marketing trends for 2020
November 06, 2019

The Top 10 Marketing Trends for 2020

In 2020 we will all have ape chauffeurs and live in flying houses. Well, that’s according to the predictions of some imaginative 20th Century futurologists… unfortunately, we can’t promise they’re actually going to happen. But what we can predict (more reliably) are some of 2020’s marketing trends!

We’ve gathered together an inspiring round-up of trends and predictions from the advertising, digital marketing and graphic design worlds. Here are 10 consumer marketing trends you can expect to see a lot more of in 2020 (sadly, no monkey employees).

The Future of Marketing – 2020’s Top Marketing Trends 

1. Reduced packaging

We no longer think plastic is fantastic, but it looks like 2020 will finally be the year brands do something about it. Packaging will be pared back and recyclability improved. Echoing our own research, which showed that 81% of Brits are consciously trying to reduce their use of single-use plastic, Unilever says there is strong consumer demand for reduced packaging, as well as for plant-based and natural products. 

One way it has responded is with its Love Beauty and Planet hair and skincare range, with bottles made from 100% recycled plastic that are also 100% recyclable. But it’s not stopping there; Unilever aims to reduce the weight of all its packaging by one third in 2020 and halve the waste associated with the disposal of its products.

Unilever is embracing the reduced packaging marketing trend by reducing the weight of all its packaging by one third in 2020

2. Voice-driven media

A few years back, ComScore predicted that voice searches would account for 50% of all online searches in 2020. At the time, 20% of searches were done by voice. We don’t have current stats to prove what growth has taken place but, with increasing ownership of voice-enabled devices, it’s fair to say voice search is a trend that’s not going away. This means that digital marketing efforts in 2020 will need to be optimised for voice search. 

We’ll also see creativity in voice-activated content as consumers go increasingly screen-free. Gartner says 30% of searches will be done without a screen in 2020 as we adopt smart speakers, smart headphones and other devices with voice-only interfaces. Our own research found nearly 45% of UK consumers now own a smart speaker, while 56.2% of those who don’t are likely to buy one in future

3. Smart billboards

Out-of-Home advertising has experienced a bit of a renaissance of late and its popularity is expected to continue to grow when it comes to marketing in 2020. We’re going to see advertisers getting more and more innovative, incorporating elements like augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), live updates and personalisation. JCDecaux told us that contextually relevant billboards will also become more popular, like its rain-activated Starbucks ad, which says “It’s raining, we’re pouring.”

Other examples of where the OOH format is headed include Sky Ocean Rescue’s campaign, which saw an exploration of the depths of the Indian Ocean live broadcasted directly to digital OOH screens across the UK. While the Spinal Injuries Association used a first-person perspective to let viewers experience the difficulties of performing simple tasks (like making a cup of tea) when you have a spinal injury. The really clever part was that people could fast forward through the struggle by tapping their payment card on the billboard to make a donation.

The Spinal Injuries Association's interactive billboard aligns with trends in OOH advertising

4. Real people replace models

Authenticity became a watchword in 2019 and ‘keeping it real’ looks set to be ever-more important in the future. In our Inclusive Beauty report we found that 82% of the British public agree beauty should be representative of real people. Brands taking this on board include US drugstore CVS, which will stop retouching images of models in 2020, and Dove, which launched the #ShowUs project to build a library of stock images that depict women and non-binary individuals as they really are. 

The call for realism will also see more taboos being tackled; as kicked-off by shaving brand Billie showing real pubic and underarm hair in its advertising, and Bodyform, which featured a woman in the shower with menstrual blood trickling down her leg.

Dove's #ShowUs project is pushing forward the marketing trend of representing real people in advertising

5. Animated sites

Flash is dead, long live HTML5! One of the latest trends in marketing is the addition of ‘micro-interactions’ to websites. What’s a micro-interaction, you say? They’re small animated features that can bring a site to life in a big way. For example, when you hover over an icon and it wiggles about or pops out, that’s a micro-interaction. When you go to ‘like’ a post on Facebook and get an animated series of reactions; that’s also a micro-interaction. 

This ability comes thanks to an evolution in web design, HTML5 (and javascript), which gives developers a new, improved way to introduce interactivity to their sites. These little elements add interest and personality, and designers no longer need to worry about them slowing down their sites or incurring SEO penalties. 

6. Live experiences

The importance of ‘experiences’ – especially for Millennial consumers – has been recognised in recent years, but experts reckon 2020 could see a peak in experiential marketing. Speaking to Forbes, Premanjali Gupta, Head of Marketing & PR, Asia Pacific at Blis predicts that live marketing will play an important role for engaging with high-value customers, in particular. “I expect an increased focus on high touch, experiential marketing for high net worth customers,” she said. “It’s all about telling stories, creating unique personalised experiences and making a real connection with our customers.” 

Experiential is also gaining traction thanks to increased ways to measure its effectiveness. Incorporating data lets brands track how people interact with experiences but it also lets them make experiences more personalised. One example of where experiential is going is an immersive Monopoly activation coming to London in 2020. For the project, Hasbro Inc has teamed up with production company Selladoor Worldwide to create a 75-minute live-action version of the game. Participants will take on a range of challenges as they make their way around a giant Monopoly board.

Monopoly's live-action show leads the trend for experiential marketing in 2020

7. e-Sports marketing tie-ups

e-Sports hit the big time in 2019, with industry revenue exceeding more than $1 billion. There are now five premier titles, and viewership is starting to rival that of traditional sports. Recent trends in marketing indicate this is a big opportunity for brands. KFC scooped three awards at The Drum Digital Advertising Awards APAC for its Colonel KL campaign, which aimed to make the brand an integral part of League of Legends, the world’s most popular e-Sport game. 

As part of the campaign, KFC created an algorithm for predicting League of Legend winners based on historical match stats and current performance. Colonel KI (KFC-AI) was housed in KFC’s app, allowing fans to log in before and during games to check out predictions. During exciting moments, Colonel KI distributed KFC coupons to fans, capturing customer data. Other brands to cash in on the e-Sports trend include Domino’s, which made a documentary series about professional gamers, and Chinese smartphone brand Oppo. As the exclusive global smartphone partner for League of Legends e-Sports, Oppo will have year-round activations around global tournaments.

KFC is one of many brands leading the trend for e-Sports marketing partnerships

8. Taking a stance 

When brands take a stance on controversial issues it can be – well – controversial. The tactic can just as easily alienate customers as win them over, but latest advertising trends include taking risks with opinionated creative and it’s likely to continue in 2020. Strong campaigns that have hit the headlines include Nike’s Colin Kapaernick ‘Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything’ ad, Gillette’s ‘The Best Men Can Be’, tackling toxic masculinity and Lush’s #SpyCops, which highlighted the ethics of undercover policing. 

While these issues were polarising, our research finds they ultimately had a positive impact – Nike and Lush were named as the top two purpose-driven brands in our ‘What’s the purpose of purpose?’ report. Our research also found that 68% of Brits think it’s important the brands they buy from have a purpose, making it likely that marketing will be less vanilla and more contentious in future.

Lush's #SpyCops campaign highlights the marketing trend of brands tackling controversial issues

9. CGI influencers

Misrepresentation, scandal, failure to disclose… Things can go wrong with influencers, after all, they’re only human. But what if they’re not? CGI influencers are becoming more and more influential. Lil Miquela, Blawko, and Bermuda, created by LA-based start-up Brud, have nearly two million Instagram followers between them. Lil Miquela was named in Time’s Most Influential People on the Internet and has picked up sponsorships with brands like Barneys, Outdoor Voices, and Ugg. 

The characters – who are self-professed robots – hold strong political views and stances on social issues, and Gen Z don’t give a flying pixel that they’re totally fake. It seems AI influencers could be the answer to marketers’ prayers – nearly half of whom want complete control over influencer posts (according to a survey by influencer marketing service Takumi). Offering this level of brand safety, robots may well become the brand ambassadors of choice.

Lil Miquela is one of a growing number of CGI influencers, a marketing trend that more brands are taking advantage of in 2020

10. Age-agnosticity 

Among the new trends in marketing for 2020, we’ll also see brands taking a more inclusive approach to age. With the eldest Boomers now heading into their 70s, our attitudes to getting older are changing. Far from being ready to kick back with a pipe and slippers, the ‘forever young’ generation are thought to have much more in common with the values and priorities of younger generations. Our research shows that more than 90% of US Boomers and 85% of UK Boomers reject the idea they’ve become any less passionate about life. And our study on inclusive beauty found that nearly half of Brits want to see more older people in beauty advertising

The older population is growing rapidly – by 2050 there will be twice as many people over 65 as there will be under five-years-old. What’s more, Nielsen reports that those aged over 50 are ‘marketing’s most valuable generation’, responsible for nearly 50% of all spend on consumer packaged goods. Looks like it’s time marketing started respecting its elders…

For more marketing trends expected to impact on brands in 2020 and beyond, check out the Original Research section on our website, where we cover industry-specific trends to look out for and research best practice guides.

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