6 communication trends you can’t ignore in 2018

Speed. Change. Technology. Disruption. Transformation. Our world is exploding with new technologies and new ways of communicating. Never before has the world of communication evolved so fast and in so many ways and directions.

2017 was quite possibly ‘peak VR’, with big questions emerging over its relevance - see Facebook’s $200 (50%) price cut for its Oculus Rift headset, yet still sluggish sales. The rise and rise of influencer marketing has caught the eye, as has the industry that has sprung up around it (plus dubious ‘influencers’ charging hundreds of dollars per post with fairly small audiences). However, UK-based authority Marketing Week says “cracks have started to appear in the influencer façade. Calculating return on investment is a big problem – more than two thirds of marketers claim they are unable to tell whether influencer activity actually drives sales, while 86% are unsure how influencers calculate their fees.”

So, how is 2018 shaping up – and what do we expect to see affecting the way people and organisations communicate this year?

Dan, George and Luke from the Clarity team each offer two trends that have caught their eye for your consideration:

Daniel McCabe:

Trend 1: Radical changes to Facebook

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced last week that over the next few months there will be a ‘major change’ to the news feed. Here’s what Zuckerberg had to say: 

Click here to read the rest of Mark Zuckerberg’s post 

As users, this means we are going to start seeing:

  • More from friends, family and groups
  • Less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media.

For organisations on Facebook, this means:

  • Your page’s reach, video watch time and referral traffic will likely decrease, because...
  • People will spend less time on Facebook

So will this make Facebook less valuable as a marketing tool?

No. Not at all. This move is going to make Facebook more popular with the general public. It just means that businesses are going to have to get better at creating more engaging, meaningful content. It’s going to make influencers and brand champions even more valuable as they are going to hold the key to getting you front and centre of the main news feed.

While we still don’t know exactly what the changes are going to look like, it’s clear that businesses are going to need to lean on savvy creatives who can break through the divide by producing:

  • Engaging video content
  • Beautiful imagery
  • Captivating people stories
  • Topical posts that promote engagement and interaction

This impending overhaul of the Facebook news feed warrants its own blog, so watch this space.

Trend 2: The death of interruptive advertising

People are sick to death of marketing and spin. The impending Facebook changes above are testament to this. We can all relate to being tormented by pop up and auto play ads that stand in the way of what we want to see.

As a result, there is a large-scale rebellion against interruptive advertising, with one in five smart phone users worldwide, almost 420 million people, using an ad block when they are browsing the internet on a mobile device, according to the New York Times. Studies have found that consumers find advertising to be annoying, intrusive, disruptive and in many cases damaging to the brand.

What’s the solution?

Algorithms are becoming more and more sophisticated, to a point where marketers are armed with so much information about who their ads will reach that there’s no excuse for a spray and pray approach.

We can almost find out what people are eating for breakfast so any communication that goes out should be tailored to who you’re going to reach.

The rebellion against interruptive advertising will continue in 2018 – which only reaffirms our belief at The Clarity Business that authentic, people stories are the way to pull your audience towards you. Because as we’re seeing, if you constantly push content at them, they will switch off.


George Hulbert

Trend 3: Authentic stories will beat brand comms

As the blizzard of auto-content swirling from off-the-shelf ‘option 1, 2 or 3’ content marketers threatens to drown us all in cardboard content crap every time we turn on our devices, 2018 could well be the year when we all cry ‘enough!’ and demand content that is completely relevant, interesting and useful to them. I’ll be at the front of that queue…

Moreover, as people tire of interruptive advertising in favour of human stories well told, often online, reputation is once again coming into the ascendancy over brand. The principle is simple: you don’t own your reputation - your audience does - and you have to live the values you espouse, and prove them in your actions and communications every day if you wish to maintain the right reputation as well as connect and engage with people who matter to you.

The excellent Authenticity Gap Report by UK-based consultancy Fleischman Hillard explains in some detail how and why this is occurring:

People want to know the human stories of brands – the people behind them, how they behave, and how they help their customers.

UK-based consultant and author Neil Gaught takes it further in his book CORE, How A Single Organising Idea Can Change Business For Good, published last year: “The best businesses explicitly set out to contribute to society, and to live out authentically held values. That is increasingly what is expected of them by customers, employees and investors alike.”

The way we look at it at Clarity is to ensure your customers see themselves in the story you’re telling. Are you describing their lives and experiences? Are you proving how your offering is of value and achieved great things for your customers?

So we ask you: what stories can you tell to prove the value of your brand and give the truth of the experience with your organisation?

Trend 4: Could 2018 be the year that augmented or blended reality really cuts through?

At Clarity we’ve long held the view that AR is a massively powerful communications tool and source of information, and one whose potential hasn’t even begun to be imagined, let alone realised.

But this may well change when a popular interface emerges and provides usable AR, or the variety of blended/mixed reality, such as possibly the bedroom mirror Amazon is working on (and has patented) to show how clothes would look on you at home before buying them:

Imagine the storytelling and imagination power of services like this. Apple certainly can: Apple’s CEO Tim Cook is on the record as saying that the next battleground will be AR, and as the new Apple AR KIT is being rolled out to developers the company is certainly putting their money where their mouth is, even if development is not progressing as fast Apple - or others - would like.

But, to our way of thinking, technology that comes to you through a device that you already have – such as your phone or tablet – and provides you with limitless information on demand without requiring you to wear a headset that cuts off all other awareness, has to be the way of the future. A powerful tool for information and stories.

Just as long as we don’t get to H+ scenario too soon: 


Luke Henshall

Trend 5: Consolidation of major media 

Photo: RNZ

The media landscape will continue to shift in 2018, both globally and locally, as the need for scale is set to drive consolidation. We’ve seen it on the international stage with mega mergers between Disney and Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox to AT&T and Time Warner and on the local with attempt by Fairfax (owner of Stuff, Sunday Star Times and many of the regional newspaper mastheads throughout the country and NZME, owner of NZ Herald and a number of radio stations including Newstalk ZB).

This is all comes as media companies look to counter the tech giants that are reshaping media - Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google – with their customer bases that are hundreds of millions if not billions strong.

While the Fairfax/NZME merger was denied by the High Court just before Christmas there’s still likely more shifting in the tectonic plates of the New Zealand media market to come this year as radio, print and TV all merge under single brands.

Whatever happens on that front, whichever way or outlet information is distribution the best ideas, content and stories to captivate consumers will always be needed. There will just be a continuing need for companies and businesses looking to communicate with audiences to consider multi-media executions of their messages.

Trend 6: Advertising and editorial to continue to morph

Sponsored content disguised as editorial continues to rise in popularity.  

The rise of native advertising or sponsored content on news websites has been a growing trend over the last few years and will continue to evolve in 2018. The key driver for this is revenue, as media companies appreciate there are sections of the market that are prepared to pay to ensure guaranteed coverage of a news story.

Specialisation of subject matter is providing a vehicle for this as well, and it will be very interesting to watch this year a new NZME platform aimed at the residential real estate market is performing much in the same way as its True Commercial platform does for commercial Real Estate.

The free commuter weekly Paperboy magazine had also used sponsored content well with interesting features on urbanism and in the Auckland property development space, but sadly it’s publisher Bauer Media decided that its issue just before Christmas would be its last, despite having run for just a year. Given its following, despite the lack of advertiser, expect to see a digital spin-off focusing on urbanism and Auckland matters at some point this year.

What this growing variety of advertorial options to tell stories means is that in theory there should be less competition for quality stories in the editorial space. What’s more, any editorial that does appear will have heightened credibility as “genuine news” versus the consumer news being fed via paid channels.

….and a cheeky extra Trend 7: Being natural

One last quick trend in terms of how organisations and people communicate: Expect to see a continuing move towards a focus on connecting with audiences in a more emotive way in 2018 - via a more a natural tone of voice as organisations are required to have conversations with their customers rather than the one way marketing traffic talking at them.

This will be supported by a growing alignment between customer services and communications departments within organisations, with the continuing realisation that reputation is tied to customer experience and this isn’t just driven by processes and levels of convenience but by empathy and understanding in how organisations communicate too.  

Please do contact Dan, George or Luke at The Clarity Business for any further trends or analysis, or for any help in navigating this rapidly changing environment: +64 9 950 2690.


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