Well, what a year it’s been here at Canny. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with the team here to create some killer content pieces for you all and the responses have been great. From content marketing to branding strategies, we’ve covered a lot of key areas in 2017 to help you build your business.

I thought as we embark on another year, it would be fun to look back at some of the best pieces of advice we’ve given in 2017, then I’ll make some predictions for 2018 for branding, website design, and digital marketing that I hope you’ll appreciate. It

Our best pieces of advice from 2017.

We put a lot of content out last year at Canny and gave you lots of great advice. We don’t just write about this stuff, we live and breathe it. Come by our offices anytime and you’ll see just how passionate we are about branding, digital marketing, and website design. We’ve bored our spouses on more than one occasion talking about trends, or analytics — don’t get me started on keyword research!

There’s so much to learn still, so we hope you keep coming back to Canny. We’ve given out so many really good tips this year. For now, here are my three top pieces of advice we gave out on the blog in 2017.

On Branding

Your brand is everything your company does. From your logo on your Twitter feed to your latest landing page, your brand must be consistent.

On Digital Marketing

Digital marketing starts with telling your story. Just because your online doesn’t mean you forgo the fundamentals of marketing. Know your audience. Tell your story. Be authentic.

On Website Design

Today’s relationship with our smartphones is increasingly stronger every day. Think about how many times your customers pick up their phones in one day. If you don’t have fully responsive mobile experience for your website, you are wasting thousands of opportunities to engage with your audience.

On Business

Talk about budget right away. You’ll get the most bang for your buck and set up the working relationship with your creative team from the beginning.

Our Most Popular Posts of 2017

Let’s talk about some of our best posts of 2017! There are a lot of ways to determine ‘best’ for 2018 – Which posts were shared most? Which posts got the most engagement? Which post got the most organic traffic? Here are our most shared posts according to BuzzSumo for 2017:

Building Brand Loyalty: How to Turn Customers Into Lifelong Fans | Canny

In this blog, we talk about the importance of building a brand that customers don’t just flock to but are loyal too. We started that blog post off talking about one of Canada’s top coffee brands – Tim Hortons and how they used marketing, branding, and design to build customer loyalty.

We also talked about some smart tactical solutions that you can do to build customer loyalty, like celebrating their birthdays – thank you Starbucks, or rewarding the customers who frequent your establishments (think reward cards). Brand loyalty should also extend beyond the brick-and-mortar establishments and live in everything you do online.

I can see why this was a popular post last year. It’s something that many brands don’t cognitively think about and engage in, but we tackled loyalty and left you with some key takeaways that you can use to build your business.

Key takeaway:

Brand loyalty isn’t something you do once. It is something you continue to do.

Brand Audit – How to Carry Out a

Brand Audit | Canny Creative

Our second most shared blog post was a more recent one and answered a very specific question – something that Canny does quite a bit of – brand audits. After spending a lot of 2017 talking about branding, what makes a successful brand and giving some key insights on how to execute your brand vision, it was nice to get some specifics out there to you.

How do you carry out a brand audit? Why is it so important? How do you know if it’s time to rebrand? Are you spending your budget where you should?

We dig deep into the importance and significance of the brand audits that we do and why your company needs to get this done. It’s an informative read for sure, one that I’m sure many more people will share in 2018

Key takeaway:

Take a step back and audit your brand to build the business you want, not think you have.

Content and Design: How They Should Get Along | Canny

I love how this blog post was the third most shared blog post on Canny last year. In many ways, Canny is all about design and content working together and creating that magic that happens when both worlds get along. On a personal note, it’s been a pleasure to see how things happen behind the curtain at Canny when it comes to design.

Every colour, every font choice, every image placement is deliberate.

There is always a story to be told with design and with content. Together, the stories have to support each other. In this blog post, we give some insights on how design and content work together, why one isn’t more important than the other, and how designers and content creators can all get along!

Key takeaway:

You need both content and design to work together online to build a strong web presence.

Actionable SEO Tips

17 Actionable SEO Tips To Help Skyrocket Your Rankings | Canny

Although this is only the 4th most shared post, it’s by far the most talked about post for 2017! We got a lot of questions, comments, and kudos from all of you when we decided to give you our hard-earned insights into the world of SEO.

There are a lot of SEO tips out there on the web, but we took the best 17 actions you can take to skyrocket your ratings. Yes, SEO is the long-game but it still works.

Key takeaway:

SEO is still vital and it works, and there are steps you can take today to build more online traffic for tomorrow.

The Ultimate List of Branding Tips You’ll Love – Canny Creative

In our 5th most shared post of the year, we have this BEAST of a blog post. If you haven’t made your way through this post yet, your new year’s resolution should be to read this! As the list stands today, we’ve given you 97 awesome branding tips that will take your company to the next level!

We end the list with one of my favourite ones:

#97. Be authentic at every brand touchpoint along the way.

It doesn’t matter how large your brand is today; without authenticity, you won’t be able to build a brand that lasts. Too many brands out there think they have to hype everything, but that isn’t true. Do what you do best. Be clear in your intentions and never use hyperbole to brag about your brand. Nobody likes that feeling that something just ain’t right. Just do you. Your followers will be there.

This is such good advice if I must say so myself.

Key takeaway:

Building a strong brand takes knowing what your value proposition is, who your target audience is, and communicating that authentically along the way.

Black Mirror: Branding Lessons from the Future? | Canny Creative

Okay. I get why this post is our 6th most shared post from 2017 – it’s a lot of fun. As a big fan of Black Mirror, it was super fun to write my futuristic marketing predictions inspired by this Netflix sensation. While I can certainly relate with the relationship we continue to build with our screens, smartphones, and technology, the trends that I think are so important to discuss for the future are that of data and privacy.

This post reminds us that we are always being rated and that our work online never goes away. Yes, we had some fun with this post, but we are not that far from the dystopian future of Black Mirror really, are we?

Key takeaway:

Black Mirror is a cool show. Marketing in the future is not that different than marketing is today.

YouTube Business App on iPhone

The 51 Best Business YouTube Channels for Entrepreneurs and Marketers | Canny

There’s something about a big list that we love here at Canny! This year our number 7 hit list is the massive and fun YouTube for Entrepreneurs and Marketers list to end all other lists!

We are big fans of YouTube here at Canny. We’ve been watching these videos for years, getting insights and tips on how to grow our businesses and it was high time we shared them all with you.

The big news though is we (at Canny) started to harness the power of YouTube ourselves with our own YouTube program launched in 2017. Hey, you can even watch as we plan out the big event in Canada with me (Amy) in our weekly Skype meetings.

Key takeaway:

The learning never stops when you are an entrepreneur. Watch these YouTube masters and be inspired to keep going!

Top 16 Web Design Complaints from Actual Clients | Canny

This is not a surprise that you all loved this post. We love delivering excellent web design here at Canny – it’s our passion.

While we do our best to give clients superb, quality, expert work – there are many levels of web designers out there. When talking to new clients to started to hear the same complaints over and over again – so we wrote this post.

While we do address the top complaints we hear head on, we start the blog talking about what you should look for in a design company. Do they understand the complexities of digital marketing? Do they have a kick-ass portfolio? Are they asking questions about your company, your brand vision?

Key takeaway:

Do your homework before you hire a web design or creative team. It can cost your business much more money in the long run if you hire cheap. 

How To Speed Up Your Website | Canny Creative

Once again we are addressing a problem that many websites seem to have out there – speed. Slow loading websites are the bane of the internet and they can kill your leads, your engagement, your traffic numbers quick.

We give you expert insights and real solutions on how you can speed up your website. Tony and the team at Canny know how to make websites work fast. There are some tricks of the trade when it comes to design and it can be key when it comes to mobile speed as well.

This post also has some good tips on how you can evaluate your website speed for free too!

Key takeaway:

If your website is loading slow, you’ll lose customers, but there are things you can do to improve speed.

Web Design: Why I Will Never Visit Your Site Again

I’m not a web designer but I know good web design when I see it, or I should more accurately say, I know poor web design when I see it. Cluttered, slow-loading, poorly designed sites have no place on the web. A strong web presence isn’t just a nice thing to have any more, it’s a necessity and there is no excuse for it these days.

In this post from June, we discuss those nail-on-chalkboard things that web designers and companies still do that make our skin crawl. Today, you don’t get more than one chance to make a first impression online. If your design drives your traffic away, that traffic won’t come back. Have a read through our expert reasons why we’ll never visit your site again and what you can do to make us stay!

Listen to Tony talk about his journey to building websites and the importance of design in this interview with Change Creator:

Key takeaway:

Take the time to consider your user when building out your site. It could be costly if you don’t!

My Honourable Mention

Seriously, We Need to Know Your Budget! Here’s Why | Canny Creative

I couldn’t do a 2017 roundup without talking about this blog post that Tony wrote. It’s so important to everything we do as business owners. You see, we as creative professionals want to see your business grow. If you grow, you take us with you. To get the most impact for your marketing, branding and content dollars, a frank, honest discussion about your budget is vital. If we know your budget first, we can give you the best work we have.

Key takeaway:

Let’s talk budget from the get-go. You’ll get the most bang for your buck and we’ll help your business grow.

Okay, let’s move onto 2018 already.

My Top Predictions for Web Design, Branding and Digital Marketing Trends for 2018

Brands must build authenticity offline as well as online.

What do you want to be known for as a brand, as a company in 2018? It’s always good practice at the beginning of a new year to remind yourself and your employees who you are as a company. Creating a company vision statement is just one of the things you should create or revisit at the beginning of the year to remind yourself why you do what you do.

Telling your brand story has to be authentic in everything that you do. This year, we talked about brand touchpoints, and in 2018 authentic engagement with your audience is vital. I see so many inauthentic moments with brands these days. We are constantly being bombarded with remarketing ads, with pop-ups, surveys, and leads down tunnels that we are losing our minds. Brands that use marketing solely as a means of making money and not adding value to their customers will go by the wayside.

Today’s consumers want more than just products; they require authentic brand experiences. They want to be a part of something and know that your brand stands for something. I see more and more big brands build out smaller niche markets so they can engage on a more personal level with their customers. This is something that will continue into 2018 and beyond.

Your online presence is important, but customers want that connection with your brand to continue offline as well. Great customer service, loyalty programs, and real-life experiences should all be authentic representations of your brand. After fiascos with influencer marketing like the Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial, or the embarrassing Frye Festival debacle, smart brands are steering away from using over-hyped influencers to sell their brands.

Customers want real experiences. If you promise something online and can’t deliver offline, you’ll lose customers. Build authentic promises and deliver, online and off.

Our relationship with our smartphones continues to deepen.

We love our smartphones. We wake up to next to them. We take them out to dinner, out for drinks, and then check them again when we get home.

Our smartphones are more than just our connection to the outside world. They are a part of our world. Smart marketing teams know this and do something about it.

“Average users look at their phones about 150 times a day, according to some estimates, and about twice as often as they think they do, according to a 2015 study by British psychologists.”

While many would say that we are losing ourselves to our smartphones, smart marketers are taking advantage of our addiction to our phones and will continue to do so in 2018. Engagement is king and marketers will use our addiction to our smartphones to keep us on our phones longer.

“If we have lost control over our relationship with smartphones, it is by design. In fact, the business model of the devices demands it. Because most popular websites and apps don’t charge for access, the internet is financially sustained by eyeballs. That is, the longer and more often you spend staring at Facebook or Google, the more money they can charge advertisers.”

We can take advantage of this cell phone obsession by creating more engagement with our audience, being there at every touchpoint and offering real information and value online so people keep coming back to us as experts

Voice search means there will be new ways to find you online.

This Christmas I got a Google Home Mini for my family. I get it. Voice search is here to stay and smart marketers have to figure out how to get ahead of this technology. Get to know the questions, the concerns, the pain points of your audience even more in 2018 so you can have valuable information people are searching for using Alexa, Google Home, and Siri.

This is a trend I see continuing well into 2018 as the AI behind voice search becomes smarter and even more sophisticated. Brands will also need to implement some sort of voice search capabilities into their apps and websites to give customers better, faster, more efficient ways to find them.

Google updates with AI will continue to seek out relevant content.

Speaking of AI, Google continues to update their Alphabet infrastructure, pumping billions of dollars into their AI capabilities to improve search functions and capabilities. As Market Watch explains:

“One of the things Sundar means by that is that it’s really hard to find a product or offering at Google now that doesn’t apply some level of machine learning to improve the customer experience or to improve the back end operations that we’ve got going on,” Tariq Shaukat, president of Google Cloud, said in a telephone interview with MarketWatch. “You can see that both in the products we’re offering and the capabilities we’re offering customers.”

So what does this mean for digital marketers and branding efforts? We need to build relevant content online. We need to build authentic brands online. We need to answer the questions our audience is asking. If Google is looking for the most relevant answer to a question, and becoming much more sophisticated in how it can analyze not only what people are asking for, but the tone, and way they are asking, we have to make our offerings more relevant.

Gone are the days when we can click-bait our way to the top of searches. If you aren’t offering real value to your customers, Google will know about it.

Videos will continue to dominate.

A visual brand is so vital in today’s world. While there are going to be more voice searches in 2018, we’ll also still be tuned into video. Smart brands will continue to use video online to educate, inform, and delight their audiences.

Videos will also continue to be used to improve customer retention rates and put information into your customers’ hands in an easy, engaging way. Videos can be a great way to share customer success stories, show the behind-the-scenes magic of your brand, or give valuable information about your product and service online.

Personalization. Personalization. Did I say personalization?

Imagine your customers coming to your website and getting a unique experience created just for them based on their likes, interests, tastes, questions, and problem. This is what 2018 and beyond will look like as we gather more audience data and find smarter ways to personalize that data for each user experience.

Personalization with dynamic content has been around for awhile, but with smarter remarketing strategies, better coders, and more tech-based solutions, we’ll see brands pushing the envelope, even more, when it comes to personalizing the content you as a customer engages with. Websites will offer a unique experience for every user based on likes, dislikes, previous visits to the site and then follow up with that personalization in other communications.

While many of us are familiar with remarketing experientially already (yes, we all know how Facebook gathers our data to show us other brands we might be interested in), smart brands will use this technique to offer personalized experiences with their brands in new ways. A homepage can change looks depending on each user that visits changing content, headlines, videos – anything really.

We will continue to use technology to find new ways to personalize our user’s experience with our brand. 

Using content as a strategic resource along the customer journey.

As I have discussed before, we need not abandon the fundamental principles of marketing just because we’re online. In fact, I would argue that it is more vital than ever to do the fundamentals well. As we move into 2018, one of the trends I see developing is in content.

Yes, we’ve been saying content is King for years now and that’s still true. Content as marketing is a powerful tool online, one that we’ll continue to use. But what makes effective content? Gone are the days you could just produce a bunch of content online to drive numbers. Today’s customers are more tech-savvy, more cynical and understand the basics of online marketing greater than audiences of the past.

So, what do we as marketers do?

We get back to our basic principles and really dig deep into our customer journey. More than ever, we need to know how our customers are finding us, what their desires are, their likes, fears, pain points. The more we understand the customer journey and use content marketing along the way, the more we’ll engage our audience with our brand and build sales.

What are some of the ways we can know our customer more? In a Smart Insights survey where they asked which techniques are used to research and improve customer journey effectiveness, responded answered with these:

  • Customer personas: 53%
  • Customer journey mapping: 52%
  • AB Testing: 48%
  • Path analysis in analytics: 32%
  • Website customer intent surveys: 30%
  • Voice of customer surveys: 26%
  • Usability studies of digital experiences: 23%
  • Multivariate testing: 14%

I believe that all of these techniques are valuable, but for 2018 customer journey mapping and analysis will take greater significance for digital marketers. We need to know and evaluate where our customers are coming from, where we take them, what value we’re giving them along the way.

The trend I’m seeing here is that businesses are getting serious about treating content as a strategic resource, that means developing a customer engagement strategy using different media as shown in the lifecycle diagrams above, and at a practical level, developing content for different audiences using techniques like Personas and Content Mapping. Our research shows that these customer-centric analysis techniques are growing in importance, which has to be a good thing for consumers and businesses!

In Conclusion: What do we have to look forward to in 2018?

Keeping the fundamentals of marketing and branding we’ve known for years offline is vital to success in 2018 and beyond. Knowing who your audience is, how they will find you, what they will get when they engage with you – along the entire customer journey is vital to any company’s success now and throughout 2018 and beyond.

As we move forward, yes, there will continue to be innovative tech solutions that we’ll have to get on board with, but I believe the fundamentals of branding, great design, and customer engagement will always stand the test of time.

Here are 3 marketing trends that will never go away (online or offline):

  • Telling your story
  • Building Authenticity
  • Understanding your customers

If you can continue to do these 3 things this year, you’ll be ahead of any trend.

Amy Aitman is the owner of 8menCan, a content agency based in Toronto, Canada. She works to create content strategies and digital marketing plans for businesses around the world. Away from the office, Amy takes her team out for chicken tacos and martins, extra dirty, extra olives of course.


2 comments on “My 2018 Predictions in Branding, Web Design, and Marketing

  1. Alok Shrii on

    2017 wast the year where we have seen lots of updated regarding online branding, online marketing & designing prospects. It will definitely continues in 2018 also and will move deeper & deeper as the audience is more likely to involve with the smartphones. Which makes it easier for the market leaders to target for their business.

    • Amy Aitman on

      2017 our obsession with our smartphones only deepens. Many big companies are investing millions and millions of dollars in content. If you don’t find a way to connect with your audience online in 2018, the big boys will. We can help companies strengthen their online presence here if you want to stay ahead of the trends!


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