It’s that time of year again, when we gaze into our crystal ball to see what the coming 12 months will hold for marketing and PR. This time last year, we predicted that marketers would be more focused on quality over quantity with their content, that data transparency would become a differentiator for brands, and that organisations would start to take real action on environmental and public health issues. And while we have certainly seen some of those start to pan out, there is still a long way to go, and no doubt we’ll see further developments in these trends in 2020.
So, what else should marketing and communications professionals be watching out for this year:
- A renaissance of offline brand building: Brands have become obsessed with online marketing in recent years, thanks to its ability to target niche audiences cost-effectively, with the help of growing volumes of data. But, as some of the most popular digital tactics, such as SEO and social advertising, become less effective and more costly, as privacy regulations make targeting more challenging, and as audiences become savvier about the messages being flung at them from all angles, offline is gradually reasserting itself. As such, experiential brand building, along with live business events, conferences and meetups will become more powerful as a way to build meaningful connections with audiences.
- Customer obsession: Where brands do utilise their data, the focus will be on delivering highly personal customer experiences and tapping into consumer emotions, while avoiding an automated, faceless approach as much as possible. Marketing analytics isn’t about viewing people as data points or algorithms, but instead using data to paint a picture of individual preferences and behaviours in order to offer consumers something that is unique and personal. This will be combined with a move away from a focus on quantitative measures and short-term thinking, towards qualitative outcomes and long-term relationships. The reward for those who get it right will be higher spend, greater loyalty and the marketing holy grail; advocacy.
- ‘Less is more’ media relations: It’s been a tough year for PRs, who have faced a packed news agenda, increasingly cynical journalists, and intense competition from other brands, making it harder than ever to capture the media’s attention. But ever-tenacious, PRs are adapting their approach accordingly, by investing more time into developing highly targeted pitches, rather than taking the ‘spray and pray’ approach that may have worked in years gone by. With such high demand for space, timing is also more important than ever, to ensure that stories are pitched at the moment when they are most pertinent, and that they are as topical as possible.
- Creativity fights back against data analytics: The mountains of data at marketers’ disposal has also led many brands to forget about the importance of creativity, in favour of more technical approaches like web design and SEO. However, research shows that those brands that are investing in creativity are reaping the benefits in terms of higher sales and return on investment. As such, more brands are taking note, and we’re due to see a renewed focus on hiring creative rather than analytical marketing professionals in the year to come, and hopefully, some inspiring new campaigns to get our creative juices flowing.
- Authentic influencers: Influencer marketing has become a huge industry in recent years, but consumers are starting to become jaded, as they see their favourite online stars sell out to the world of celebrity, meanwhile losing those traits that made them so appealing in the first place. While Instagram is still massively popular, this shift is evidenced by the many Gen Zers who are now switching their attentions to platforms like TikTok, which offers a more real, less polished view of the world. For brands, this thirst for authenticity means they must work even harder to distil their values and ensure these come across in their social marketing. That means working with influencers to develop content that aligns organically with both sides of the partnership, and crucially, with the audience in question.
- Freelancing grows up: There’s little doubt that freelancing was one of the stand-out trends of the 2010s, with marketing and PR one of the big beneficiaries of the huge rise in flexible talent. However, for many employers, freelancers have still historically been seen as an add-on to their main permanent workforce, rather than being treated as a strategic priority for the business. Well, that is all about to change this year, as employers rely even more heavily on freelancers in 2020, and as they are forced to consider the nature of these relationships, following new regulations and guidance, such as IR35. Freelancers will still offer fantastic flexibility to PR and marketing employers, however organisations will need to start putting more systems and structures in place to ensure that they have access to the best people when they need them and are able to keep track of these relationships, while also operating within the letter of the law at all times.
As always, predictions are made to be proven wrong, so we look forward to assessing our accuracy again this time next year!
In the meantime, if you’re looking to increase your use of freelance talent in 2020, then The Work Crowd has an ever-growing community of highly skilled professionals, whatever your marketing and comms needs. Just register here to get started!