Top 5 Chemical Sciences Marketing Trends to Watch in 2018

What new communications channels will become more dominant? What global or U.S. economic shifts will occur?

No one can truly predict the future, but there are certainly science marketing trends that we should be paying attention to. Read our take on what to expect in 2018.

As you plan your 2018 marketing campaigns, a quick crystal ball consult would be helpful.

Wouldn’t it be great to know what new communications channels will become more dominant? What global or U.S. economic shifts will occur – or what will the next major scientific breakthrough be?

Alas, here at C&EN BrandLab, we can’t pretend to know the answers to those questions. However, we do see some science marketing trends taking shape that we think will resonate in 2018. These are what you can plan for.

Hover over each box below to learn more about that specific trend, and keep them in mind as you develop your next marketing strategy or campaign.


With the explosion of digital marketing, you now have many different ways to reach your potential customers. That’s great, but on the flip side, your customers are inundated with so much information from these many channels that they tune much of it out—particularly if they feel they are being overtly marketed to.

What’s a marketer to do? For one, you could provide your scientific audience with information they’ll actually find helpful, at the moment they actually need to purchase products for their labs.

Scientists are stellar researchers—it’s what they do for a living—so to determine the best product for their lab, they will take the time to read journal and magazine articles, conduct internet searches, communicate with peers, and read product specifications. Good branded content can make this list of valuable resources.

As David Chapin of Forma Life Science Marketing writes“The rule is now ‘Publish or Perish’ for all of us (not just for faculty at universities). We’ve all got to give away what we know. We’ve got to make it educational. It’s got to be interesting, and it’s got to be valuable, and it’s got to be unique.”

Do that, and your potential customers won’t tune you out.


Marketers spend a lot of time and money touting what makes their product different and superior. Sure, but that might not be the best way to connect to a broader swath of potential buyers.

Why not? Needs are vast and various, but everyone wants products that make their lives easier. Your product might be ahead of the competition in a number of technical ways, but in the end, your most compelling argument might be “This product will save you time” or “This product will make your life easier.”

In a recent post on the C&EN Marketing Elements Blog, Raj Mukhopadhyay, executive editor of C&EN BrandLab, offers the following advice: “A ‘we’re all in this together’ approach can go a long way. This is the key to staying relevant and attracting and engaging individual scientists. Brands who go above and beyond to provide an added-value will really stand out to their consumers.”

Mukhopadhyay then describes two instances during her scientific career when brands helped her do her job—once with product research and another time with late-night customer service. This not only made her a grateful customer, but gave the brands great content for marketing campaigns centered on how they are truly helping scientists do their jobs.

Bottom line: Form relationships with the humans behind the microscope to find out how your products can make a real difference in both their lives and their labs. Those two things are, after all, related.


Marketing 101 tells us that marketers who offer tailored messages to each segment of their audience based on their different needs will be more successful than those who don’t.

As science marketers, your audience is now virtually everyone who sets foot in a lab. A recent ACS survey on purchasing practices found that only 7 percent of respondents purchase chemicals and supplies alone. Each person has a different role at a different point in the decision-making process, and you need to appeal to each person each step of the way.

Generally speaking, the purchasing process goes something like this: Graduate students, technicians, and postdocs are on the front lines, so they will recognize any lab product and service needs. They pass their product requests on to their bosses, who then conduct their own research to determine the best buy. They then recommend a particular purchase to the principal investigators or lab/department managers, who give the green light. Finally, the purchasing department places the order.

Brands that offer each of these groups targeted information that aids them in the purchasing process will break through the marketing noise.


Content marketing needs to specifically address each step of the buying cycle, which, as discussed, is handled by different members of the lab/buying team.

At the recognition phase, when postdocs experience a pain point or an unaddressed need, let them know about new product innovations, trends in lab technology, and perspectives from others in the field on how to deal with this issue. At this point, you want to create content—or sign on as a sponsor of content—that stands out (and ranks on search engines) and piques your audience’s curiosity (think provocative headlines).

As the purchasing decision moves to the researchers and scientists, aid the research process by offering educational materials. Sponsor relevant webinars or create “how to” series that tap into expert insight.

Once the approvers enter the decision-making picture, you want to highlight your brand’s reputation in the marketplace. Case studies are great content for this audience. (Need help crafting a compelling case study? Read this C&EN Marketing Elements post.) Simply put, you want to explain how you helped an existing customer solve this same problem.


We’ve established that everyone in the lab is involved in purchasing decisions, and scientists being scientists are not going to skimp on the research necessary to determine the best product they can afford.

So, brands that focus on understanding the wants and needs of each member of the buying team, and then provide helpful inbound marketing content targeted to each of those groups, will be that much ahead of the game.

But to be able to create helpful, relevant content, you must truly understand your customers. Do you? Are you investing enough in customer data and CRM?

The only constant in life is change, so the chemical marketing field is sure to experience some sort of curveball next year. But if you plan a content marketing strategy based on these five trends, you will position your brand as helpful not just in the lab, but also in the purchasing process. That’s a homerun strategy no matter the pitch.

Related content
Jun 16, 2021
Native Advertising: What Tactic Should You Use to Reach a Scientific Audience
Dec 22, 2020
2020: Still a Year of Storytelling
May 29, 2020
How Brand Perception Influences Buyers in the Chemical and Life Sciences Space
Mar 9, 2020
The custom content that rocked 2019