December 17, 2019 / Point of View
It’s the time of year when marketers are inundated with research, studies and speculation about the trends and challenges they will encounter in the new year. From the deluge, I’ve distilled the list to what issues are most pressing to marketers. Investing wisely in brand-building is how the most valuable global brands have established a clear, meaningful difference in the marketplace, regardless of category. While near-term trends like advanced targeting and technology are important, marketers should also be receptive to forging emotional connections. Storytelling and brand-building are powerful ways to stand out with consumers, survive economic downturns and thrive in 2020 and beyond.
Who can you trust? That’s always been an important question for brands, but it’s becoming even more critical as trust in institutions has steadily declined. Evolving technologies have empowered consumers to rely more on themselves and less on institutions, living by the mantra “I’ll see for myself.” In this environment, brands are faring better than government and the media. Although positive for marketers, brands are under more scrutiny than ever: 81% of consumers consider brand trust when making purchase decisions, but only 34% trust the brands they buy from. In this skeptical age, marketers need to live their brand values more than ever.
Data privacy is expected to be one of the most important issues of the next decade and an important component of marketing strategies in 2020. Consumer concern will be heightened by regulatory action. The introduction of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in January 2020 as well as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), deepfakes, the election and an increase in data-led marketing and retargeting will result in more consumer concern regarding data security and privacy. Marketers need to consider their data management practices and present themselves as privacy proponents to wary consumers.
New challenges to marketing, such as the aforementioned CCPA and GDPR, have more consumers retreating into premium, ad-free subscription services like Disney+. Since brands can be discovered and purchased with the flick of a thumb on social platforms, marketers need to get serious about making every step of the purchase journey as simple as possible for the always-shopping consumer. Additionally, more focus on creating brand value for consumers after they have purchased your product or service is important. The post-purchase opportunities to reward their choices with personality, services and appreciation can be reflected in increased customer loyalty and Net Promoter Scores. Smart brands acknowledge that every touchpoint is a unique brand-building opportunity.
Empowered consumers are flooded with options and conveniences, so brands must respond to — or better yet create — consumer expectations in order to win. Brands must reevaluate their competitive sets and explore strategies outside their wheelhouse to identify how others are setting and meeting the expectations of their target consumers. For example, if you want to offer a personalized product recommendation, it had better be at least as good as companies like Care/of, Clare or Prose. Identifying true “expectation competitors” can help design teams find inspiration and build tangible business cases for change.
There’s no question that big data and programmatic digital media buys have fundamentally changed the way brands target people and build their plans. However, recent research has shown the importance that mass media and contextual targeting still play in driving campaign effectiveness. This new evidence counters the very nature of audience-targeted, hard-working programmatic media. Simply put, reach and environment still matter. Marketers should no longer view mass media or contextual targeting as a waste of time and money, but as a necessary complement to more precise methods. Media consolidations with partners like Comcast, AT&T or Disney can effectively blend contextual and data-led targeting in brand-safe, premium environments across all channels and experiences.
It’s time for marketers to start seeing value in their tech investments. Many have bought the latest martech, experimented with chatbots, considered AI, AR and VR, and even built a data lake. But what return have they seen? Businesses are starting to put pressure on teams to extract more and more value from their tech investments. It’s a challenge because they have to mobilize teams internally and figure out what data is worth measuring, using and monetizing, and determine how to connect internal systems so things run smoothly. The brands that embrace this challenge and opportunity will win.
As the buying power of the Millennial and Gen Z generations continues to rapidly rise, marketers need to update strategies and offerings to reflect the values of their customers. Portraying gender roles as clichés or as generalizations can be called out quickly and spread like wildfire on social media for being insensitive, old-school and tone-deaf. Even if it’s unintentional, excluding people of color or other groups and communities can have severe consequences for the bottom line. Words, visuals and actions will matter more than ever in 2020 and beyond. The best way to safeguard your business and brands from a PR crisis is to recruit a team that reflects the makeup of the general population, craft a vision for your brand that embodies the values of your future core customers, and weave best practices around diversity, equity and inclusion into your workstreams.
The year ahead promises to be ever-changing and demanding. How do marketers stand out and thrive? Embrace the challenges and trends and create new ways to connect through storytelling and experiences.