Having started my marketing career working alongside the founder of Hotmail, and shortly after, as part of the Musicmatch team that launched the first Internet radio station, first 99 cent downloads and the first iPod for windows, you could say I’ve had a front row seat to the Internet’s birth -- and having launched and scaled many successful startups since -- also, its evolution. One thing that’s struck me over the years is how so many of the Internet’s biggest entities have been, and are now, entirely tied to information and communications. Google and Apple, through their respective innovations, have completely altered how we gather, store and share information. Meta, TikTok, Pinterest, Twitter and more are creative playgrounds where we gather real time data, inspiration and knowledge.
With this critical evolution in mind, here are 8 factors that marketing, advertising and communications professionals must keep top of mind in 2023.
We're All Talent Scouts -- In the new online world, the biggest stars can come from anywhere. In 2022, there might’ve been no better example than Corn Kid. The adorable boy with an infectious love of corn first appeared in a @recesstherapy video and became an immediate viral hit. A few smart brands like Chipotle and Green Giant quickly hitched their wagon to Corn Kid’s cuteness, and to magnificent effect. In 2023, every CMO needs to be tuned into the online world, looking for opportunities because the next “Corn Kid” won’t be far behind.
Mistakes are Amplified Online-- With all the good that the Internet has done for marketers in terms of efficiency and data, there’s also some new pain points. And maybe none bigger than amplification. Any brand that makes a mistake, now faces a public court of opinion bigger than any in history. Kanye West, Will Smith and James Corden were among the celebrities who learned this difficult lesson in 2022. Brands weren’t spared, either. Look no farther than Southwest Air’s current debacle, which could very well sink the company as horror stories continue to go viral, spreading outrage far beyond any airport or lost bag. Successful brands need to have a crisis communications plan and a team to carefully execute.
Gen Z Has Arrived -- When it comes to audiences, the youth and young adults are always among the most coveted by marketers. But marketers should pay special attention to this latest batch of young people, which is behaving differently than generations past. And nowhere was that Gen Z difference on full display than the recent Midterm Elections. It was, in fact, the hyper-engaged Gen Z which completely upended the predicted “Red Wave” of conservatism in America, voting in numbers unseen by previous generations, and altering the course of the country’s future. Politicians are rethinking their playbook and so too are brands! This is very clearly a generation that is involved – whether it’s climate change, the global health crisis, mass shootings, equal rights, or even less-political issues like remote work, Gen Z has announced to the world that they are ready to demand change. Brands that want to connect with this audience will need to do so with these considerations firmly in mind.
Influencer Marketing Grows Up -- Once labeled a passing fad, the influencer marketing industry is poised to grow to $13.8 billion in 2021. More than just celebs and fresh face influencers shilling for big brands, influencer marketing has become a deeply sophisticated revenue-generating machine and incredibly valuable, even indispensable for many brands. How well marketers can identify and engage with their online audiences, and particularly their super fans, and convert these audiences into customers, is absolutely critical to their growth and success. Whether it’s a new product debut, a seasonal activation, an awareness campaign ~ done well, with genuine conviction, influencers can do many things for a brand, however you must know how to use them most efficiently.
Remote Work -- Health crisis aside, remote work is probably the most lasting and impactful consequence of the past two plus years. On the fly, employers are having to learn how to adapt to a workforce which now demands and expects more flexibility in their employment. For an industry that relies heavily on collaboration and creativity, this is a significant challenge. Successful agencies will use new digital collaboration tools to keep its employees accountable and engaged, while also not giving up completely on in-person connection where and when necessary. Marketers also need to consider remote work on a broader level, in terms of their work on behalf of brands, and how those audience needs have shifted.
Authenticity Shift-- The years of showing off your perfect life may be coming to an end. Years of posting perfect selfies, brunches, and vacations have proved exhausting for many, and many brands and influencers are reverting back to the true definition of authenticity. Nowhere is this more evident in the marketing realm, than the emergence of BeReal, the new platform whose daily currency is the mundane. Unexciting things like makeup-free selfies, daily errands, and half-eaten sandwiches are posted on BeReal with great enthusiasm. But just like every new tech toy, there’s significance and value here for the smart marketers who understand the rules of the road, and engage accordingly.
Impact Economy Continues to Grow -- From the deadly snowstorm in Buffalo to Hurricane Ian’s devastation in Florida, to California’s wildfires, the planet continues to demand attention and solutions. That’s not going away, and in fact, it’s only going to intensify. We’re getting near the point that almost every major brand will soon have to have a marketing strategy to address their ability to create impact and change. The boldest move of the year belongs to Patagonia, which went so far as donating the entire company (worth $3 billion) to fight climate change.
Don't Forget, We're Still People-- With all the remote work and online communication changes, a recession and inflation, it’s also important for marketers to remember that, at the end of the day, we’re talking to people, real life human beings having a human experience. We need connection, and maybe that connection is more important and significant than ever in an increasingly disconnected world. At the pace we are moving, we cannot lose sight of our humanness and our need for meaningful connection, and the brands and people who can both create and facilitate this authentically, will win.
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