Visual IQDo you know the story of the three blind men who meet up with an elephant? Each man feels a single part of the elephant—the trunk, the side or the tail—and as a result has only a partial idea of what the animal is. Marketing today is in a similar situation. Each group understands their part of the elephant, but few have a holistic view. Many also lack a “single source of truth” for their marketing performance. This makes it nearly impossible to understand which marketing and advertising initiatives drive desired business outcomes. Even worse, when marketers can’t get an accurate and holistic view of customers and prospects traversing multiple channels, devices and touchpoints, they can’t accurately measure the value of each experience, or how well they are directing their consumers toward a desired action.

But brands are getting smarter, leveraging new tactics and technologies as they appear to gain understanding of “the whole elephant.” If the last few years are any indicator, 2018 should introduce us to many more interesting techniques as well. Here are six new things every marketer should expect next year.

1. More Team Spirit

Anyone remember the song, “We’re All In This Together” from High School Musical? One of the lines goes, “Everyone is special in their own way. We make each other strong.” This should be the new mantra for marketing teams in every industry.

The age of the silo is over. It’s no longer enough for marketers to focus on individual channel performance and last click attribution. Brands that don’t use multi-touch attribution are measuring in an isolated way, getting duplicated results, and not getting the insight they need to avoid spending on marketing activities that are simply not delivering results.

Siloed marketing teams must merge to share data, incentives, and insights across channels, so they can be responsive and flexible in their approach. Teams that don’t will disappoint customers and fall behind in 2018.

2. Specialists, Not Silos

When companies break out of their silos, new team structures will emerge. For B2C marketers, teams will organize along the lines of the customer journey. Instead of channel managers, experts will orient around touchpoints and specialize in the stages at which a customer or prospect might interact with the company.

Many more marketers will focus on the experiential aspects of the journey and work on creating experiences that bring the brand to life for individuals. Innovative companies will follow the example of Redbull, which does an amazing job of creating experiences that further the idea of this high-energy, action-oriented brand.

3. Brand Curation, Not Building

In 2018, the idea that building a brand is a marketer’s job will begin to fade. Already, for customers, their journey doesn’t consist of observing the brand from afar and interacting at defined touchpoints. Customers want to become involved with their favorite brands and build them by creating and sharing experiences.

Smart marketers will increasingly become brand stewards, curating experiences and creating guard rails for the customer. This is especially critical for retail marketers who need to dissuade “showrooming” customers, who visit stores to physically experience a product, then buy online. Retail brands need to build loyalty to motivate consumers to transact with them, not just touch and feel their merchandise. The retail marketing effort will become a curation effort from the moment someone walks in the store.

4. Authentic Audience Connections

The bad news for marketers is that people don’t believe marketing anymore. The good news is that they crave authentic experiences. The world is a chaotic and sometimes scary place these days. More of us are seeking meaning and experiences that will help us make sense of things. People are looking for their own version of the truth.

Companies that have an authentic human voice are the future of marketing. They will create opportunities for consumers to literally live their brands via a mix of digital, traditional, and experiential approaches. These are the brands that consumers will adopt, share, and introduce to their friends, spouses and children.

Curating experiences demands a better understanding of consumer behaviors and preferences, which means connecting audience and attribution data in new ways. In 2018 and beyond, companies that have a better ability to market in a highly curated way will be able to create more authentic experiences and thrive.

5. Art Meets Science

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning represent the future of every industry, not just marketing. But there’s no question that marketing will reap great benefits from AI. While marketing thrives on a heavy dose of art and science, the “art” side is our uniquely human capacity for nuance. AI’s goal is a blend of artistic and scientific capabilities to enable a computer to respond as a human would.

But unlike humans in our individual silos, computers can plug into a “neural” network that’s wider and more expansive than anything we can conceive of. Connecting human skills with big data is incredibly powerful for marketers. Advances in AI and machine learning will allow marketers to take vast amounts of data to create authentic interactions on a massive scale.

6. People-Based Power

Each year, technology helps us reach out better than we ever could before. As we gain greater capabilities, companies will fully embrace people-based marketing as a way to help consumers create their journey. People-based marketing allows us to curate marketing efforts around groups of individuals that share characteristics and is the future of marketing.

But people-based marketing can’t work if we can’t de-silo the technology that drives the marketing ecosystem. When we break down the silos of data and technology, we can follow people through their experiences online, offline, and across devices, blending into the background of their lives.

Already, audience and performance data from disparate systems can be integrated to provide a single source of truth about marketing performance, and a people-based understanding of what content, offers, creative and other tactics work best for whom.

Marketers need this type of marketing intelligence to curate more authentic experiences that foster real connections with their customers and prospects. When we can do this, we’re able to make important, strategic investments for our companies that optimize consumer experiences and business results. In 2018, we will continue to gain more perspective and break down silos to fulfill the promise of people-based marketing.

By Wayne St. Amand, CMO, Visual IQ