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  • Writer's pictureNat Sharp

7 mega marketing trends of the decade

Updated: Oct 17, 2021

'Evolve' in pink neon lights

We have seen unprecedented changes in marketing over the last 10 years. As the Harvard Business Review commented back in 2014 “With the possible exception of IT, we can’t think of another discipline that has evolved so quickly. Tools and strategies that were cutting-edge a few years ago are fast becoming obsolete, and new approaches are appearing every day.”

As someone that took a career break for part of this period, it was a shock coming back and embracing the changes.

Digital marketing has exploded and the traditional role of the marketer has changed so much. Today's marketer is needed to be highly strategic, nimble, a strong storyteller and more important than ever analytical.

I consulted with some industry experts to see what they thought were the biggest changes over the last decade.

1. Even more instant

As we live in an always switched-on world, speed and the ability for brands to communicate instantaneously is expected.

Messaging apps have exploded. WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are growing twice as fast as Facebook, the original platform. Within the past 2 years, WhatsApp has grown its user base by 20% and now almost reaches 70% of the British population.

Joe Bennett, from JK Online comments “The stand out change to me is the use of instant communication. With tools like Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp, brands can now have instant conversations with their audience and the consumer expects this. Rather than sending an email and being happy to wait days for a response, people expect to be able to instant message the company and get a reply within hours. Alternatively, they might even tweet publicly a problem they are having forcing the company to respond quickly and professionally so that others don't see it and join in bashing them. This has changed how a lot of businesses deal with their communication.”

2. The content buzz

Content marketing has taken over. As Marketing Insight specialist Susie Shore confirms, in 2010, content marketing was more a buzzword, but now features at the heart of marketing strategies. Companies have realised the importance of publishing relevant, engaging and useful content to build customer relationships.

But the term ‘content’ has so many meanings. Traditionally it refers to written articles. But now it means almost anything including short blogs and videos which have grown massively in recent years. The quality is mixed though. Often quantity takes precedence and a ‘thought piece’ ends up being a short article with no insight or opinion.

Angela Ward advises “Having started as a journalist 30 years ago, one of the most significant changes is how quickly content is published and shared to an audience."

3. The social media revolution

Instagram launched in 2010 and we’ve moved into a new type of publishing world dominated by social media. Globally, social media is used by 1 in 3 of us. And this has presented a new set of challenges.

Branding expert Elizabeth Barrett advises when she started her career in branding, social media was in its infancy as a marketing tool. Companies, large and small, were only just discovering the power of digital strategies. Now there is a big shift in how companies focus their efforts creatively. It used to be a big chunk of budgets were spent on creative and print media. Now digital strategies have become of greater importance. Social media has been fantastic gift marketing wise, but has also created a problem that needs to be solved. We need our brands to be present, relevant, and constant online, so more work and more intelligence is needed for businesses.

Jessica Morgan of Carnsight Communications comments "Having moved from marketing to PR, I find that social media brings the two disciplines much closer together. All platforms have evolved in the last decade. Initially, marketing challenges included how do platforms monetise; now it's more around how to stamp out stealth promotion. Social media has allowed people to reach thousands, even millions, on their own; enabling ordinary people to act as marketers."

4. An automated customer journey

What used to be a specialist planning function is now accessible to small businesses. Buyer psychology, customer journey planning and the use of customer personas are widespread. Gone are the post-it notes and linear flow charts created in PowerPoint, to more sophisticated online planning, which uses data at the core.

Believe it or not, marketing automation has been around for over 20 years. But the big change over the last decade, as been the huge adoption of even the smallest of businesses linking up CRM, marketing resources and email marketing.

And when you look at the evidence behind it, you can see why. According to research by Invespcro, 80% of users see an increase in lead generation from using marketing automation software, and 77% had an increase in conversions. And marketing overheads can be reduced by 12%.

Senior marketer Natasha Davies states “10 years ago I was still sending direct mail to half a million people, at great cost and without any real way of measuring success. Today we are connecting user journeys, personalising experiences and attributing marketing investments that demonstrate real value and impact. “

And Kenda MacDonald from Automation Ninjas advises that marketing automation has put power in the hands of consumers. Consumers now control what businesses they interact with and how. Smart businesses are capitalising on this and giving their consumers more control over how they consume.

5. A sea of bland

Faces drawn on a wall

Today's web designs require more than beautiful photography placement and intriguing headlines. Designers must consider all the technical must-haves and search engine optimisation (SEO) implications.

But does this hinder the creative process?

Jenny Kitchen, MD of YoYo Design advises, “In the digital world, over the last 5 years, we’ve seen the rapid rise of user experience and the race to optimise every element of the customer’s online experience. Data and scientific theories are used to help (or rather encourage) visitors to navigate websites in certain ways. Whilst this has meant better experiences for both customers and brands, it’s not the only part of the story. In our quest for ‘proving’ every aspect, we’re losing the magic of creativity to build engagement and excitement. We’re losing the very basics of marketing by creating digital experiences, which look exactly the same as everything else on the Internet. We're creating a sea of bland. Thankfully, there's a great opportunity for brands to achieve stand out by remembering that users are people too.”

Furthermore, Jackson Clark, MD of Patch Media comments “I feel the art of marketing has been dumbed down in the past 10 years. Digital marketing and the accompanying stats have given rise to analysing marketing channels on their own as opposed to looking at the overall campaign.”

6. A mobile world

Smartphone penetration is at 41.5% globally and 93% in the UK. In a recent Deloitte survey, 20% of consumers confirmed they check their smartphone every 20 minutes for every hour they are awake!

Of course, this has had huge marketing implications with budgets adapting to this customer behaviour.

Nick Lima from Rank Fresh states the biggest change in the last 10 years has been the impact of mobile with his clients getting over 60% of their traffic and conversions on mobile devices.

10 years ago SEO was easier with a backlink and keywords focus. Nick believes Google is much cleverer now in finding context, relationships and relevance in keywords, making technical SEO critical. He adds “Site speed and usability are really important to keep mobile users on a website. So these days good Technical SEO can significantly impact a website's performance in search results”.

7. Ethics wins

Man walking past 'Good' grafitti

Today’s consumer is a wiser and more ethical one. And Generation Z, in particular, expects this.

What used to be a ‘CSR’ policy which may have been filed away on a businesses website is now taking centre stage and a big marketing message. When I worked at Vodafone back in 2011, they even introduced a ‘giving back’ team as part of their brand marketing function. Today, Unilever has 26 sustainable living brands in its portfolio. In 2017 these brands grew 46% faster than the rest of the business.

Businesses are expected to be upfront about their whole supply chain and more and more businesses are emerging with a strong ethical stance.

Fashion Delivered is a thriving fashion consultancy specialising in sustainable and ethical fashion. Today's consumers want complete transparency and expect businesses to share information on their supply chain. Fashion Delivered have just launched their own ethical sleepwear range 'Sleepy Wilson' and have taken the brave move to publish their factories.

Paula Wilson, Founder comments "Visibility of our supply chain is crucial, we believe everyone should know where their product is coming from, from the weavers of our fabrics and the manufacturers of our pyjamas to the suppliers of our swing tags and packaging your product is delivered in.”

In 2017 the UK spent £83 billion on ethical goods equating to an average household spend of £1,238. And 49% of those under 24 have avoided a product or service due to its negative environmental impact in the last year.

The impact is that brands have to think this through more holistically, so CSR is less of a tick box exercise and be ethically conscious in more creative ways. These campaigns and messages are then becoming an integral part of their marketing.

What next?

Person lying on a rug outside, reading a digital marketing book

What a decade it has been and a true pleasure to witness and be apart of.

Social media and smartphone technology to name a few have been game-changers.

It will be fascinating to see how the industry develops and brands respond over the next 10 years. Surely the next decade is less about brand new technological advancements. Instead, we will see mass adoption of technology and perhaps more consolidation and streamlining within the industry.

What do you think will be the number 1 focus?

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