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2020 communications trends

It’s that time of the year — as budgets close, Christmas parties kick off and festive jumpers become all the rage, we look ahead to what 2020 will bring in the world of comms. Here are our five predictions:

Product as purpose: 2019 has been the year that many brands have tried and failed to jump on the purpose bandwagon. They underestimated how cynical people can be about inauthentic marketing efforts that try to engineer a purpose for a brand that isn’t a natural fit, as we saw with Gillette’s ‘the best a man can get’ u-turn or Kohl’s Pride merchandise which failed to feature any same-sex couples in photography. 2020 should see a more rigorous approach.

Trendwatching’s 2020 report identifies that consumers will start to derive status from ‘non-consumerist choices’ — for example, gaining kudos from choosing no to fly. This shifting mindset means people are looking for brands that make those changes easier, which for comms means that purpose needs to be intrinsic to the product and brand itself, rather than a flash-in-the-pan, tokenistic purpose campaign that supports something vaguely related to its brand goals or personality. Think KLM’s Fly Responsibly campaign or Burger King removing plastic toys from kids’ meals vs BrewDog’s pink beer or McDonald’s bee hotel.

Balancing the measurable with the un-measurable: In 2019, there has rightly been increased focus on robustly measuring the business value of campaigns. But it can lead to a prioritisation of easy-to-measure short-term commercial drivers over longer-term brand building. Adidas’ admission in late 2019 that a focus on data-driven ROI led it to over-invest in digital and performance marketing at the expense of brand building, is an example.

In 2020, we already know that Instagram is likely to phase out likes, that there is increasing social sharing via private networks (we all have that friend that screenshots a funny social post and shares via WhatsApp) and that it’s almost impossible to measure the “un-measurables” (like hairs raised on the back of your arm) at scale.

So, we predict that 2020 is going to be the year where we rebalance the score card — picking the most meaningful metrics and balancing them with a healthy regard for the un-measurables to aid both short and long-term success. As marketeers, we need to instil the confidence in our client partners to sometimes go with the gut when planning a campaign.

Smaller, more meaningful communities: Don’t read this wrong — Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn are not going anywhere and are still excellent platforms to deliver efficient, targeted content. But in 2020, we should see an increasing focus on smaller, more meaningful communities.

We are already tracking Facebook’s continued investment in Groups and LinkedIn’s refresh of their Group offering, alongside seeing niche networks like ‘The Night Feed’ (a social community for breastfeeding mums) and brand-facilitated communities gain traction. These community-centred platforms will become a powerful place to reach highly-engaged audiences around specific elements of a brand offering. Just in the way that we have seen micro-influencers increasingly used by brands, we should see consideration of such platforms (either via partnership, membership or ownership) as part of a brand’s channel strategy in 2020.

Maturing influencer marketing: Whilst sticking #ad in front of a blatant brand post on a quasi-celebrity’s Instagram feed is unlikely to disappear, we should see a continued maturation in the world of influencer marketing as brands, agencies and influencers start to implement the learnings from its slightly-shaky start.

2020 should see stricter selection and targeting by brands to ensure communities reached are genuine, engaged and relevant, alongside a tiered approach to nano, micro and macro influencers and a more flexible, creative way of working with them. Partnering with influencers on content creation to achieve a unique visual style and extending partnerships beyond broadcasted social messages and into experiential campaigns and genuine customer advocacy should become the norm.

And B2B brands will increasingly get in on the act, alongside the realisation that influencers can be spokespeople and spokespeople can be influencers, particularly in the B2B space.

Commonplace social commerce: The slow-burn of social commerce is set to grow rapidly in 2020, led — as ever — by Asian markets. Social commerce is projected to make up 30% of China’s total online retail transactions next year (Internet Society of China, 2019). We should see this roll-out across markets with the extension of Instagram Shopping for all brands, allowing people to browse and purchase without leaving Instagram.

Facebook — and its apps — are well positioned to serve customers right the way through their purchase journey, from considering what product to buy, to purchasing it directly, and any follow-up customer service. This essentially means social media platforms are well-primed to deliver all aspects of commerce in 2020 and we should see it boom as a result.

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