10 Digital Marketing Trends to Watch in 2020

As we look to 2020, there is once again a lot of uncertainty in the world of digital and social media marketing. One constant and guaranteed feature of trends in this industry = change.

Sure. Whatever.

“It’s all the same ‘change is a constant’ thing, but just a new year,” they say.

No. I call bullshit on that.

We must continue to embrace the pace, tenor and nature of change in this business to be successful in our vocation. We need to look around the corner and BE EXCITED for the what’s next.

For the change.

For the adaptation, the remix, the disruptive, the failure and the unpredictable.

The appeal and subversive nature of disruption is why we got into this business. It was exciting. It was “never been done before.” It tickled a part of our brains with energy and humor and probably a little fear. And we liked it. No, we loved it. We changed our entire lives around seeking out that feeling, trying to master it, and use that feeling to make a living and live a life.

But sometimes the constant feeling of expectancy, disruption and fear can wear us down. It can feel like there’s “ALWAYS SOMETHING NEW, DAMN IT.” And “Can’t things just slow down so I can catch my breath?” Especially at the end of the year, it can be tempting to crave a little break.

But if a break was actually something that was possible, this industry and this job would cease to be attractive.

We actually love the pace. We love thinking we have everything figured out and then finding out something new that destroys our worldview.

We actually yearn for and rely on the WTF moments. The fact that holidays are truly the best time for a brand to break through the attention wall and capitalize on the laziness and down-time of our competitors.

So I’m fucking excited for next year. Like, really excited. A ton of things I learned in 2019 will help me. And a bunch I learned won’t. Things already changed, and it’s time to tackle new things.

As I think about next year and trying to predict the future, there are three criteria I always factor into understanding where we’ve been, where we’re at and where we’re going:

  1. Patents: the technology that’s on the horizon, may never launch, but that is important enough that a company wants to protect an original idea for how its technology will affect human beings.

  2. Art: the creative class often has the first and most poignant take on trends, whether its technology, social media or how we interact with each other. It’s important not to copy artists, but to have their work and unique POV on emerging trends inform how everyday people could think about it or assimilate it into their lives.

  3. Culture: this one goes without saying but can be the first thing we forget to assign value. We have to remove personal bias and judgement when observing others — whether if it’s the “Old Town Road” as the most popular song in the U.S., parents ignoring their kids’ iPad volume at the restaurant table next to you, or TikTok as the most important emerging social network. It doesn’t matter what you personally think. It matters what people are doing, and that’s the culture.

So as we consider these three variables to inform where things are headed, here are some trends I’m thinking about as we head into 2020…

10 Digital Marketing Trends to Watch in 2020

  • Demetrification: The good and bad implications of removing, hiding or downplaying social metrics will challenge the origins and very nature of social networking and digital marketing as we’ve known it.

  • Remix Memes Go Mainstream: TikTok-inspired remix capabilities come to the big social networks, and older generations will start to use and “ruin” a new meme art form embraced by Generation Z. It’s the same old cycle that happens on every social network — with the young people feeling pushed out by the olds. It’s gonna happen again.

  • Deepfake Everything: from social media to apps, politics to Snap filters, putting a face on another body will be easier than ever. We’ll see this abused for the 2020 election and with bullies at school, but also mainstreamed as a playful experience in apps like Snapchat and messaging apps. In the coming year we’ll see apps that make it as easy as recording a TikTok video to make a personalized Deepfake of your friend, or enemy. Congress will probably get involved, although it will be too late.

  • Outrage Culture Increases: Faux-outrage and brand boycotts will increase in 2020, as the tribal wars of an election year continue to infiltrate brand marketing channels. Lack of generational diversity in the workplace and popular news media will create further division and ageism conflict we haven’t seen since the 1960s, which will spill over into marketing, social and brand channels.

  • Post-Personalization: Marketers will balance shifts to reduce P.I.I. liability and the “creepiness factor” as they have more data on consumers than ever, but struggle with the most transparent strategies to utilize them. Digital marketing craves improved targeting and efficiency. Consumers crave relevant ads, but don’t want to admit they’ve given away as much data as they have. Marketers need to get smarter on data privacy laws and the ethics of using, sharing and storing P.I.I.

  • Phone AR Loses Its Novelty: The idea of unlocking a digital layer on the real world or looking at a hologram through your phone will start to bore us. Artists have already moved on and the novelty has most likely peaked with sports’ adoption. We’ll look for increasingly smarter augmented reality experiences, but probably move on to how that technology behaves and adds value on glasses.

  • Smart Glasses in the World (Again): Move over Google Glass. Facebook, Amazon, Snapchat and Apple all have smart glasses patents filed, and are in various stages of addressing launch rumors. 2020 could be the year that talking, listening or photographic glasses again test the social norm limits of Americans.

  • In-House and External Agencies Make Friends: The excitement about moving to an in-house agency model has been tempered by the realistic limits of talent, time and breadth. For most big companies, it was never an all-or-nothing proposition, and agencies both large and small will continue to learn to partner and complement —  not compete — with in-house teams. This is particularly important for organic social content, where agencies are just too expensive to produce that content, let alone post it and track its effects.

  • FOMO to JOMO to JOVE: In the last few years consumers have moved from Fear of Missing Out to Joy of Missing Out – with an intentional mindfulness about opting out of the hamster wheel. In the coming year we’ll see consumers further the trend of foregoing fast-fashion and disposable consumerism with buying higher-quality, longer lasting items you want to hang onto for years. This will be matched with an evolution of the “experiences” trend… into finding experiences you want to do more than once: The Joy of Valuable Experiences. Digital marketing will have to adapt to this changing consumer mindset in both direct and subtle ways.

  • Facial Recognition Marketing Strategy: There will be more than 1 billion surveillance cameras in the world by the end of 2021, and that doesn’t count the cameras consumers are voluntarily putting in their homes, phones, cars, TVs and doorbells. It’s surveillance meets sousveillance. People will increasingly become blind to the presence of always-watching cameras, while authorities and bad actors will use that footage for both good and bad purposes. Look for organized backlash and disruptive pushback like we’ve seen in Hong Kong. From a marketing perspective, brands will need to consider their facial recognition marketing strategies and security protections of that data seriously, for perhaps the first time.

Maybe some of this is dead-on. Some of it may be off. But no matter what, I’m excited to dig in and study patents, art and consumer culture to understand what’s around the corner.

What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know. Or send me an email or text.

You and me pushing back on each other makes us better. It inspires me. It energizes me. It makes me excited for what’s next.

What else is there, really?



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