What’s going on out there? Self-reinforcing groupthink herds us all. Whether we be Remainers, Brexiteers, Bulls or Bears, the polarizing economic data, distracting high profile brand triumphs and failures and feverish news cycles cloud our thinking. I think the truth is we all crave a little drama. I can’t promise you drama with the Pearlfinders Index, but I can promise you simple facts from a large sample group.

There is a direct correlation between the insights thousands of marketers share with Pearlfinders and Rainmaker during the course of our research, and the eventual outcomes of employing these insights for actual opportunities, pitches and new business wins. This information is predictive. Where then should marketing services providers focus revenue growth ambitions this year? A couple of trends stand out.

First up, the global financial sector – rapidly mutating and more competitive than ever. In 2018, we’ll see start-ups gain prominence as if from nowhere, banks (our money’s on HSBC and Barclays) acquire fintech brands, cryptocurrencies be banned in some countries and go mainstream in others, and a looming Brexit crunch-time fully resolve its impact on marcoms and HR strategy from Wall Street to the City.

But as banks introduce robo-advisors, CMOs from all sectors are concerned that a premature over-reliance on foetal technology such as AI risks eroding consumer trust and authenticity. This shift in sentiment is clear: we’ve identified a 25% uplift in the number of brands seeking to improve ‘consumer trust’ in 2018, and a 28% increase in the number of brands citing ‘authenticity’ as a 2018 marcoms priority. Battle lines are being drawn as digital shops and martech resellers push the potential for greater personalisation and relevance while big idea integrated agencies argue in favour of more meaningful, ‘real’ campaigns, brand advocates and experiences.

Kenyon Weston, a small design agency in the north of England’s recent collaboration with Coke’s in-house team on the new visual identity for Diet Coke, is the latest evidence that mega brands needn’t be blind to merit, irrespective of the size and fame of the agency, and even if based thousands of miles away. Design consultants should be cheered by the whale sized uptick in FMCG briefs we uncovered globally in 2017 (+6.7%) and use this opportunity to refresh and restate their offer to brands in the sector – no matter how iconic.

Those alarmed by the mixed bag of results in the UK retail sector should instead home in on the specific marketing challenges that each high-street brand is wrestling with behind the scenes. These may of course be: integrating on and offline customer experience, loyalty, reputation, social content, tech innovation, consumer insight. All desperately needed, but proceed with caution as budgets are neither uniform nor indeed always realistic, and a business case may need to be made to help shape the brief for adequate investment.

With this in mind, you might want to consider supplementing your client list with brands from the less glamorous sectors - engineering, industry, logistics and services. Creatives may sigh, but strong UK manufacturing and services productivity and innovation means work available is more varied, interesting and profitable than ever.

Your competitors may all be casting their rods in the same pond, but new business can be found anywhere and imagination and diversification is the clever play right now.

To download a full copy of the Pearlfinders 2018 Index click here