There’s nothing like the end of the decade to make you take stock and look at how far you’ve come. It might seem like the last ten years have passed by in a flash, but plenty has happened, and the marketing and communications industries have seen some big changes, in terms of where organisations are investing their budgets, the strategies that are driving results, and the technology and tools at our disposal.
Here’s our look back at some of the biggest marcomms trends of the 2010s:
The rapid rise of social networking in the noughties democratized who could publish and distribute information and meant that in the last ten years, content marketing went from being a new buzzword to a core marketing strategy– whatever the size of your business. The Content Marketing Institute was born in 2010 and now 87% of marketers use content marketing, with the most successful companies spending close to 40% of their marketing budget on it. It’s ability to drive search traffic and engender trust and loyalty means it continues to be one of the fastest growing areas of marketing, and as the decade has progressed, we’ve seen an increased focus on quality over quantity and greater personalisation of content, thanks to growing volumes of data.
Back in the 2000s, PR was PR, but as online has become the primary sales channel, and SEO rankings and user-generated reviews have eclipsed print publications in their influence and importance, many in the industry have started to differentiate between traditional and ‘digital’ tactics. Unlike traditional PR, digital publicists are focused on securing backlinks to clients’ websites, positive reviews on sites like TripAdvisor, or generating viral content on social media via bloggers, influencers, videos and infographics. Consequently, PR professionals have had to adapt to working more closely with their digital colleagues, while this new focus has significantly boosted the value and clout of those who can do it well.
The ‘10s has also very much been the decade of the ‘influencer’, a term virtually unheard of ten years ago, and now one of the most powerful ways for brands to reach their audiences and drive sales. Influencer marketing has been driven by the rise of social media, and most prominently the image-led platform, Instagram, which has seen its user numbers rocket from 100m in 2013 to over 1bn today. Reflecting this massive growth, influencer marketing has grown from a $1.7bn industry in 2016 to around $6.5bn as we complete the decade, and it doesn’t look set to slow down anytime soon with, with nearly two thirds (63%) of businesses who do influencer marketing intending to increase their spending over the next 12 months.
Freelancers level the marcomms playing field
Marketing and comms have always been popular areas for freelancers, however the number of independent professionals has increased significantly in the last ten years, as digital technologies have made it easier to work remotely and connect with clients. For many businesses, this trend has been a revelation, enabling them to access high quality talent, more quickly and easily than in the past, to fulfill short-term and part-time hiring needs. For startups and SMEs in particular, the ease of accessing highly skilled freelancers means they can benefit from experienced marcomms professionals, without the need to invest in permanent employees or hefty agency fees.
Scaling the data (and privacy) mountain
Much hype around ‘Big Data’ has finally started to bear fruit in the last decade, as marketers have grasped the potential of the customer insights at their disposal, and the technology to maximise this information has finally caught up. Advertising and marketing techniques have become laser-targeted based on consumer preferences and behaviours, enabling brands to home in on their ideal customer, at key moments in the buying cycle. However, on the flipside, all the data flying about means privacy has also become paramount, particularly following the Cambridge Analytica scandal and numerous other high-profile data breaches throughout the decade. GPDR, introduced last year, has gone some way to crack down on data malpractice, but there are sure to be further developments in the years to come.
Rising concerns about climate change, plastic waste, human rights, animal welfare and the ethics of big companies mean that three quarters of Brits are now consciously modifying their behaviour when purchasing consumer items. What has become known as ‘conscious consumerism’ is one of the defining characteristics of the 2010s, and the pressure is on brands to show that they are taking ethical and environmental concerns seriously. As a rising tide of ethically focused brands, such as Ecover, Abel & Cole, Lush and Ovo, become firm favourites amongst consumers, incumbents have their work cut out to compete, while staying true to their heritage and brand positioning. This is a challenge that will only increase in the years to come, so they need to catch up – fast.
It is certainly an exciting time to be in the marcomms industry, which has a central role to play in ensuring that brands meet the needs of today’s increasingly sophisticated and demanding consumers. With more tools and technology at our disposal but faced with consumers who are savvier than ever before, marketers must walk a fine line. As we move into the 2020s, the key is finding the balance between maximizing the multitude of channels and techniques available, while also building an authentic and ethical brand, that doesn’t just get people through the door, but also engenders the engagement and loyalty that is so important for long-term success.