9 marketing trends to watch as 2023 tests transformation bets

    The marketing playing field reset in 2022 as pandemic-driven trends once viewed as permanent proved anything but and economic constriction created digital whiplash. This year will test if the industry’s transformational moves have long-term viability: Will ad-supported streaming really usurp TV’s throne? Can alternatives to third-party cookies and measurement currencies take hold? What practical value does the metaverse provide?

    Meanwhile, big companies might get even bigger, with the Microsoft-Activision and Kroger-Albertsons deals in the regulatory hot seat. Apple’s reach will advance, weighing on embattled platforms like Meta, and retailers will expand their media networks to capitalize on the migration of dollars toward performance. 

    The fog of uncertainty that has hung over marketing since the onset of COVID-19 ultimately remains, but unlike earlier in the pandemic — when online engagement soared and war chests were bountiful — marketers are entering 2023 with tight belts. With a battle for attention mounting on multiple fronts, including BeReal and TikTok, consumers will prioritize simplicity and utility, further raising the stakes.   

    “The way I see the year ahead is fragmentation in the marketplace will continue, with the retail media networks and also with video platforms and ad products. But consumers are going to look at it the opposite way and start really minimizing where and when they’re consuming,” said Dave Kersey, chief media officer at GSD&M. “There are all these opportunities to reach people, but a transition of people focusing on fewer channels.”  

    Consumers embrace ‘posture of prudence’

    Consumers have had a rough go of it, plagued first by the pandemic and then inflation, war and recessionary fears. Sentiment was down in 2022, but a majority also displayed resilience, according to J. Walker Smith, chief knowledge officer of brand and marketing at Kantar. Still, uncertainty about what’s around the bend has led many to hunker down further into what the exec described as a “posture of prudence.” 

    “When we [got] into December, what we saw is that consumers are more concerned about where the year is going to take them,” said Smith. “And there’s still a lot of uncertainty.”

    To successfully reach consumers in 2023, advertisers should lean further into strategies that have already taken precedence, including messaging around a worthwhile value exchange. That helps reduce feelings of risk-taking in times of uncertainty. Brands should also “ally themselves with positivity,” Smith added, both from a messaging perspective and in terms of simplifying logistics.

    “De-stress the transaction,” Smith said.

    Allowing for a more human experience — a craving that soared as pandemic restrictions lifted — will continue to be vital, per Smith. Emotional lures versus strict functionality will resonate, and companies should prioritize core values around sustainability and diversity and inclusion as expectations for representation hold firm.

    “I don’t think that’s going anywhere just because we’re in a period of economic dislocation — that won’t change your commitment to those values,” Smith said. 

    CMOs must make fewer resources go further

    CMOs may be resource-strapped in 2023, but future-facing tools promise new efficiency. Artificial intelligence (AI) software like ChatGPT has gained credibility, making ethical AI a top mandate for marketers. Emergent channels that are difficult to monitor or “dark,” like Discord, will be more important for understanding groups like Gen Z.

    “A difficult financial environment does create silos and people who maybe work against each other across functions.”

    Ewan McIntyre

    Vice president analyst and chief of research at Gartner’s marketing practice

    On the messaging front, CMOs will walk on political eggshells following seismic changes like the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. The role’s purview will also bleed further into sustainability and packaging as inflationary concerns top the agenda. 

    “We’ve seen a diversification of where the innovation question comes from. More often, it’s coming from CMOs trying to really anticipate value shifts that are the result of potential economic anxiety,” said Camilo La Cruz, chief strategy officer at Sparks & Honey.

    All that is to say CMOs will wear many hats while contending with a notoriously high turnover rate that makes implementing long-term strategy an obstacle. The drive for self-preservation is natural under the circumstances. 


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