Another year is coming to a close, and if you followed our predictions for 2023, we were fairly close to the mark on a number of them. Three of which played a particularly strong role this year.
So before we turn the page and look at brands' top priorities for 2024, we're taking a moment at TWC to reflect on some of the biggest trends, topics and talking points of the past 12 months. And the action you should consider taking now to stay ahead.
…that where there's a will, there's AI
According to 2023, AI can be applied to everything. It was the trend of the year, and resulted in some of the most interesting brand experiments and debates.
Around 35% of businesses currently use AI, with an additional 42% saying they're "exploring" the technology and how it could be used in their organisation. And these figures are expected to grow. The AI industry is projected to achieve USD$126 billion in revenue by 2025 according to Omdia, a nearly 550% increase from 2020.
It's a growth that few have seen since Facebook entered the public market nearly 20 years ago. When you consider the formative role the platform had not only on social media but on global communications, it's easy to see how AI could achieve the same, across a much broader field. The big difference being, we simply don't know how yet.
Action to take now: consider bringing AI guidelines to the Board table. 2023 was the year we tried, tested and experimented with the technology, but the coming 5+ years will result in greater red tape. Determining your own governance for how the tech is used and interpreted within your business will mean you have a strong foundation in place before any regulations appear in the market.
…that agile marketing is the way of the future
Of all business functions, marketing budget is cited as a barometer to measure economic strength by. 2023's rocky landscape has resulted in a drop in marketing spend, despite research showing - and specialists advocating - that this is precisely the time spend should increase.
Brands that limit market visibility can expect to lose around 2% of long-term revenue per quarter according to Nielsen, And during the 2008 recession, brands that maintained their marketing spend had 3.5 times more visibility than their counterparts.
It seems many have learnt from the mistakes of their predecessors, because instead of opting for the textbook approach of pausing activity, disruption has led to agile models becoming the norm.
Interim or 'fractional' CMOs are amongst the most in-demand freelance talent. Some of the biggest benefits are cost - hiring on a FTC or part-time basis doesn't require anywhere near the same levels of outlay as a traditional CMO. You can progress with a well-defined strategy, and exercise flexibility if your budget changes.
The high expectations placed onto marketing, and the low investment placed into marketing is part of the reason agile models are becoming so popular. A Gartner study found that 71% of CMOs don't believe they can execute their strategies with the current spend. But by contrast, fractional CMOs revolve around driving great outcomes on reduced budgets and shorter time periods. They bring diverse experience, and an objective point of view.
It's hard to say how many businesses are using fractional CMOs, but outsourcing marketing remains popular with around 94% of companies saying they outsource some or all of their activity. And the number of businesses using agile marketing is expected to grow.
Action to take now: if your business is already looking at marketing spend as a viable cost to cut, speak with a professional first. Even an informal conversation with a specialist can help you better determine how budget is used to drive revenue, and develop an agile approach to activity. We can help you find the right person for that.
…sustainability regulations for brand communications
This is an urgency the world over - and increasingly stringent regulations reflect that. Including greater legislation around how brands communicate their actions and outcomes.
In 2023, the EU's Green Claims Directive was one of the most discussed emerging regulations in the market. If approved, the directive will require companies operating in the region to prove any claims they make about the environmental impact of their products or brand.
The FCA's "Anti-Greenwashing" Rule addresses much the same principle, and emphasises a requirement for language in comms to be clear and not exaggerated. New guidelines in the CAP code, review of the Advertising Standard Authority's rules, the list goes on.
The main aim is to eradicate greenwashing - but the results would go beyond that. Many of these new rules intend to create a more informed consumer base who better understand the impact their purchasing decisions have on sustainability issues.
Likewise, they're projected to have a significant role in how brands scale. Investors are already looking at companies' ESG reporting and disclosures to gauge how committed it is to sustainability action. The equation is simple: the more impactful the brand, the more commercially successful it's likely to be, the higher investment value it would have.
Intentions aside, these types of regulations aren't without their challenges. Most leaders agree that terms like "eco-friendly" should be regulated, but naysayers argue that restrictions will take away from meaningful action and result in investment being funnelled into brand positioning instead.
Mistakes could result in serious reputational damage to brands - something we're already seeing - and potentially fines down the line. Something that would disproportionately impact startups and smaller brands.
Action to take now: include this in your PR risk register, and look closely at all of the claims your brand is already making to determine how evidence-based these are. It's worth enlisting the right communications specialists with the right experience to help you tackle vernacular before it becomes a requirement.
Let's walk into 2024 - together
The people you need, when you need them. That's what we specialise in at The Work Crowd. No matter your objective, pain point or big picture goal, we can source the quality talent you need to make them a reality.
If you want to better understand what we do and how we do it, visit our website today or contact a member of our team.