Prediction posts have their critics that often rightly cite hyperbole and nonsense – but this post isn’t one of those by any stretch. Instead, what you’ll find here are well-considered ideas that equal parts analysis and aspiration.
As I’m wont to do at year’s end, I ask many brilliant marketing and PR types for their take on what might transpire over the next twelve months. This year, more than 20 professionals – real people that do real marketing and PR work every day – responded and with high-quality ideas that I found to be invigorating and thought-provoking.
There’s something in here for every discipline of marketing – be it strategy, PR, content marketing, SEO, digital, social media, customer marketing, and so much more. It’s a list worth perusing carefully because there are real gems in here from CMOs, agency leaders and many consummate professionals. A good number of predictions struck me as highly probable in 2019.
The list here is presented in alphabetical order by the first name and is not intended to convey any sense of ranking – every entry is important. It’s worth noting, I wrote the sub-headlines for each entry based on what I read, and each prediction from the contributor is provided in quotations with a link to a social profile and organizational website for those interested in learning more. My own predictions are included at the bottom.
Finally, if you want to be invited to make a prediction next year, you should sign up here.
1) Owned media gains on distrust of mass media.
“The cultural divide due to ‘fake news’ and distrust of media will deepen in 2019 forcing marketers and PR to push harder on content distribution with their own consumer channels as the most direct line of communication with the company or client. This, in turn, will make consumers more reliant on companies for their news and less reliant on mass media as less and less content is pitched to 3rd parties.”
2) Microtargeting augmented by social surround sound.
“B2B companies are going to start micro-targeting messages by prospect readiness stage, and then support those email campaigns with surround sound from paid social to improve open rates.”
3) Emotional connection with customers.
“I believe there will be an acceleration towards humanizing brands, putting individuals in front of a corporate identity, in an effort to emotionally connect with customers.”
4) New emphasis on trust.
“Honesty and transparency trumps all. In an era of ‘fake news,’ is more important than ever for organizations to be honest and transparent in direct everyday communications with employees, investors, customers, and communities, whether that communication is person to person, through social and PR content, or with traditional media.”
5) Alignment of marketing and customer success.
“A trend we are going to see happening more in 2019 is the coming together of marketing and customer success. It’s very comparable to how sales and marketing came together about 10 years ago around the standard definition of a lead and the lead flow process. Similarly, marketing and the emerging practice of customer success are going to come together around the ideal customer profile (ICP) and the customer journey. Marketers that can think past lead-generation and the sale and start focusing on the overall customer experience are going to do very well over the next few years.”
6) Marketing spend rationalization.
“Spend rationalization – with the continued shift away from traditional media outlets, and expanded budgets in digital, we’ve seen a ton of money spent on platforms with varied returns. After a fat and a happy couple of years with a booming economy, companies will tighten their budgets a bit in 2019, which means they will begin to ask the hard questions of the digital media outlets. Those outlets will have to be ready to prove metrics, outcomes and effectiveness in order to prove ROI.”
7) Culture and politics usher socially conscious marketing.
“There will be a notable uptick in socially conscious marketing. While it’s a tricky tightrope to walk, as cultural and political issues continue to saturate the news and social media, more companies will take a stand through marketing and advertising that resonates with customer loyalties. In line with the tenor of our time, we’ll see more campaigns that are bold and controversial, to cut through the clutter of a noisy marketplace.”
8) Creativity over productivity.
“Creativity over productivity: The volume of noise in the digital realm is beyond bearable and the public relations professionals that stand a chance must ditch their multi-pitch phone and email productivity for remarkable, creative campaigns on behalf of the brands they represent. The output of your staff must be replaced by the output of your campaigns in driving key performance indicators for your brand’s products, service, authority, and influence.”
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9) Brands across the aisle.
“I could predict less importance on social media significance and higher confusion about AI; however, they take a back seat to the current political climate that has segued into marketing. Brands have already come forth in 2018 wearing a political armband, and this creates complexity in marketing and public relations strategy.
We’ve seen Nike and AT&T at the top of Fortune brands show political colors, and we’ve seen smaller brands like Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A exemplify founders’ values in recent years that could be likened to political beliefs, as well. What this does to the customer experience and brand loyalty is significant.
I predict further delineation of brands across the aisle with a widening of customer loyalty and the shopping experience. Customers will gravitate to a brand with like-minded values or politics. Will the marketing or PR department survive the infusion of the across-the-aisle divide in brand positioning?”
10) Blurring media creates opportunity.
“I think what fuzzy line still remains between paid, owned and earned (plus shared) will continue to fade. With more brands and industries getting comfortable with digital communications (social, blog, e-blast, etc.) PR pros will have to be flexible and proactive in developing the content and targeting it to the right channel – which will rely less and less on traditional media.
Influencer relations will further blur the line as PR pros may be looked at to balance earning the attention of industry influencers and paying for sponsored content or promotion campaigns. There are some big opportunities with this melding of earned and paid. Reporting and tracking results will be more relatable to traditional marketing partners and PR portfolios will become more integrated.”
11) Voice of the customer boost 3rd party validation.
“Given the current tumultuous times – how’s that for understatement – I think we’ll see a dramatic rise in the use of third-party validation and particularly customers in 2019. Potential buyers trust the perspectives of their peers. Consumers trust others of similar ilk. It stands to reason that lifting the voice of the customer will be one way to cut through the noise (and nonsense).”
12) More dramatic platform changes will challenge marketing.
“2019 will finally be the year when creative concepts, PR, branding teams are held more fully accountable for downstream effects on brand search and performance marketing lift. Metrics like average-top-of funnel-audience-viewing-time and new-brand-search-frequency will be incorporated to measure latent brand searches generated anew from social videos. PR teams will be measured by inputted organic brand conversion lift and Google Trends.
Google will continue to reduce organic click traffic sent to external websites early in the user shopping process. Rather, Google will bring even lower funnel functionality to the surface in Google SERPs, thus depriving website owners’ initial traffic and branding. (Think Google Hotels, Flights, weather, etc.)
Weak agencies will go out of business because they’re irrelevant. Performance marketing companies will work to build out their creative capabilities. Technical SEO will become more of a price-based commodity as opposed to an ongoing partnership.
Facebook will be used more as a mass marketing tool, like a television station. The ability to scrape Twitter handles and target known individuals will go away. Calls for GDPR style American laws to codify privacy as a human right will increase, culminating in American laws in 2020. As targeting continues to thin in Facebook Ads, it will become more common to strike third-party data partnerships with companies like Oracle, thus enabling for-extra-fee targeting in Facebook itself and other channels.
There will be a surge of DIY programmatic media (DMP) usage, which costs more than social, making powerful third-party data libraries (better targeting than social ever had) available to savvy marketers for a higher cost. Television, XM Radio, Smart Things and other technologies will continue to meld with traditional digital channels and tools.”
13) Simplifying personalization and recommendation services.
“Expect an uptick in personalization with more martech players putting out easier ways to synthesize and customize data sets. The last couple of years have seen growth in customers expecting personalized interactions with companies, whether it’s auto-filling names in newsletters or suggesting content based on previous read.
Epsilon research reported that 80 percent of consumers are more likely to work with a company if it gives them a personalized experience. As more data, about consumers’ journeys, becomes available, companies really don’t have any excuse not to use that data to their full advantage in marketing products.
Martech leaders like Amazon Web Service’s Personalize system are simplifying personalization and recommendation services for customers through machine learning. These systems support data sets in real-time, and data remains secure in the Cloud. It even allows for seamless integration from CMS data sets, so it puts personalization at every marketer’s fingertips.”
14) Growth-oriented companies invest in sales and marketing
“Last year I predicted better alignment to revenue goals between sales and marketing, marketing being held accountable and rewarded with budget. A year later and this partnership between sales and marketing has accelerated for organizations driving sustainable growth faster than anticipated.
Driving growth with differentiation in mature markets is being led by sales and marketing. Partners who choose to not ‘just operate’ or be ‘me too with best practices,’ but rather choose to take an ‘innovative’ sales and marketing leadership approach.
Marketing organizations are transforming from a cost center to an investment center: sign-up-for-a-number, commit to it, and partner with sales to measure marketing attribution to the business that is closed. The days of marketing celebrating meeting activity goals in the boardroom, while revenue targets are missed, are a thing of the past.
Once partnered and driving the common goals of the organization, sales and marketing differentiate in how they engage with customers. Buying motions are not linear and require content – and consistent content – as the influencers in the agreement network of the buying committee engage with your organization digitally, in-person, socially, with external influencers, for example.
Buyers must see you often, with consistency and authentically. Marketing organizations who do not carry a committed revenue target are operating with ‘me too best practices’ that their competitors are and are competing on price, not value and are behind. 2019 leading growth organizations will be driven by a revenue engine with sales and marketing functions.”
15) Ethics in PR revisited.
“Based on debacles this year with brands like Facebook (who paid a PR firm to spread dirt on its competitors) and Papa John’s (whose PR firm resigned after the founder made ‘racially charged’ comments), 2019 will be the year that PR pros will take a serious step back to consider how ethical their practices and behaviors – and those of their clients – are. While most PR pros ARE ethical, it’s something we should all take into consideration. In the current environment, it’s sometimes easy to overlook these issues, but it’s more important than ever not to let our standards slip.”
- Also see Off Script Q&A No. 35 with Michelle (coming next week)
16) Customer-centric companies win.
“In 2019, a company’s brand is going to become more important than ever and brands that are truly customer-centric will win. In the B2B space, it’s almost impossible to differentiate on features or services alone and another competitor is always cropping up, so companies that can effectively tap into their buyer’s emotions, let their customers tell their story for them, and build trust will rise to the top. Companies with top-notch brands are also able to attract top talent, expand faster into new markets, and accelerate the sales cycle. Invest in making your brand a priority in 2019 and find unique ways to make it stand out above the noise.”
- Also see How PR Prepared Her for Inbound Marketing and a Role as a Martech CMO; Off Script No. 31: Nicole Wojno of UserIQ
Do you want to be invited to make a prediction for next year?
If you sign up here, I’ll send you an invitation toward the end of 2019.
17) Opt-in marketing surpasses interruption marketing.
“The intrusive, invasive cookies-based marketing will die out before the end of 2019. It will be replaced by people-based marketing that is purely opted-in by every target-group customer, and not disguised or forced opt-ins.”
18) Fine-tuning messaging that resonates.
“Finding the needle in the haystack. There is an abundance of content and there will definitely be more in the new year. PR and marketing professionals need to find the strongest message that resonates and get as much exposure as possible while not getting lost in the digital haystack. My second prediction: Short. Sweet. Simple. Sticking to the three S’s will be vital in 2019 since people are consuming so much information. Strong visuals will be one way to make an impact.”
19) Movie franchise approach to content marketing outpaces the newsroom model.
“More content marketers will get frequency right. For small companies that will generally mean creating more content. For larger companies with more resources that will mean scaling back their frequency by abandoning the newsroom model and embracing the blockbuster model of content creation.
The blockbuster model means creating content like a movie studio. Marketers should think more like Disney does in launching a new movie in the Star Wars franchise every year. Content marketers should think about creating their own content franchises in the same way that Kleiner Perkins has done with Mary Meeker’s annual ‘Internet Trends’ report.
At LinkedIn, we’ve built our own franchise with our Sophisticated Marketer’s Guides, and these ‘big rock’ pieces of content can fuel social media, blog posts, and other content outlets for months at a time.”
20) Leveraging fewer martech tools for greater results.
“The ingestion of data sources and the evaluation of new technologies, especially around AI will spin everyone’s heads. Companies will subscribe to yet another tool that serves a single purpose without ultimately making a dent in revenue because teams won’t have the resources to effectively understand and utilize the power it can bring.
As marketers, we have become technology driven to the point of confusion and have created an inability to quickly act on the metrics and goals that will make a difference. Staying focused on the company or department goals and looking for how our people can leverage a few technologies will be key next year.”
21) Consolidation of marketing automation technologies.
“We will see more rollups and the merger and acquisition (M&A) of marketing automation companies.”
22) A new type of partner marketing to cut through the clutter.
“Buyers are getting harder to reach. They don’t answer their phones, ignore (or even block) online ads, and delete most marketing emails without opening them. This is why partner marketing will take off in 2019. Partnering with a complementary product or service vendors, industry influencers, or vertical content sites (like hr-gazette.com or humanresourcestoday.com in the HR tech space) enables your offering to get ‘introduced’ to a new audience through a trusted source. Unlike media advertising, partner marketing is based on mutual benefit (not just dollars-for-eyeballs) and has to be earned (the reputations of both parties are on the line). Those attributes make partner marketing more authentic to and trusted by buyers.”
23) Creativity becomes cool in marketing again.
“Creativity is back. In recent years we have become obsessed with data. While it is an amazing tool – it won’t tell you exactly how to change hearts and minds or reach your audience. I think this year will be a swing on the pendulum back towards good ole’ fashioned creativity. Sometimes the unpredictable works – embracing a leap of faith or a gut feel (supported by data) will become cool once more.”
- Also see Network Latency and Endeavor for Jargon Free Corporate Communications; Off Script No. 17: Wendy Zajack
24) Only legitimate relationships between brands and influencers will carry weight with consumers.
“Companies will transcend their missions through real learning, making their business even more meaningful and supportive. About brands and influencers: only legitimate relationships will be recognized by the audience.”
25) B2B marketing must be bold, creative and agile – more often.
B2B marketing is renowned for a careful, cautious and conservative approach to marketing. You need a hall pass from the CEO to use the bathroom in many organizations, so marketing becomes culturally averse to try anything new.
Committees of senior leaders agonize over every word because they have formed strong opinions based on a good conversation with one customer or worse, one investor, two weeks ago. This is time-consuming and inefficient and often ignores data from surveys and analytics. It leads to a lot of meetings – and very little action.
You’ll never test new ideas, or get creative content, campaigns and programs to market to drive growth in this way. And you can’t generate the data necessary to improve marketing with one effort – you need dozens, hundreds, even thousands of attempts.
As a result, marketing develops a culture of meek order-takers that do not take risks, because it’s much easier to just do what’s always been done. This means marketing isn’t trying to drive growth, it’s trying to avoid conflict.
As one CMO put it, B2B marketing is “a sea of sameness.” The risk of trying something new isn’t that the market responds with pitchforks as the business leadership sometimes fears – it’s that the market doesn’t even notice.
Marketing doesn’t need to be reckless, but if it wants to drive growth amid the volume and noise that will certainly come in 2019, it must be bold, creative and truly agile – and it must be those things far more often.
26) Marketing hires for strategy and execution.
“Too often marketing faces a talent dilemma – a choice between strategy and execution. The good strategy talent examines a problem in detail and proposes a savvy answer – but those people don’t want to get their hands dirty by executing the strategy. Since no one else has the time to invest in understanding the solution in the same way the strategist has, the strategy never gets put into play.
On the other hand, marketing has operators – talent that really understand the ins and outs of the platforms and can write a snappy tweet. But they lack the experience, exposure or incentive to understand how those tactics fit into the larger business and invariably they wind up as one-off programs or campaigns with little connection to strategy.
Marketing needs talent that can do both and a tightening of resources will cause marketing leaders to focus on hiring or training their teams – including consultants, trusted advisors and agencies – to build the capacity to both think big and get things done.”
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New marketing prediction contributions just added:
27) Consumers will demand data collection transparency.
“The war for consumer data privacy is going to heat up. It seems like every day there is a data breach, and consumers are wondering why companies aren’t more transparent on their data collection practices. Consumers are going to demand access and control to data which will make it more difficult for marketers and communicators to gather data and use it for targeting unless they provide upfront opt-ins, out outs and less-jargony terms and conditions for the usage of the data they collect.”
28) Social media reduced to a necessary evil.
“Highly public security breaches; questionable internal privacy and user protection practices; threats of congressional testimony, governmental oversight and ‘trust-busting;’ declining organic messaging benefits; increasingly toxic conversations and engagement online; and medical and academic research studies highlighting negative effects to users’ psychological and real-world social well-being … 2018 was a very tough year for social media.
If those issues were not enough, several platforms, including Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook and other social entities, report that they continue to lose users to newer and photo-based social networks. All of these problems already have some marketing and PR pros re-evaluating the messaging and branding reach of social media and the value of their paid and organic efforts with outlets experiencing shrinking audiences and continuing trust issues.
I see 2019 continuing social media’s ground loss on all of the 2018-fronts as old guard platforms bleed users over content, trust, quality of engagement and international government scrutiny. Social media will continue to be a factor in any digital communication and marketing endeavor, but the new year may see it reduced to ‘necessary evil’ status as real-world campaign and crisis planners look to organic and wholly owned digital options for content and messaging delivery provide greater cost-effectiveness, real engagement and traffic control.”
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I’d love to invite you to make a prediction next year! If you sign up here, I’ll send you an invitation toward the end of 2019.
Here are some prediction style posts published here in previous years:
- December 2018: 20 Insightful PR and Marketing Predictions for 2018
- December 2016: One Prediction Each for PR, Content Marketing and Social Media
- January 2016: 11 Shrewd PR and Marketing Predictions You Can Bank On
- December 2015: One Bold Content Marketing Prediction for 2016
- December 2014: 6 Pragmatic Content Marketing Predictions for 2015
- December 2013: Focusing on a Few 2014 Content Marketing Predictions
Here’s a roundup of related marketing predictions posts I found interesting:
- Marketing Land: 5 predictions for B2B marketing in 2019
- The Drum: 10 marketing trend predictions for 2019
- Content4Demand: 10 B2B Content Marketing Predictions for 2019
>>> If you see other prediction posts you think are worth adding here, send me a link on Twitter @Frank_Strong and I’ll consider linking to it here.
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