Marketing trends for 2023: Why companies need to be more creative to build brand appeal in tougher times

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As we look ahead to 2023, economic and recessionary pressures are mounting. Marketers are facing the biggest test of their careers yet, as headcount freezes, and budget reductions start to bite. But could the latest marketing trends be their saviour?

In this two-part series, Orla Murphy, managing partner at Seeblue Marketing, takes a look at the things every organisation should be doing next year.

How should marketing adjust next year? It’s on the lips of every marketing function. To answer the question, I think we need to look back. For the last three years, we’ve been riding the wave of uncertainty and every business leader has had to adapt their skills to manage extraordinary macro events. Those businesses that have sustained growth, had two significant factors in common:

Firstly, they kept investing in marketing. In fact, they put their foot down on the marketing accelerator as others eased off. They continued to engage and add value to customers and prospects when others stopped talking. Secondly, they had a clear plan for who their marketing would target, and where they were trying to get to as a brand. While they may have deviated on tactics, they didn’t deviate on the strategy.

But what does ‘investing in marketing’ really mean? Is it skill, technology, advertising? Actually, it’s a combination, blended with clever creative and exemplary story telling. It can be distilled down into specific elements:

  • Razor sharp focus on customer experience
  • Creativity – telling the story in a powerful and emotive way
  • The move away from lead generation to demand generation and with it an appreciation that downloading a well-researched ebook isn’t a sign people have any intention of buying.
  • And finally, an acute resistance to the tactical tailspin – throwing money at PPC is not the answer!

In this first part, we’ll look at how AI is leading the customer experience strategy, and why creativity and demand generation are important.

  1. AI enabled customer experience leading the way

HubSpot, Marketo, and Pardot are perhaps three of the most well-known marketing automation platforms out there. But this is by no means an exhaustive list. In his latest Marketing Technology Landscape update, Scott Brinker, Chief Marketing Technologist at HubSpot, lists nearly 10,000 marketing technology vendors to choose from.

What’s clear from reading his update is there is no shortage in the tools we can adopt to help us manage and send marketing campaigns. These platforms have long been held up as a way to send more personalised messages. But it’s wearing thin with recipients who have high expectations related to who they give their loyalty to – they want to know you are directly speaking to them.

Making a real personal, and even emotional connection is what matters now. The days of using data sets or tools to deliver ‘personalisation’ at scale are numbered. The argument is valid – personalisation isn’t personalisation if it neglects the more human and individual aspects of communication.

Brands need to rethink how they engage with a customer and how this reflects in the overall experience. Making that human connection should be predicated on a deep understanding of the audience and some basic behavioural psychology principles. It’s now a must to invest time in uncovering the golden nuggets of insight that can be used to match the value of a proposition to an individual’s needs.

The number one rule is to deliver a well-articulated and authentic message consistently across the digital and human touchpoints with your brand – it’s integral to designing a great customer experience and stimulating demand. And this is where we see a new breed of AI-powered marketing tools emerging. Tools that take your carefully crafted messaging and content and delivers it in a highly personalised way, using machine-learning algorithms to achieve a seamless customer experience.

  1. The power of creativity

This leads nicely to the second key theme: creativity. The combination of a strong creative, powerful message, and focused delivery is what unlocks brand engagement. Like legs of a stool, take away one and you topple over!

And so, with recession looming and we approach yet another precipice, the investment in powerful creative and narrative that can build long term brand equity, comes under scrutiny.

But powerful creative, doesn’t mean overly complicated or expensive design. Sometimes it is the simplest concept, which is the most compelling. But it’s about the visual identity with the core message you want to convey to your target audience. But crucially it’s about doing it in a way that generates an emotional connection with what you’re saying, one that outlives the time people spend looking at it.

  1. Think about demand creation, not lead generation

No one has the patience for gated content anymore, even if it is really engaging, useful and relevant. People have woken up to the process – if you fill in the form to access a piece of content the endless stream of nurture emails or phone calls will follow.

Forward-thinking companies are looking at ways they can share their knowledge and experiences with potential customers through new channels, such as podcasts, videos and social sharing. Some of the best companies doing this are investing heavily in user-generated content and empowering their employees to be proponents of the knowledge-sharing. In effect they become exponential multipliers of value-giving information and content. With permission to be authentic, it becomes more engaging and enticing.

In these companies, leaders have recognised that buyers are in control, and that efforts must be focused on creating dialogue. In turn the potential buyers who are showing active interest in their brand and solutions will reach out. At the same time you’re building an audience of brand advocates and future buyers. When someone is already engaged with who you are and what you have to offer, then higher conversion rates, shorter sales cycle, and higher deal sizes come as a natural by-product. What’s more, it can then become more personalised – see 1 above.

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