Predictions and Warnings for Marketers Seeking to Survive and Thrive in 2023
“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future,” said my favorite philosopher, Yogi Berra. So what can you as a marketing and corporate communications professional expect from the tidal wave of change that’s coming in 2023?
To guide you, we’ve gathered the wisdom of our PR agency’s favorite marketing minds:
- Neil White, president and CEO of BBDO Minneapolis;
- Jon Austin, senior partner with J Austin and Associates;
- Nancy Lyons, CEO of Clockwork;
- Arik Hanson, principal of Arik Hanson Social Media;
- Gregory J. Zimprich, Medtronic Senior Director of Finance Communications;
- Kevin DiLorenzo, president and CEO of Rise & Shine;
- Rob Rankin, president of Clarity Coverdale Fury;
- Matt Kucharski, president of Padilla;
- Julie Batliner, president of Carmichael Lynch;
- And from our PR agency Maccabee, EVP Jean Hill and president Paul Maccabee
So as comedian Jackie Gleason liked to say: “And away we go!”
What steps should every Chief Marketing or Communications Officer be prepared to take so their company thrives in 2023?
Jon Austin: Whether you know it or not, your organization is one bad day away from a Southwest Airlines-style meltdown. Theodds keep getting worse that sooner or later it’ll be your turn. What have you done to prepare for that eventuality?
Neil White: Be bold! When navigating unprecedented times of change (the back end of a pandemic, supply chain issues, and inflation) that have your competitors paralyzed, don’t stand on the sidelines. Recognize the opportunity and do something bold. Steal a lot of market share, not just a bit.
Matt Kucharski: As we enter 2023, I keep coming back to the phrase ‘Roll With It.’ We’re in the midst of a series of transitions – economically, socially, politically – and while we can’t necessarily control all of the external factors affecting our businesses, we can be ready to roll with it when they occur. It’s about staying alert, remaining flexible and being prepared to pivot to address challenges as well as interesting opportunities.
Julie Batliner: As we face inflationary talk and pressure, Chief Marketing Officers and Chief Communications Officers need to empower their teams to show the real value that their products and services provide. This needs to be done in a simple way as people are making hard choices on what to buy. That said, shouldn’t we always be doing that? And if there is no easy way to show value in authentic storytelling, then marketing and PR need to get involved in product development.
Arik Hanson: Prioritizing your teams and their mental health. In the world I work in (social media), that means really protecting the social team’s time by not over-extending them. Social teams are stretched so thin right now, we need leaders to step up and help those teams protect their time and resources.
Gregory Zimprich: We continue to feel the impact of a protracted pandemic coupled with escalating economic concerns. For employees, add in the stressors of a clunky transition to hybrid work, growing fears about job security, and the unending pressure to do more with less. Burnout, stress and fatigue are real in most workplaces. One piece of advice I’d share would be to embrace a renewed focus on the important role employees play in a company’s success.
Nancy Lyons: After the past two years of upheaval, change, and collective trauma, people are overwhelmed and exhausted, which leads to the inability to consume information quickly. Every CMO and CCO needs to approach 2023 with this in mind. Internal and external communications need to be clear and simple. Approach this year by picking your 2 or 3 most important priorities and lean hard into them. With every initiative – think about ways to build connection. Humans are social creatures who’ve been forcefully isolated. Think about how the work you’re doing is lending a helping hand and creating ease for your internal people and your clients and customers.
Kevin DiLorenzo: If there’s ever a year to focus on your employment brand, it’s 2023. If your organization can’t answer “why should I work for you” in a succinct and inspirational way, you will lose your best people and have trouble recruiting new talent.
Rob Rankin: In a year that has already promised to bring everything from recessions to market rebounds, being nimble will be very important. This is a year where I believe having the ability to move quickly will be worth its weight in gold.
What is your prediction for which communications or marketing channels will be most important for marketing and PR professionals to master in 2023?
Jon Austin: Every CMO should today start learning about – and personally interacting with – the ChatGPT artificial intelligence application released in 2022. Once you’ve gotten over the initial phase of awe/amazement/fear it will engender, start thinking about all the ways such applications might change – or even eliminate – the way our business works.
Matt Kucharski: Every human being consumes information through multiple channels and making assumptions that the channels you use are the same ones as your stakeholders is a big mistake. I do think that Twitter will eventually find its level again and the jury is still out on just how much the saber rattling around TikTok will impact its use.
Arik Hanson: From a social media standpoint, I continue to be bullish on LinkedIn. I think it’s one of the more underrated social media channels. And it’s also a channel where leaders can—and should—be playing. From a B2B standpoint, LinkedIn is usually their #1 channel in terms of building trust and even selling.
Julie Batliner: TikTok will continue to grow as an important channel to reach the next generation of consumers. It will serve more and more as a search engine and news source despite the scrutiny of the platform’s safety. And to share insights from CL Relate’s social strategy director, Katy Tenerovich: There has been a rise in backlash against “perfection” on social media. People are demanding authenticity, but even so, that word lacks authority. Brands and agencies need to stop spending resources on producing perfection that consumers don’t relate to. The key is to think like a consumer, not like a marketer.
Nancy Lyons: As the paid media landscape continues to change and contract, first party data is every company’s individual goldmine. Be transparent about collecting customer data and be respectful about how you use it. Find the micro-communities that are most important for your business and become a participant in those communities.
Jean Hill: Communicators will need to closely monitor changes in social media and the use of social platforms by their targets. Consumers and business professionals have concerns about the security, unchecked bullying and, to some degree, daily changes in social media channels’ operations. This volatility makes it difficult for communicators to confidently believe that their company’s reputation won’t be impacted through use of these platforms, especially in paid programming. Perhaps, optimistically, this situation will bring about more personal campaigns that help build affinity and goodwill for organizations.
Neil White: I don’t think marketing and PR professionals can focus on mastering just one thing. As least 10 other technologies, social platforms, or trends begging for an activation, will pop in 2023, and steal your attention away from that one thing you are trying to master. You might want to try to master meditation just to quiet the mind.
Gregory Zimprich: Channels, vehicles and platforms always have and always will continue to evolve. Audience-centric storytelling remains at the core as the most important element that drives content. Communicators and marketers who leverage an intimate understanding of their audiences will continue to succeed.
Rob Rankin: It’s not a channel, but more a method. Connecting on an emotional level, what we refer to as identifying an “Emotional Catalyst”, will be ever more important. Emotional connections build trust and loyalty, which is especially beneficial in a year where downturns are predicted.
Paul Maccabee: As a fan of “The Shadow” and other 1940s radio shows, I’m thrilled (and somewhat flabbergasted) to see audio making such a mammoth comeback – as evidenced by 5 million long-form podcasts with 120 million podcast listeners. Sure, YouTube videos are valuable, if only because it’s optimized for search by parent Google. But the cost effectiveness and persuasive power of audio marketing content delivered through your audience’s ears is among 2023’s most exciting channels.
What marketing trend do you hope catches fire (or, alternatively, dies off) in 2023?
Jon Austin: My hope for a wish that would let me uninvent social media was not granted in 2022 and looks like a long shot in 2023 – Elon Musk’s efforts to destroy Twitter notwithstanding – but a boy has to have dreams. Absent that, I’ll hope that governments continue to push for more transparency and accountability (I’m looking at you, Section 230) and for the rest of us to be a little more mindful in how we’re using social media and how it’s using us.
Kevin DiLorenzo: Unsubscribe! I think we’d all benefit from a lot less span in our mail boxes.
Nancy Lyons: AI and Machine Learning are two trends that have been discussed for years. As soon as ChatGBT launched in November, it exploded the possibilities of what AI and Machine Learning can do in people’s lives. I think the same is true of VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality). These are tools that can fundamentally change the way businesses communicate with and sell to customers — but they need a disruptive example like ChatGBT to bring them to life in a way that’s palpable. I’m not sure that AR and VR are ready to take off yet, but I look forward to the day they do.
Paul Maccabee: If there’s anything that the meltdowns of Southwest Airlines, Twitter and crypto exchange FTX showed us , along with the mendacious candidacies of George Santos and Hershel Walker, it’s that there’s nothing more valuable and yet more fragile than “trust.” Let’s hope that 2023 will be the year that companies promote their CCOs and CMOs to the role of Chief Trust Officer – and begin listening to their advice on refusing to lie. Ever.
Rob Rankin: Will someone please kill the banner ad? They have taken so much creativity out of marketing communications.
Gregory Zimprich: For lack of a better term, I’ll call it distorted reality. We live in a day and age where skepticism clouds our collective thinking, and it’s almost exclusively self-inflicted. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could take steps to restore trust? Gallup tells us that Americans’ trust in the media is near record low levels, and it’s no surprise. It’s become increasingly challenging to distill truth from the daily noise we’re being force-fed. Everyone I know is fatigued. Truth, integrity and transparency would be welcomed trends in 2023 – but I’m not holding my breath.
Jean Hill: This is not a trend, but I hope it will be. As consumers, we’re craving personal interaction. Communicators should give more thought to developing impactful personal contact with targets important to their businesses. The smaller the event, the better. There is a benefit to large scale events, speeches or sponsorships, but a small breakfast or private event with a thought leader and key targets, will go far to create long-lasting relationships.
Neil White: Over the past few years several brands have focused on being a force for good and a force for growth. For example, VISA’s True Name Card, that allows transgender and nonbinary people to have their chosen name on their card or Band-Aid’s OurTone bandages available in different skin tones. I hope that brands being a force for good isn’t a trend, but a business imperative moving forward.
Arik Hanson: I think brands are going to be more community-focused with their social media programs in 2023 and a bit less focused on using social to sell all the time. Over the years, companies have started to focus too much time and attention on using social to sell vs. using social for what it’s typically best at: nurturing relationships and building trust! I’m looking forward to seeing where brands take this trend in 2023.
What’s the biggest communications mistake CMOs or CCOs should avoid making in 2023?
Jon Austin: At the risk of sounding like a broken record – another phrase that means nothing to my children – the biggest mistake most CCOs/CMOs will make this year is think “we got it” or “I should check on that” in response to your first question, because there’s always something more urgent to do…until there isn’t.
Neil White: Not having a learning agenda. Identify what you don’t know, individually or as a team, and develop a learning agenda to fill that knowledge gap. You’ll be smarter, your team will be smarter, and your communications will be smarter.
Gregory Zimprich: The biggest mistake is a failure to meet your audiences where they are. Effective communications can be reduced to a Venn diagram. One circle represents what you need to communicate, and the other circle represents what your audience wants to hear. The magic happens where the two circles overlap – at the confluence of effective, audience-centric communication.
Julie Batliner: Thinking that agencies can put together successful plans if they are not briefed well. Garbage in, means garbage out.
Matt Kucharski: Assuming that stakeholder priorities are the same as what they were just a few years ago. It’s a really good time to do some research – whether formal or informal – and get a “gut check” on where your stakeholders are at today – whether that be customers, employees, investors or communities.
Rob Rankin: Often downturns in the economy provide the biggest opportunities to steal share and capture audiences when others dial back. Being ready to take advantage of others’ desire to pull back can provide terrific benefits that don’t arise often and can provide big gains in short durations.
Kevin DiLorenzo: Avoid the temptation to simply lather, rinse and repeat last year’s marketing and communications plans for 2023. It will be critical for marcom leaders to evolve with the changing mindsets and behaviors of their customers.
Arik Hanson: Trying to manage too many social channels. I’m hopeful 2023 will be the year many teams really focus their social efforts on 2-3 key channels where they can truly reach their customers vs. the 4-8 many seem to be trying to manage now.
Nancy Lyons: Reduce overwhelm! A simple, consistent message is like a drumbeat. Find ways to reduce chaos and increase efficiency. Leaders should empower their teams to stop doing things that don’t deliver value. Use radical prioritization to set things down that aren’t working. It is better to implement two or three powerful projects that build value than 100 little things that may not make a dent.
Any other predictions for this new year?
Jon Austin: Bad stuff will continue to happen to good people and places. Some of them meet the moment and some will not. The single biggest predictor as to which side of that line they end up on is whether or not they are prepared for the moment. About 90 percent of the organizations I work with have done little to nothing to prepare.
Rob Rankin: A Vikings Super Bowl or Wild Stanley Cup would be nice. I am allowed to dream, right?
Nancy Lyons: Let’s hope that 2023 is the year that we all begin to co-create what we want “work” to look like. We’ve had two years of reactive disruption and now we can see opportunities to create the workplaces we all want to work in and the companies that we want to buy from.
Arik Hanson: I think LinkedIn could become a key influencer channel in 2023. We all know Instagram, TikTok and YouTube are the traditional influencer channels—but why can’t LinkedIn be an influencer channel, too? I’m thinking of B2B brands here. On LinkedIn, it’s people who are far more trusted than brands. Just look at most executive profiles that are active on LinkedIn. They typically outperform corporate pages—sometimes by a wide margin.
Neil White: I think value is going to be more important this year than any in the past decade. Everyone will be looking for economic value. But don’t forget emotional value, a few kind words and a few kind acts will go a long way in 2023.
Paul Maccabee: To conclude, no matter what shocks 2023 brings to your marketing communications team, we can all take solace from the eternal words of George Carlin: “The future will soon be a thing of the past.” Amen, George.
To learn how Minneapolis-based Maccabee Public Relations can help your company thrive in 2023, visit: https://maccabee.com