Marketing will never stop evolving, and every marketer working today knows it’s only speeding up. Your brand needs to move even faster to stay ahead of the curve, whether that’s getting ahead of consumer behavior changes due to economic uncertainty or forging ahead with creator partnerships to expand your brand in a new way.
We assembled a dream team of marketing leaders from Google, Shipt, Weiden+Kennedy, and, of course, Wpromote to weigh in on the biggest trends moving the marketing needle these days.
So let’s get their insights into how your brand needs to handle:
- Economic uncertainty
- The attention economy
- Creator-brand partnerships
- Evolution of streaming
The way you take on these trends could mean the difference between your brand’s success or failure in 2023.
Marketing Trend #1: Economic Uncertainty
People shop differently when their dollars don’t go as far; inflation is hitting consumers right in the wallets, and a recession is on the horizon. You need to dive deep into the data to stay responsive to consumer behavior and preferences—and win their loyalty to keep their business.
According to Allison Stadd, SVP of Brand Marketing & Creative at Shipt, that means looking at your customers as humans first, not just items on the balance sheet.
“The trick to keep responding effectively is to think like a human being as you’re changing your plans for the brand. Instead of thinking of yourself as a brand or a business, think in terms of humans, like your customers are.”
Cecelia Wogan-Silva, Google’s Chief Brand Evangelist, pointed to data as the key to unlocking how people are actually trying to make their money go farther; where kind of deals they’re looking for, what they’re willing to spend money on, what they’re doing more research on.
You can leverage those insights to create a level of intimacy with your customers that will grow over time; that’s why it’s important to rely not just on promotional offers, but continue to build meaningful relationships even as you speak to those immediate needs.
Marcus Collins, Chief Strategy Officer for Wieden+Kennedy, points out that brands that have established those meaningful connections instead of just transactional ones aren’t just familiar, they’re trustworthy—and that’s a critical differentiator in times of calamity.
Use your first-party data in conjunction with third-party behavioral insights to paint a picture of who your customer really is and what they need from your brand at a given time, but make sure you’re looking at the right information.
Mike Mothner, Wpromote’s CEO and Founder, specifies that marketers need to be looking at performance data to help shape decisions, not just sentiment. Sentiment can help us on the empathy side, but it doesn’t necessarily correlate with actual purchase behavior. Don’t lose that lens.
Marketing Trend #2: The Attention Economy
A lot of ink has been spilled about the importance of attention, and for good reason; there are more options for people than ever when it comes to where they spend their time and focus. But it’s not just about getting attention, it’s about what you do with that attention once you have it.
Collins calls out the short-sightedness of looking to try to measure attention as a panacea when what really matters to marketers is behavior.
“If our job as marketers is to get people to adopt behavior, then we should be observing or measuring behavioral adoption, either from a one-to-one perspective or through some proxy. When I think about the different platforms that are available to us, they’re all governed by the same thing: What’s going to provide the thing that allows me to connect with my people?”
Wogan-Silva challenges the industry-wide adoption of certain “truths” about attention, particularly the idea that people’s attention spans are necessarily short. She offers a different way to look at it; attention spans are selective, and they select for the things that matter to the person, whether that’s bingeing Game of Thrones for hours at a time or watching your TikTok feed until you get the warning to take a break.
Advertisers now have to be very good at being chosen, at presenting something that doesn’t just grab attention but matters enough to keep people paying attention.
That’s why Stadd makes decisions based on metrics that speak more to that level of focus; she cares more about video completion rate than views. From a larger strategic perspective, that means connecting the dots even further, from getting and keeping attention to what happens downstream.
The full-funnel mix needs to be operated through the lens of the payoff. What are you trying to accomplish? If you’re trying to obtain people’s attention, what’s the end game? That might be driving qualified traffic, increasing revenue, or growing order volume. You need to have the view all the way from top to bottom.
Marketing Trend #3: Brand-Creator Partnerships
In today’s marketing landscape, the word “authenticity” is thrown around a lot: how important genuine connection is to the next generation of consumers, the different communities they’re a part of and how that influences what they buy, the brands they interact with, and the content they consume. But what does it really mean?
In the end, it goes back to that sense of intimacy and the feeling of being seen and understood, especially in digital spaces. Creator partnerships are emerging as one of the major ways brands can tap into “authenticity,” especially on creator-first platforms like TikTok, YouTube, and Snapchat.
Stadd points to a fundamental mistake brands often make: assuming that they can just conjure up a community around the brand instead of tapping into the people that are already a part of the community to build trust and cultivate meaningful relationships.
“Brands can’t create community, we can build an environment and guardrails within which our people can form community, then cultivate and nurture that. If you follow that logic, we must partner with creators and influencers because they’re who are facilitating that community within the bounds that we’ve created for them.”
The community is owned by the people who are a part of it, including creators. According to Collins, leveraging creators isn’t about creating assets as a compliment to what marketers do, but rather finding congruence between a brand and the creator’s community. Brands can leverage the equity, trust, and intimacy they’ve built within the community to let them effectively co-create on the brand’s behalf.
Wogan-Silva identifies the need for belonging, especially in younger generations, as a key component in the growing necessity of brand-creator partnerships. Collins points out that creators already speak the language of their communities, and Wogan-Silva recommends ultimately letting creative control rest with the creators themselves to get the most value out of the partnership.
It’s in the best interest of the creators to not break the trust of their audiences with irrelevant content or bad information or poor recommendations; your business should build long-term relationships with creators who are trustworthy. Collins locates the ultimate goal as the co-creation of cultural products that feel real to the community and help the audience communicate parts of their own identity, not just ads.
That’s an extremely powerful growth strategy for the future that will build long-term loyalty and equity.
Marketing Trend #4: Evolution of Streaming
It seems as if everyone is getting in on the ad-supported streaming game, including some famously ad-free streamers like Netflix and Disney+. For advertisers, this can either feel like a bonanza or an overwhelming buffet with too many choices.
For audiences, it’s a different story. They may have cut the cord on cable to escape ads; most bought these services with an understanding they would remain ad-free. So they’re not happy. And you should know that from the get-go.
“Get ready, because your audience is sort of pissed. They were not expecting this, they committed to something entirely different, and you’re changing the game on them. You need an empathetic creative strategy to succeed.”
Collins zeros in on empathy as the critical differentiator. Ads on streaming services need to balance their interruptive nature by deepening the user’s experience and making people feel more connected. Marketers need to think about the viewers not as consumers, but as humans.
Stadd makes the point crystal clear: the best media strategy is a creative strategy. Instead of thinking platform by platform, marketers need to think on a channel-by-channel level. Essentially, you’re creating a mini-media mix within each ecosystem that’s specific to that world. Doing it right will be resource intensive, and finding the right balance while leveraging tools for things like dynamic creative to lighten the load is critical.
Wogan-Silva recommends three actions global brands should take in this new space. First, recognize that its an entertainment space, and match the creative to those audience expectations by bringing the audience a story.
Second, utilize all of the data available on streaming platforms to improve the relevance of those stories. Those insights weren’t available in the old days of linear TV, but now you can carefully curate what you’re delivering so the ad content feels appropriate to the show the audience is watching.
Finally, don’t keep serving the same thing over and over, because frequency burnout is very real. It might justify the amount of impressions you’re getting on the surface level, but it’s at the expense of a terrible experience for users very much participating in the attention economy. Roll out as much variety as you can by getting comfortable with automation and production.