Marketing year in review: trends, takeaways & what’s coming in 2024

As we bid adieu to 2023 and close the year on a rather dynamic note, it is essential to reflect on the trends that have shaped strategies for marketers in 2023 and the key takeaways and learnings that will help inspire the refreshed outlook for business leaders in 2024. MMA Global India has been witnessing, driving, and evangelizing the marketing transformation firsthand and has been at the forefront of propelling the key narratives in modern marketing and empowering marketers with actionable measures to stay ahead of the curve.

The marketing industry in 2023 has been greatly influenced by the advancements in technology and digital media. These changes have created new opportunities for marketers to plan innovative strategies and navigate the ever-evolving business landscape.

Here are 10 key takeaways and learnings that have emerged as top priorities for marketers and will be key in shaping marketing strategies of 2024:

Data-Driven + Privacy-First Marketing for the win

In today’s dynamic data-driven marketing landscape, prioritizing data privacy and trust is paramount. Embracing data-driven strategies, fuelled by analytics, enables marketers to make informed decisions that resonate with their audience on a personal level, delivering highly personalized experiences and driving success in the ever-evolving marketplace. Marketers must implement robust privacy policies, secure proper consent, and adopt ethical data practices to meet consumer demands for transparency and control over their information. ‘Winning with Data: The CXO’s Handbook’ underscores the importance of online privacy, with 80% of Indian internet users emphasizing its significance. By transparently handling data, marketers not only build trust but also foster customer loyalty.

Staying Ahead of the Digital Transformation

For the marketing leaders of today, digital transformation is not just a buzzword but a vital aspect of staying ahead in the competitive landscape. As CMOs and industry experts pave the way for companies to embrace new technologies, 2024 promises to be an era of evolving digital strategies. According to the Modern Marketing Reckoner 2023, these advancements have become more than just trends; they are now imperative tools in shaping tomorrow’s marketing landscape. To remain at the forefront amid this transformative wave requires proactive adoption by marketing leaders who understand that success hinges on their ability to ride this technological tide effectively.

Nurturing Customer Relationships

Building strong and meaningful relationships with customers has always been a priority for marketers. In 2024, this focus on customer relationships will continue to be paramount. Marketers need to invest in strategies that foster trust, loyalty, and engagement with their target audience. Especially AI personalization, as MMA Global recently found, can boost marketing ROI by over 50%. Hyper-customizing the customer journey will be key to maintaining strong connections with customers and creating brand advocates.

AI in Marketing Strategies for an Exponential Future

Navigating the dynamic digital landscape, marketers are urged to embrace emerging technologies like Generative AI, AR, VR, and Web 3.0. These disruptors reshape consumer behaviour, demanding proactive integration into strategies for immersive audience experiences. In fact, with the debates surrounding generative AI, a recent survey reveals that 43% of marketers feel the urgency to catch up with generative AI adoption, highlighting the need for swift action in 2024.

Amplifying this urgency are Four Compounding Exponential Growth Factors, as presented at MMA Impact:

  • Moore’s Law: Technological acceleration in computing power and data doubling every 12-18 months sets the pace, propelling AI into new realms. Marketers must harness this speed to stay at the forefront of innovation.
  • Data is the Asset: Amidst the data deluge from sensors, DNA, cameras, and digital twins, marketers must recognize data as the most valuable asset. Extracting insights is crucial for precision in personalized marketing strategies. 
  • AI Systems That Grow: With computing power surging and decreasing costs per machine learning model, adaptive AI systems become powerful allies. Marketers should leverage these evolving systems to stay ahead in the dynamic landscape.
  • Cloud: The invisible enabler of collaboration, cloud technology provides the virtual space where AIs collaborate and train. Marketers can tap into this collective intelligence for innovative and efficient marketing endeavours.

The urgency to integrate these factors into marketing strategies stems from the rapidly evolving landscape. As we ride the wave of these growth factors, AI and marketing converge not just as strategies but as a vital journey into an innovative future.

Adopting a Smart Device-Focused Strategy

With the growing prevalence of smart devices, marketers have been trying to prioritize strategies that cater to these platforms. May it be optimizing websites and content for smart devices or utilizing relevant apps and leveraging targeted advertising channels specific to smart device users. As Smarties India’23 jury observer Kantar revealed at Smarties Unplugged this year, users are spending 5 hours a day online, and 45% of online time is spent on mobile or tablet devices. Most winning entries at Smarties have adopted a smart device-first approach, with 70% of winning entries in 2023 having a smartphone-first execution. Marketers will continue to strive to provide seamless and personalized experiences on these platforms to engage with their audience effectively.

Embracing Social Media Dominance

Social media has already established itself as a powerful marketing tool, and its dominance will only continue to grow in 2024. Creator/Influencer/Celebrity Marketing emerged as the leading category with the greatest number of submissions received this year at Smarties India’23, highlighting the top priority for marketers to fully embrace social media platforms and leverage them effectively to connect with their target audience. This includes developing engaging content, utilizing influencers, and leveraging social listening to gain insights and respond to customer feedback.

Voice & Audio Marketing Supremacy

The Essential Guide to Voice and Audio Marketing 2023 revealed that 90% of digital industry professionals are aware of audio advertising, but only 40% have used it. Indian brands have been showing resilience in experimenting with voice technologies for building engaging experiences and looking to leverage connected audio solutions. However, in general awareness of voice technologies and voice mediums for reaching consumers is low. 2024 will see marketers better understand the voice landscape and how it can be optimally leveraged to engage with 150 million+ monthly unique voice technology users in India – 70% of them being millennials, GenZ, and high affluence audience – which you just can’t ignore.

Leveraging User-Generated Content

In today’s marketing landscape, user-generated content is a powerful tool that can greatly impact your brand’s success. The pandemic has taught us the importance of it and top entries at Smarties India’23 cemented the fact that brands leveraging UGC for their campaigns win hearts and how. By encouraging customers to create and share their own authentic content such as reviews, testimonials, and social media posts, you not only build trust with your audience but also foster a sense of community – a key contributor to building a larger audience base. Incorporating this user-generated content into your marketing campaigns allows for greater engagement and higher conversion rates by tapping into the relatability and authenticity that real customers bring to the table in promoting your brand.

Omnichannel Commerce is the Answer

We spearhead the shift to unified commerce, with the Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) serving as a pivotal example. Unified commerce, resolving the complexities of disparate systems, is epitomized by ONDC’s commitment to seamless omnichannel experiences, ushering in a new era of democratized e-commerce. Customer expectations, from unified experiences to flexible fulfilment, are at the forefront of ONDC’s approach. The unified cart, a cornerstone of this strategy, seamlessly integrates digital, in-store, and mobile channels, turning abandoned carts into personalized opportunities. ONDC empowers businesses to transcend traditional constraints, embracing a customer-centric model that defines the future of digital commerce.

Purpose-Driven Marketing – the Heartbeat of Brand Success

Standing tall as a game-changer and not just a trend but a winning strategy, purpose-driven marketing shines bright holding immense potential for marketers to reach the bottom of customers’ hearts. Brands integrating purpose into their strategies emerged as winners at the Smarties Awards, as was noted in our jury observer insights as well. Campaigns with a strong sense of purpose resonated powerfully with the ‘woke’ consumer of today. Purpose-driven marketing is more than a buzzword; it’s the compass guiding successful campaigns. Brands embracing purpose don’t just sell products; they sell a narrative that connects with the audience. This underscores that integrating purpose isn’t just a choice; it’s a necessity for brands aiming not just to survive but to thrive in the coming years.

In Store for ‘24: Marketing Becomes More Outcomes-Driven

As the shift to outcome-based marketing vs reach planning continues, the case for movable middles and for investing in Brand becomes more important than ever to double down on scientific attribution. Which in turn also means that data becomes more central in marketing. Hence, the big picture for 2024 is that marketers are shifting away from reach-based planning.

This can further be cemented by a few recent trends we found through a survey by MMA Global –

Most marketers said they use an ‘outcomes-based approach’, focusing on media tactics or segments that have higher RDAS or that have higher value (such as Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) or Average Revenue Per User (ARPU)). Data leaders have a longer-term growth mindset and recognize the value of measuring Brand. 69% of respondents recognize brand health to be a key driver defining the marketing success of their company.

Marketers are planning to invest more in measurement, despite (or because of) the difficult environment. Despite the economy’s plateaued growth in 2023, the marketer’s investment in media, measurement, and attribution continued to be a rising force, or at the least, sustained. However, the level of acceptance of these 3 forces seems to be very low outside of marketing, in more finance-led roles or from the CFO’s lens.

How these trends feed into our learning agenda for 2024:

Shift to outcomes continues, so is there a way to create repeatable results from targeting? Which is what our study on the MMGF is trying to solve for.

Can we quantify the value of brand favourability for the CFO? which our BAP (brand as performance) framework is working towards.

However, there are still many areas for improvement. Integration seems to be on top of that list, with 65% of marketers agreeing that integration is the central challenge with measurement tools. In a nutshell, with science-backed research, toolkits, knowledge, research and methodologies, the MMA aims to empower and enable marketers with the needed ability to reconcile results from different tools and metrics.

As the curtains fall on 2023, let these insights resonate in your strategies for 2024: Navigate with data-driven precision, embrace digital transformation as a lifeline, and cherish customer relationships as the core melody. In the symphony of marketing, let purpose drive your brand forward. Here’s to a lean, impactful, and prosperous 2024.

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