In 2020, marketers can expect to have to take a stand on social issues, to focus on context and brand building – and to do more of this within walled gardens – while contouring to address data privacy issues, according to WARC’s Marketer’s Toolkit 2020.

Released today, Marketer’s Toolkit 2020 outlines the priorities, investment intentions and challenges facing brands in the year ahead with guidance on how to meet them.

Covering five key drivers of change – Society, Technology, Economy, Industry and Policy – this white paper is centred on a survey of almost 800 senior client and agency-side practitioners around the world, with insight from chief marketing officers, global WARC data, industry knowledge and case study examples, and includes pitfalls and recommendations from expert commentators.

Society – the Greta effect

Brand purpose is evolving into brand activism and the challenge for marketers in 2020 is to assess environmental issues in ways that go deep into every part of their organisations, with particular focus on packaging and the supply chain.

Responding to WARC’s Marketer’s Toolkit survey, more than 75% of marketers agree that brands need to take a stand on social issues.

“Issues like plastics in packaging, food waste, nutrition in food, they transcend businesses and brands,” says Steve Challouma, Marketing Director, Birds Eye. “They are things that companies should be doing in a broad sense, irrespective of their brand purpose.”

Technology – reinventing programmatic

There are big changes in advertising technology, as the limitations of audience-based buying become clear. A renewed focus on context will dovetail with the emergence of connected TV to create new opportunities in programmatic.

Fifty percent of respondents either agree or strongly agree that programmatic has “failed to live up to its potential”.

“Context does matter,” says Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer, Procter & Gamble. “Different platforms have different usage experiences for the user. What we’re working on is the ability to be able to engage people in every one of those [channels]. That’s a new type of creativity.”

Economy – the pivot back to brand

Brands are re-assessing how they balance their spending in response to a crisis of short-termism, and an over investment in performance marketing. This is set to be a major trend for 2020, though there are significant hurdles to increased brand building investment.

Seventy percent of marketers agree that brands have over-invested in performance at the expense of brand-building. “It starts with a leadership point of view,” says Tariq Hassan, Chief Marketing Officer, Petco. “It starts with viewing the word ‘brand-building’ as about [more than] what marketing does, but rather about being a ‘brand culture’ as an organisation.”

The rapid growth of investment in online video is expected to continue, with Instagram and YouTube set to benefit and a significant number of brands spending on TikTok for the first time.

Search is also expected to be a focus for 2020, with Amazon’s fast-growing ad business set to benefit alongside Google.

Industry – building brands in walled gardens

As digital platforms like Amazon and Alibaba grow ever-more influential, marketers are increasingly tasked with building brands within ecosystems over which they have no control, creating a growing reliance on ‘walled gardens’ that combine paid advertising and payment tech or e-commerce fulfilment.

Twenty three percent of brands plan to increase adspend with Amazon in 2020, with only 3% of marketers anticipating a decrease in investment.

“It’s not just about driving a sale in e-commerce,” says Ivan Pollard, Chief Marketing Officer, General Mills. “How do you make all of your marketing shoppable? The platforms absolutely offer an opportunity to make a sale, to build a brand, and to understand your consumer.”

Experience will remain a buzzword in 2020, as marketers prioritise CX. Creative agencies and consultancies will battle to combine CX with brand thinking.

In-housing of adtech will continue as brands take charge of their data – 34% of survey respondents say they will be managing more adtech in-house in 2020. In-housing of creativity remains a trend, but a significant minority of brands are putting more work out-of-house.

Policy – privacy-first marketing

Data privacy is both a trend in regulation and a growing consumer demand. As such, it is one of the most important global themes for marketers in 2020. The introduction of the California Consumer Privacy Act in January 2020 is already forcing brands and media owners to look again at their data management practices.

While the new regulations change the data landscape, there are opportunities for brands to present themselves as ‘privacy first’ to consumers wary of how their data is being used.

Eighty six percent of respondents to WARC’s Marketer’s Toolkit survey agree or strongly agree that “big tech firms should be subject to greater regulation”; two thirds strongly agree that consumers will take greater control of their data in 2020.

“We just want to get a lot more transparency from our partners,” says Jill Haskin, Chief Marketing Officer, The Hershey Company. “How are they keeping [data]?. We want to have not [just] what’s the legal thing but what we ethically think is right.”

WARC’s Marketer’s Toolkit 2020 is available to download here. More information from a deep-dive into each of the five chapters, available now to WARC subscribers, will follow over the coming weeks.

Two free-to-attend events to discuss trends from the Marketer’s Toolkit will take place in London on 29 November and in New York on 12 December. 

Sourced from WARC