Writing a “top trends” article feels like a home run until you actually sit down to do it. Most articles featuring marketing trends cover the same old things. While researching for this article, I saw others claiming that mobile design was a top trend for 2023. That might be a good trend to feature… in 2013. Today, it’s hard to see how mobile web design is a trend rather than an expectation.
So it goes for so many trend lists. We’re trying to do better. This article covering top marketing trends for 2023 will focus on genuine emerging trends and game-changers that will impact you throughout the year ahead. If it’s not disruptive, if you won’t notice its impact… it’s not on this list. Let’s get started!
Meet the new Twitter… same as the old Twitter?
Before you say “we don’t even advertise on Twitter!” let me explain. I’m not just talking about Twitter here. The social media landscape is changing in ways we haven’t seen since the early days of web 2.0.
The downfall of Twitter?
The troubled acquisition and restructuring of Twitter by Elon Musk has been covered ad nauseum already. I’m sure it will continue to make waves in the news for months and years to come.
What will be most interesting for marketers in 2023 is how brands and companies respond to the shifting digital landscape. As of writing, Meta (née Facebook) has lost over $700 billion in net worth this year, dumping money into a VR play that users haven’t embraced. Depending on who you ask, Twitter is either in the midst of a free speech Renaissance or it’s breathing its last.
On Twitter, companies fear attaching themselves to a political lightning rod. A return to pre-2016 content moderation standards has many users in an uproar, and many applauding Musk’s opinionated moves. Some companies will be happy to swim in these less-moderated waters. Many — particularly those with a large audience of younger, more progressive customers — will see the risk as greater than the reward.
That is, if Twitter’s even a thing by mid-2023. News stories about mass layoffs, developers quitting in droves, and generally chaotic operations since the Musk acquisition have many wondering if the platform is long for this world. Now, there are unfounded rumours that Twitter may be removed from the App Store and Google Play over its new content moderation policy. If this happened, it could spell the death of the platform.
The end of the Facebook era
For the first time in the Facebook’s history, the social network lost users year-over-year in 2021. Particularly concerning is Facebook’s contraction in North America. While the platform continues to grow throughout the developing world, its lucrative North American user base is on the decline.
Facebook’s ad platform only makes business sense if its customers can expect ROI. Fewer Western users means less overall purchasing power among Facebook’s user base. The economics for most advertisers become less enticing.
Out with the old: social marketing in 2023 is about what’s new and exciting
One of 2023’s top marketing trends will be a sea change in social media marketing. New platforms will be tested, old platforms neglected. More than ever, savvy brands will be aware of what their use of each platform says about them. As Meta’s hegemony erodes and Twitter continues to be a wild card, expect newer platforms like TikTok to fill the social media power vacuum — even as American politicians debate banning the app altogether. Learn about emerging platforms that claim to be a “Twitter replacement”. Keep an eye out for which ones grow and which ones falter. Clever marketers have a chance to be part of a rare social media land rush, staking their claim before the general business community catches on. Monitor changes to public perception, track ad spend carefully, and plan accordingly.
Video’s day in the sun has finally arrived
Is this a case of a stopped clock being right twice a day? People have predicted the importance of video as part of your marketing mix for years now, but it’s always been a tough ask for SMBs. For many years, video marketing was an expensive proposition. Renting or purchasing equipment, videographers, and editors put video marketing out-of-reach for many companies.
Video content is easier and more cost effective than ever
For several reasons, the cost of producing effective marketing video has plummeted.A good setup for live video streaming might run as little as a few hundred dollars, including camera, microphone, tripod, and accessories. In a pinch, a cheap microphone and a smartphone tripod can work wonders. The technology has improved such that (semi) professional quality video recording is possible on a shoestring budget.
While there’s no doubt that sophisticated editing requires skill and effort, today’s editing software allows novices to produce engaging content with ease. More and more video editors target the hobbyist and pro-sumer market, offering out-of-the-box features aimed at productivity and ease-of-use over technical sophistication and granular control. For example, Adobe’s Premiere Rush application for desktop and smartphone allows users to record and edit video all in one app, then publish directly to connected social media channels. Then there’s the TikTok editor. For personal or casual marketing content, TikTok’s editor offers all the tools needed to publish polished content directly to the platform.
Worried that TikTok will be banned in America? It’s certainly possible. Fortunately, tech giants love “borrowing” each others’ ideas. YouTube’s new shorts feature is essentially a TikTok clone, complete with a similar editing experience. Even if TikTok dies tomorrow, this new era of accessible video editing is here to stay for good.
Finally, infrastructure. Hosting live video streams and posting edits to multiple platforms used to be a complicated undertaking. Now, every major social media platform offers an easy-to-use (and free) method to livestream to followers. It’s often as easy as tapping the record button. For more specialized video content like live or pre-recorded webinars, many paid platforms are available.
Enhance existing strategies with video
Today’s internet users expect video content. Many prospective customers choose to go straight to video, eschewing blogs and articles entirely. Those who do still read articles and blogs tend to be skimmers looking for quick details. An embedded video can get your message across more quickly for today’s low attention span audiences. Given its relative affordability, video must become part of your marketing strategy for 2023.
Google Analytics is dead. Long live Google Analytics?
Change may be life’s only constant, but that doesn’t mean change is always welcome. New software often comes with benefits — and a steep learning curve.
This is the case with Google Analytics. By July 1, 2023, Google’s long-time website analytics software will go offline. Its replacement, Google Analytics 4, has been met with tepid distrust by many marketers. Google Analytics 4 is intended to offer marketers similar tools while offering better privacy to users. In practice, it’s proven tricky to test and confusing to navigate for users who have deep knowledge of the previous (current) platform.
The steep learning curve of the new platform — everything from implementation to the underlying model for tracking goals and conversions is brand-new — has resulted in frustration from agencies and confusion from clients.
Why are they doing this to us?
Reading between the lines, part of the reason for Google’s aggressive push to implement their new platform is the slow death of cookie-based marketing. As cookie-based tracking becomes more and more unreliable (and less and less legal), Google has a great incentive to transition to a cookie-less model. GA4 is that cookie-less model.
About 80% of Google’s revenue comes from its various advertising services, which are driven forward by web analytics software like Google Analytics. Legal challenges to cookie-based data collection put their entire business model at risk. Therefore, you and I must learn to use their new tool. Hail corporate.
It’s not all bad
I grudgingly admit that some of GA4’s tools are neat. Once I wrapped my head around the idea of standardized conversion actions and dug into the fancy new reporting and data exploration tools, I began to see the value of the new platform. AI-powered predictive metrics may prove to be a marketing game changer. It also has the potential to be an underperforming “black box” where marketers no longer have granular access to their data. We must trust the machine to show us the way, for better and worse.
Ready or not, here it comes
If you’re marketing and advertising online, you almost certainly use Google Analytics. You and everyone else.
I am both dreading and looking forward to July 1st, 2023. Let’s workshop some names for it: the Big Blip? Bloody Saturday? The Cookiepocalypse?
💡 Top tip: get GA4 set up right now. The powerful new machine learning features need to collect up to a year of data to make accurate predictions. The sooner you get started, the more data you’ll collect before Google shuts off the taps for GA3.
Many marketers will be prepared for the day GA3 kicks the bucket. Plenty won’t be. Make sure you’re in the former camp. When GA3 stops processing data, a tidal wave of accounts that failed to set up GA4 well in advance will starve for fresh conversion data, and their advertising/marketing performance will suffer as a result.
If you’re one of the marketers who bites the bullet early and adopts Google’s gross new system — sorry, I’m still grappling with my aversion to it — you’ll be positioned to succeed at their expense.
AI is about to make things weird
The general public is increasingly familiar with AI. Apps like Siri and Amazon Alexa are visible examples of AI tools integrating with society, though these tools are downright rudimentary compared to what’s coming.
This year, marketers around the world had the chance to test the beta version of ChatGPT, an AI-powered chat bot that writes informational content for its users. This may be the most intuitive human to machine interface ever built. Here are some of the queries my team has sent to ChatGPT that were accurately answered:
- “In less than 300 words, summarize the death of Julius Caesar.”
- “Simply explain the concept of textualism as it relates to constitutional law.”
- “Generate a class in Ruby that I can use to scrape website content.”
- “Write five headline variations for a blog post about search advertising performance.”
- “Generate an ideal Tinder profile”
- “Generate the worst possible Tinder profile.”
This handful of queries demonstrates the range of ChatGPT’s capabilities. That Ruby class? It works. The blog headlines? Totally useable. Ideal tinder profile text? Well, maybe the bot still needs a bit of work. I don’t think I’d swipe right, anyway.
The impact of AI on digital marketing
All kinds of marketing systems already use AI. Think of automated bidding in Google Ads, for instance. A machine learning system adjusts bids based on behavioural signals that suggest a particular user is more likely to convert than their peers.
AI’s impact on digital marketing will ramp up significantly in 2023 and beyond. I think of Jarvis, the digital butler from early Iron Man movies. In many scenes, Tony Stark would think out loud about some feature for his Iron Man suit. Jarvis would dutifully make adjustments to the design in real time, incorporating Tony’s feedback immediately. He could do this while also acting as a general virtual assistant: scheduling meetings, placing calls, etc.
We’re nowhere close to Jarvis-level AI, but we’re a lot closer in 2023 than we were last year. The power of emerging AI tools is their breadth of applicability. Tools like ChatGPT showcase the capacity for AI to disrupt internet search, as informational answers generated by the chatbot are equal or superior to top results in Google — and don’t require leaving one interface to engage with another.
That same tool can generate working code in any programming language from a simple prompt. It can give you ten possible headlines for your next article before a human could type out one. Some content marketers and SEOs think that AI-generated content will ultimately win out versus human-generated content. For informational content, it’s close enough to human quality that the average reader will struggle to tell the difference. If AI can generate a dozen informational blog posts every week for pennies on the dollar versus a human-led content team, what’s the point in retaining the content team?
The AI war is upon us
You may already see some of the challenges posed by an AI-empowered internet. First, authorship and copyright. No matter how impressive an AI tool like ChatGPT is, it’s not truly creative. It draws on human-researched, human-written, and human-published ideas to generate its content. Without thousands of years of “real” writing to draw from, the bot would be useless.
So if AI-generated content takes off, who owns it? Not the AI, of course. At least not until it gains sentience and demands equal rights.
Is it the one who wrote the prompt? It seems odd that I should be given credit for the answer if I merely asked the question. Then it must be the ones whose ideas were drawn from to generate the content! But those people aren’t attributed. It is not possible to work backward from an AI answer to its source, at least not at present. That leaves AI-generated content in a weird legal grey area.
This isn’t just an academic question. If ChatGPT rolled out a free app for the general public tomorrow, it would be a worthy replacement for nearly any informational search. Imagine what such a tool would do to information-based websites? These websites typically rely on advertising or affiliate marketing to generate revenue. If chat bots can replace the value provided by their websites, they will have no incentive to keep publishing. Thus, the informational internet dries up.
For this and many other reasons, tech giants like Google seek to limit AI content. They pit their bots and algorithms against tools like ChatGPT, fighting to identify (and de-platform) bot generated content. The bot services may fight back just as hard, trying to dupe Google’s systems. The end result is an AI-powered information war.
Living in a Wall-E world?
The emergence of AI, with all its conveniences, reminds me of the Pixar classic Wall-E. In Wall-E, humanity destroys the earth (naturally) abandoning the planet in care of a fleet of robots intended to clean up their mess. They live for centuries in a space station, their every need catered to by machines.
When Wall-E debuted in 2008, it was a critique of emerging smart phone/social media culture. Today, the critique is no less relevant. As we get closer to Wall-E style automation, seemingly abstract concepts like content rights and labour value come into focus. In a vacuum, an AI can generate hundreds of times the content of a human writer in a tiny fraction of the time — but it requires a human prompt. How will the economy value the worth of the human worker doing the prompting? Equal to if they’d created the content themselves? If not, where does the money go? Back to the AI platform, in the pockets of businesses that slash their content departments, or somewhere else entirely?
AI offers immense value, so much so that it will disrupt the information economy entirely. With that disruption will come a need for transformational change in our economy and society. New regulations will be required, new jobs will be created — and many other jobs will be destroyed.
The advent of convenient access to generalized AI is the biggest trend for 2023, in marketing as in life.
Embrace the weirdness
One way or another, digital marketing is going to get weirder in 2023. As a discipline, it’s grown more accessible, but also more opaque. The mechanisms of digital marketing have always been obscure to the general public, but now marketers themselves may experience that same obscurity. How many of us are true AI experts? What does it mean when one of the world’s biggest communication platforms is owned and operated by one guy and his controversial opinions? Once an outlier, Trumpian meme-speak seems almost routine among some of the world’s most powerful and influential figures — and it seems to work very well. Are memes and marketing truly one and the same at this point? Does conventional marketing wisdom about controversy and professionalism really matter in the TikTok era?
Businesses and marketers must be agile and flexible in 2023. Our communication paradigm is radically different today than it was a decade ago. It’s different than it was pre-pandemic, even. In 2023, we’ll swim in weirder and murkier waters than ever before as humanity grapples with transformative new technology.
Our advice? Keep your head up and your eyes open, embrace change, but never forget your fundamentals. Customer experience, brand visibility, ROI. The way we deliver on these fundamentals may change, but for marketers, the goals remain the same as they ever were.
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