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What Marketing Academics and Practitioners Are Expecting in 2020

Marketing News Staff

We asked some of marketing’s top minds for their 2020 predictions on four hot-button topics in the field. Here’s what they had to say.

Part of The Year Ahead 2020 special web issue

Special thanks to our participants for their thoughts.

Practitioners:

PERSONALIZATION
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personalization
This can have a creepiness factor to it, sort of an “uncanny valley” of prediction, but there’s a lot of value in this personalization as well, with thoughtful recommendations
and more nuanced need fulfillment
based on data an individual may not
be aware they are providing.
Even if consumers are able to control data monitoring, they might not want to always do so because data exchange makes life convenient.
yellow thumbprint on green background
By personalizing its recommendation, Spotify, for example, can suggest songs that I am more likely to enjoy listening to. On the negative side, firms can also use this data to exploit customers' insecurities. For example, a firm could identify customers who are suffering from some medical condition to personalize an ad for a "miracle cure" for their problem.
The industry has become much better at personalization, but consumer demand for personalized content has reached an all-time high - showing there's still room to improve. In 2020 and beyond, we'll see a rise in hyper-contextual ads that will better serve users wherever they are in their journey. ... Automation will become the "great equalizer," allowing marketers to adapt campaigns on the fly, encouraging customer connections and driving conversions.
As we enter a more data-centric economy, brands will find it easier and easier to offer personalized content. However, there's a fine line between helpful and creepy.
In advertising, where you have clients from fintech to ecommerce enterprises to medical innovations, we will need this information before we can justify spending ad dollars. Going with purchase interest has always done right by our clients, and will be even more [important] in 2020.
Personalization at scale arrives in B2B's "last mile" of customer relationship marketing - the sales channel. Combining AI with omni-channel digital communication - including social - delivers the right content to the right prospect at the right time.
Personalization is the new segmentation: micro-marketing to individual consumers.
Vendors who fail to personalize their messaging based on the buyer's online and offline behavior will be ignored, blacklisted and eventually extinguished.
PRIVACY
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privacy
After Cambridge Analytica and other high-profile privacy breaches, I think people are becoming more aware of the dark side of ambiguous privacy standards and will come to expect greater protections.
Micro-targeting may seem intrusive and creepy, but would you prefer ads you don't need, or those perfectly timed and targeted to you?
With privacy a hot topic in an election year, privacy will continue to put pressure on the tried and true approaches to demand generation. In 2020, forward-thinking companies [will] embrace social media as the primary platform for permission-based marketing and digital selling.
illustration of green shredder
Platforms are predicted to focus more on preventing "privacy violations" over actual data protection methodologies as we are starting to see already. As Facebook continues amping up their AI technologies, censorship is more at stake than ever. ... The irony is their latest policies are in support of creating and fostering communities so users can make "true connections." You can't do that if what is happening is censorship and AI gone awry.
Marketers should expect more scrutiny around privacy and collected/observed data on their audiences. Get prepared to start auditing the partners that help you collect and store information on your customers.
Privacy will be harder for consumers to obtain in the future. Companies are increasingly monitoring consumers through multiple devices. Government regulation, such as the GDPR and the California Privacy Protection Act, may serve as models to bring consumers' and businesses' privacy expectations in balance.
With regulations like GDPR and other comparable laws in the states such as CCPA, it's increasingly clear that consumers will not tolerate abuse of their personal data. With the tsunami of cybercrime and major data breaches from companies like Facebook and Equifax, look for even steeper penalties for vendors who fail to comply.
BRANDING
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branding
One way to spread brands across social is to have real-world brand experiences - Instagrammable moments - that encourage users to spread the brand themselves.
flaming yellow brand with star shape against green background

The insights marketers see, from how consumers interact with ads, or the points at which they drop off in the customer journey or within the product, are essential to understanding customers and refining the product.
Personal brands will help consumers capitalize on their growing influence in the marketplace. And in the labor market, individuals will use their personal branding to demonstrate the soft skills they acquire to compete with AI-enabled roles in the marketplace.
B2B marketing shifts from building the corporate brand to building the personal brands of their customer-facing employees, largely sales. This change in focus enables sales to build authentic and trusted relationships with buyers by providing the tools and content that differentiates each individual while augmenting the corporate brand and enhancing employee engagement.
Today, consumers are more likely to rely on an internet search rather than their memory when deciding what to buy - psychologists call this transactive memory. Thus, it has become more important for brands to be the first thing that consumers see when they check their phones to try to solve a problem, rather than being the first thing that consumers think about when they realize they have a problem.
In the high-tech era, radical innovation can disrupt established brands and propel upstarts into brand leaders.
A company's brand is the essence of what they bring to market. Marketers will continue to invest in brand-building initiatives to differentiate themselves and project thought leadership through interactive programs with customers such as gamification and loyalty programs - think Starbucks.
Brands will need to start observing and penetrating customer journeys toward the beginning of their discovery with creative offerings to build brand affinity before a decision or purchase cycle is entered.
We will see more branding around describing the company culture and the narrative of the founder. The heart and key of 2020 brand messaging is taking price off the table as previous target prospects will now get your brand value that you can't put a dollar amount on. It is now about owning your image.
CONTENT MARKETING
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content marketing
With good content marketing and category marketers at your side, the goal in 2020 will be to appear both authoritative and innovative, and by nature you should be positioned by your main differential.
There is so much inexpensive, typically free, content that consumers face information and choice overload. The only way that consumers can possibly deal with a seemingly infinite number of options is to ignore most of them. Creating a high-quality product is not enough.
Content marketing is the heart of marketing and will continue to be the lifeblood of any successful lead generation program. Because of the explosion of content, marketers will invest heavily in the production and acquisition of quality content that is relevant and adheres to data privacy laws both in the U.S. and abroad.
The answer for B2B in 2020 is a shift to inbound content marketing at the individual level, which will require new approaches to content and technology that can deliver personalization at scale.
cycling yellow orbs against green background
Expect your content strategy to become more omnichannel and think about multi-facet conversations.