watch the progression of cryptocurrency and blockchains. It is a complicated topic but is explained well in this video:

In summary, we will continue to see the rise in the usage of digital; internet of things (IoT); expansion in the gathering and mining of data; greater appreciation of the total CX; the convergence of the physical and digital worlds; and the rise of the bot through the adoption of AI, used to connect and communicate with customers in ways that are far more efficient and effective or that were once impossible or too expensive.

#BigQ2018 series


MarkLives logoLaunched in 2016, “The Big Q” is a regular column on MarkLives in which we ask key advertising and marketing industry execs for their thoughts on relevant issues facing the industry. If you’d like to be part of our pool of panellists, please contact editor Herman Manson via email (2mark at marklives dot com) or Twitter (@marklives). Suggestions for questions are also welcomed.

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