Here’s How Marketing Will Change in 2020

Five predictions on the ways brands will change the way they communicate with their customers

Photo: Thanit Weerawan/Getty Images

AsAs a startup founder and entrepreneur turned marketer, I know there are hundreds of opinion articles and studies about the top predictions in marketing for 2020 flying around. Industry leaders like Gartner, WARC, or CMI set the tone for new trends that will emerge this year.

My own “predictions” may not be revolutionary, but they speak to my experiences and read on the industry. They’re informing how I think about putting communications strategies together for 2020, and maybe they’ll help you too.

Some of the most powerful brands create experiences that help the audience understand what the brand truly stands for and how it can impact their lives.

Here are the five big marketing moments that impacted my work last year and how and why I expect them to dominate in 2020.

1. Brands will be defined by their behavior, not their messaging

Digital media has fundamentally changed the way we interact with the world around us. From 50 years ago when TV was the main advertising vehicle to the dawn of the 21st century, when search engines shifted power from brands to consumers. Thirty-second TV spots became 30-second pre-rolls. Print ads became banner ads. Junk mail became spam.

Our response? DVRs, spam blockers, ad blockers, and do-not-call lists are everywhere. We got tired of being interrupted. At an emotional level, we have all built up a defense mechanism against advertising.

Interestingly, there will be more money spent on original scripted television in 2020 than was spent in the entire decade of the 1990s. It will be an exciting year watching how the media and the tech space will evolve with more players coming in — Apple TV+, Disney+, and many more.

Successful brands empower, not interrupt. We demand more from brands — transparency, authenticity, connection on a personal level. Content has the ability to alter the future of a brand and will soon be a $300 billion a year industry. Some of the most powerful brands in the world create experiences that help audiences understand what the brands truly stand for and how they impact people’s lives.

Looking to 2020, we should expect purpose 2.0, where purpose demonstrates measurable impact.

2. Cause-based marketing takes center stage

Sustainability made waves in 2019. Brands began to react to the concerns of consumers who demand corporations do their bit for their families, their communities, and the planet.

Trust has become the ultimate currency.

Sustainability sells, so it’s obvious that brands want to get in on the act. Often companies spend more time and money claiming to be “green” through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices that minimize environmental impact. This results in mistrust and affects brand reputation.

Delivering impact is a strategic direction that requires brands to rethink the way they do business. It can no longer be just a PR and CSR issue. Trust has become the ultimate currency.

Issue-based marketing needs to be a truth for companies. With CEOs, governments, and entrepreneurs now being asked questions about the impact their companies have on society, we’ll see more brands in 2020 taking a stand on social and environmental issues.

3. Traditional metrics become less and less relevant

With every new media technology, the industry creates more metrics to demonstrate success.

Simply put, marketing has only one purpose: to help brands sell more profitable products ethically. The only metrics that count in that equation are market share and profitability. But bottom-line impact takes time to measure, so over time, new metrics have mushroomed in an attempt to justify spend. Unfortunately, that almost created a distorted image of what really matters, creating valuable experiences for consumers. From click-through rates to likes and followers, they don’t correlate much to anything.

Jeff Rosenblum has talked about a new model: reach and empathy. Jane Wakely, CMO of Mars, said in an article for MarketingWeek that, “what’s important is that we measure success not only in terms of consumer engagement and growth for our brand but […] solving the tension highlighted.”

Instead of relying on paid media to interrupt people and hope they care, the objective is to create content that removes friction: Experiences that are so powerful that people go out of their way to participate in them. The old metrics of impressions and the frequency of reach will be replaced by share of voice, social mentions, and sentiment.

4. The age of full connectivity

Six weeks ago, I tuned in to watch The Global Marketing Day. 50,000 people, 100+ marketing talks were hosted simultaneously in four cities — Sydney, New York, London, and San Francisco—all virtually.

It’s probably the first conference ever that has streamed 24 hours of live marketing conversations without selling a single (paper) ticket. Imagine the costs of putting on such a conference through traditional means.

The promise of 5G networks opens the door to more connectivity and unique “locations” that don’t have Wi-Fi (or have weak connections). And the speed of 5G will lead to improved attendee productivity and overall efficiency. Ericsson predicts that 5G coverage will reach 45% of the world’s population by the end of 2024. When looking only at North America, that increases to 63% of mobile subscriptions.

Technology enables us to achieve things that a few years ago not only seemed beyond impossible but would have required a hefty investment.

5. Balancing long-term brand building against short-term sales

With the rise of digital media, we (marketers) tend to fixate on sales activation. The problem is that sales activation tactics only generate temporary lifts in revenue, not long-term incremental growth.

Research by Les Binet and Peter Field has shown that balancing brand building with sales activation is a predictable and evidence-based formula that leads to sustainable growth.

With a recession on the horizon, a lot of companies may look into reallocating significant parts of their budgets from brand building to activation. But rising sales aren’t caused just by clever advertising and promotional deals. Purchases depend on consumers feeling confident about the future and trusting in business and the economy. All of which is challenged during economic slowdowns or issues like Brexit and the U.S. conflict with Iran, which tend to leave people feeling uncertain and powerless.

As an article in the Harvard Business Review put it, “building and maintaining strong brands — ones that customers recognize and trust — remains one of the best ways to reduce business risk.”

In 2020, we’ll see more brands with purpose. The start of the new decade will be about personalization, greater opportunities to connect with customers and decision-makers, and giving them better experiences and better content.

Lloyd’s Banking People’s Choice Winner 2016 | Head of Marketing @Rainmaking_io | Ex-Global Marketing Manager @startupbootcamp | Startup Founder & Entrepreneur

Sign up for Buy/Sell/Hold

By Marker

A newsletter that's 100% business intelligence, and 0% investment advice. Take a look.

By signing up, you will create a Medium account if you don’t already have one. Review our Privacy Policy for more information about our privacy practices.

Check your inbox
Medium sent you an email at to complete your subscription.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store