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Intro to Marketing Trends 2023
There’s less than four months left before we’re ringing in 2023, and the future we’re looking at is interesting.
But it looks a lot like our present.
We’ve said it before that marketing trends don’t stop being relevant just because one year rolls into the next.
What we haven’t said is that there comes a point where new trends develop slower. It’s not that there’s nothing, and nowhere, left to innovate; it’s that there is too much, and brands can only experiment with so many new trends before discarding it in favour of a new one. When you add in the reality of the world outside marketing, a plateau year is inevitable – and necessary.
Plateau years aren’t boring years; they’re the years where creativity goes wildest.
And we’re set to see some beautiful things in 2023.
A Global Snapshot
In 2022, we said that there is a reckoning on its way.
In 2023, we’re going to see it start to take root.
Things change slowly on the global scale. The problems customers have endured since the end of the pandemic and into the beginning of the post-pandemic haven’t gone away. Housing is still expensive. Climate change is still a pervasive worry. Work is still underpaid and overabundant. The word ‘inflation’ is echoing around the planet.
The last few years have been hard on everyone.
2023 will be no different.
The war on Ukraine and the rampant energy crisis are going to push a lot of people into corners they can’t back out from. Add in the decreasing trust in formal institutions, and you have a consumer culture that is desperate for change.
And change is definitely on the way.
What’s here to stay:
A lot happened in 2022 that didn’t fully allow brands to follow the trends of that year, so on the whole, most of what we’ve seen in 2022 is going to carry on into 2023. From remote events to the metaverse, we’ve barely begun to see the full potential of the trends that were prevalent in 2022.
Here’s three that are going to dominate 2023.
1. Active(ism) Listening
Brands needing to support a cause is nothing new.
But they absolutely have to support the right cause in the right ways.
2023 is going to put brands that thrive on doing social responsibility and good governance in the spotlight, and really make them justify their behaviour and what their brand stands for. It’s no longer a case of CSR-for-the-good of the brand, where companies help out to hide the fact that their operations are almost certainly not in line with their brand values.
It’s more than that. It’s ESG: environmental, social, governance responsibility. An internal metric for a brand to behave right: for the brand to look at its impact in society and to make itself stand up to what its consumers want to see. To be fair. To be responsible. To be good because it wants to be, rather than because it has to be to court the most profit.
Customers are especially feeling the pinch in the coming year, so finding empathic brands who can support them now is going to be a lynchpin for brands who have slowly been dormant to regain their place in the global marketplace.
2. ‘Just-Like-Me’ Marketing
Marketing is never going to look the way it used to before 2022.
A big part of brand relatability comes from seeing people who look the way you look in their ads, and from seeing customers with the same life experience showcased, the same problems spoken about, and the same ideals championed. Brands will keep diversifying their ads well into 2023 and beyond, and we’re poised to see this turn into one of the strongest marketing movements of the ‘20s.
3. IRL Online
We’ve not even begun to see the full scope of online activations.
One of the best things that came out of the last few years is the sudden realisation that technology has advanced far enough that we can hold events online and have them stand alongside real-life events with no drop in quality; in fact, online activations can go farther than real-life activations can, and are available to a lot more people. In 2023, we’re going to see a lot more of these activations taking place despite the fact that real life events are coming back into the fray.
What about the ‘year of conflict?’
We called 2022 the year of conflict. 2023 is not going to be any less conflicted.
Lasting change takes time. It takes sacrifice. And, as we’ve seen in 2022, it takes a lot of conflict to get to a state where change is inevitable.
And we’re not there yet.
The year of conflict showed the world at large that consumers have reached a point where they’re trying their hardest to bring about that change. The last two hundred and fifty years of human history have all had seismic shifts that brought about better conditions for everyone: better wages, affordable housing, better working conditions.
The pandemic in 2020 was our sudden shift: the tipping point that brings us to 2022, and the problems we’re seeing around the world.
There is a silver lining.
Problems are always solved in the end.
And brands are in a position to be a significant part of the solution.
2023 is going to be difficult for a lot of consumers – but we’re on the way to something even better.
What’s changed in 2022?
2022 brought massive changes to the industry: from the way brands use and gather data to the way they approach consumers, marketing has had to keep up not just with leaps in technology but with significant adjustments to legislation. The ongoing data protection problems in Europe have brought forward the death of cookies and the death of third-party data, and this is only the starting point of the greater conversation about data that’s coming in the future.
In 2023, we’re likely to see the fallout of these big shifts in data collection and use with brands opting for longer-method first-party data collection and community building to try and keep the same depth of information as the previous decade.
Trend 1: Scent-based marketing
Brands have targeted every possible sense: from bold colours to catchy music to textured packaging, the limitations for sensory input are near non-existent – however, there is one sense that holds a lot of untapped potential, and that brands have mostly opted out of using.
The rise of perfume accounts on social media and the greater uptick in home scent purchases is heralding a new opportunity for brands to dig deep into their identity and bring scent as another facet of communication for their audiences. The rise of niche and uncommon scents also promises new territory for brands looking to diversify their product offerings – and with a ready stream of perfume and scent fanatics ready to review any new item that comes their way, it’s a trend that promises to be very rewarding to the companies willing to invest in it.
- The global fragrance market will be worth $52.4BN by 2025, up from $45.2BN in 2022.
- Demand for premium perfumes and mass produced perfumes is projected to increase by 6% and 5.2% respectively.
- 75% of consumers would prefer to know if a fragrance is made in an environmentally-friendly way.
How do I use this trend?
If you’re not a perfumer, you might struggle to see how this trend applies to you.
Our solution: packaging.
Your brand might not have a customised scent, and that’s fine. Not every brand will have a scent that they can use for this trend.
That said, if you want to capitalise on it, spraying your packaging with something evocative of your brand is a good alternative. Collaborating with scenthouses and perfumeries is another option, with the added benefit that an exclusive release will go a long way towards cementing your brand as one that listens, branches out, and focuses on what’s current.
Case Study – Van Gogh Museum x Floral Street
The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has teamed up with London perfume brand Floral Street to bring a collection of painting-inspired scents to consumers. Available as home scents or as perfumes, Floral Street’s collaboration comes at a well-timed moment: not only are an unprecedented number of people spending more time at home and opting to travel in their own country rather than abroad, the popularity of Van Gogh as an artist has been on a steady rise since early 2010, and shows no signs of slowing down. The Van Gogh Museum has also collaborated with other brands on a number of Van Gogh-related products, however Floral Street’s addition to the line-up promises to be universally popular.
Trend 2: Brands helping their community
There are a lot of problems in the world that brands can help with.
The burden of taking care of consumers shouldn’t have fallen to brands regardless, but with consumers trusting brands more than they do official authorities, brands can capitalise on the current situation to build a lasting impression on their audience.
But they have to be genuine about it.
And they have to mean it.
As we stated a year before, brand purpose doesn’t start and end at the financial quarter. Brands that opt to help their audiences with the struggles they’re facing – from higher prices in store to the increase in bills to the ongoing climate crisis – will benefit from the better world they help to build, provided that they find a cause they believe in and make the changes necessary in the ways they do business, whether it’s building a community around their product or making a sacrifice to profits and prices.
- 82% of consumers want a brand’s values to align with their own.
- Businesses are more trusted to do the right thing in 23 out of 28 global markets.
- 85% of consumers think marketing spend should be cut to help with cost of living crisis.
How do I use this trend?
That depends on how far you want to take it.
Brands that can afford to should consider keeping in mind the fluctuating change in finances for most of the world. Cheaper, and wallet-friendly alternatives are more likely to bring people closer to the brand especially as most will be looking to cut down on their luxuries – which could mean your product as well.
If a price drop is unattainable, then you need to look at the community you have. Offering multi-use products that can fulfil several different functions depending on what your consumers want is another way of making sure that your brand isn’t one of the sacrifices made. Focusing on building your community and providing tips and tricks through crowdsourcing can really help cement a brand’s identity as a brand that is interested in its consumers regardless of the amount of money they spend.
Case Study – Iceland x Fair For You
Supermarket chain Iceland has partnered up with ethical lender and charity Fair for You to launch its Iceland Food Club initiative, allowing members to apply for microloans of £25-£100 to spend at any Iceland store. Loans are interest free and can be paid back in increments of £10 a week, and can be purchased in six annual slots that coincide with when family finances are more likely to struggle.
The pilot project ran with 5000 families and identified that 95% of participants found the Food Club helpful, 71% found that they were less likely to fall behind on rent, council tax, or bills, and 57% reported less stress about their finances overall.
Iceland is additionally also running free workshops with Utiltia to help consumers save over £600 a year, and will launch a ‘Shop Smart, Cook Savvy’ campaign with updated packaging to help its consumers prepare foods in the cheapest way possible.
You Are What You Eat
Trend 3: Food-based collaborations
One of the greatest undisputed pleasures in life is food – and in 2023, we’re going to see a lot more of where food shouldn’t be with off-the-wall makeup, clothing, and home goods collaborations. This trend isn’t new to anyone: previously, UK brand Greggs and German supermarket brand LIDL launched clothing lines to critical acclaim and sold out in mere hours.
Quirky products and unique styles are back on the market and stronger than ever.
Part of it is in the innovation of it all: people have grown tired of the minimalist, samey approach that has dominated the personalisation landscape for the last few years, and are looking to stand out with what they purchase. Add in the current obsession with telegraphing which brands you support and why, and you have a perfect recipe for 2023 to bring out some very interesting product tie-ins.
- 71% of consumers enjoy brands that work together to provide a unique product.
- Co-branded partnerships increased by 65% in 2021.
- B2C marketers are more likely to use brand partnerships for awareness than SEO.
How can I use this trend?
Think outside of the box.
Your audience already knows why they like you, however as brands become more familiar to their audiences, the lure of keeping them engaged in what you do becomes a little harder. Putting out products that are slightly outside of your wheelhouse but still something that your consumers will want to see can keep them interested in what you’re doing – and if you can’t bring old clients back to the fold, you are for sure going to create a stir among new consumers.
That said, it isn’t just about creating product tie-ins. It’s also about making sure that the product you’re tied in with makes sense for your brand.
Even if it just makes sense to you.
Case Study – Fenty x MSCHF
Fenty Beauty made the headlines earlier in 2022 by releasing a ketchup-themed lipgloss with art collective MSCHF, well-known for their out-there collabs. The release contained six tiny packets which could contain either lipstick or ketchup, and fans of the brand were quick to start up conversations about it on social media. Additionally, budget brand e.l.f. also released a Dunkin’ Donuts collaboration earlier in the year which has maintained its popularity since its launch in April – not bad for a collection that was meant to only run for a limited time.
Trend 4: Deaf and blind inclusivity
Consumers as a whole expect to see more inclusivity in the brands that they purchase from, and this is not a new movement. We’ve been seeing a slow and steady increase in the variety of models that are used in marketing, but there are still avenues where inclusivity has yet to make its way in.
One of those is in sound and visuals.
In 2023, we’re going to see a far deeper form of inclusivity in the way that brands address their consumers: from sign language and braille included in product packaging to a greater focus on creating products that everyone can use regardless of capability. While it’s likely to take a little longer to become a mainstream addition, 2022 has shown us that people want to see people like them in advertising, and that there are marked spaces that have yet to be filled.
- 57% of consumers are more loyal to brands that address social inequities in their actions.
- 71% of organisations have prioritised buying a product or solution because of its accessibility.
- 15% of the world’s population lives with a disability.
How can I use this trend?
Crowdsource, crowdsource, crowdsource.
A lot of what people consider inclusive is inclusive only to a small portion, and for full inclusivity regardless of the circumstances and capabilities of whoever is using your brand, you need to crowdsource where to go next.
Your consumers know your brand as well or better than you do; they’re the ones who use your product the most. When it comes to adapting your product, they’re your first, and last, port of call.
Case Study – Snap x SignAll
Snap has partnered up with SignAll, a coalition of designers and developers dedicated to creating inclusive products for the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities, to create live filters that translate sign language into letters. Brainstormed through Snap’s internal deaf and hard-of-hearing employees, their fingerspelling lenses can be accessed by anyone and can open up the lines of communication between deaf/hard-of-hearing consumers and their hearing friends.
Gaming the System
Trend 5: Gamified advertising
Interactive ads are memorable. Add in gaming elements and that memorability becomes even more potent.
Your consumers are inundated with information every second of the day. Brands compete for their attention, and it becomes second nature to ignore those messages and therefore the brand that is communicating with them. This is especially true when it comes to attracting new consumers.
When you add in elements of gamification to your advertising, your consumer has to pay attention to what you’re saying, and it builds a case for your brand’s communications. Rather than relying on multiple static adverts to speak to your audience, you rely on less frequent and more memorable adverts.
We’ve reached a point where the conversations being had online far outnumber the conversations that we are capable of having, and therefore brands that opt for more involved advertisements are likely to see a significant boost in revenue.
- The global gamification market is going to reach a CAGR of 26.5% between 2022 – 2027.
- 60% of consumers are more likely to buy from a brand if they’ve enjoyed playing a game with the brand.
- 72.5% feel more inclined to shop at brands that make their loyalty experience fun and rewarding.
How can I use this trend?
Involve your audience.
Interactive elements in advertising are underutilised, especially for small brands that have thus far relied on being a small community to grow. Adding in Facebook polls and giving your consumers a choice to communicate with you helps smooth the process of interacting with your audience – and makes sure that they feel as though they have a stake in what happens with your brand.
Case Study – Duolingo x Jackbox Party Starter
Capitalising on group study, Duolingo bundled two months of their premium product in with Jackbox Party Starter, a Steam app with party minigames designed to be played in group settings. Incorporating Duolingo questions within the games themselves, and encouraging players to play a full pack in one of the translated languages, not only does Duolingo raise awareness of its own products, but it helps widen its reach outside of its intended audience – students of languages who want to improve or learn a new language.
Trend 6: Rise of the Public CEO
When governments can’t support people, people find a new place to turn to.
For many, that place is brands and the CEOs that lead them.
The idea of a celebrity CEO or an influencer CEO isn’t new: Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, even Steve Jobs all had elements of celebrity CEO. What is different in 2023 is that we’re going to see more small and medium enterprises make their mark on their audience using their CEO as an identifier for their entire brand, and using their words to boost brand recognition.
The last few years have been an investment in building brands that align with what consumers believe in. In 2023, your brand is your CEO – and what they can do fix the problems most consumers are facing.
- 81% believe CEOs need to be publicly visible when discussing public policy with stakeholders.
- 70% of consumers feel more connected to a brand when that CEO has a public presence on social media.
- 60% of consumers expect CEOs to speak publicly about issues that matter to them.
How do I use this trend?
Turn to social media.
LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram are all good platforms for your CEO to start building rapport, especially if they don’t normally use those platforms. Interact with common interests, foster conversations about work, build a support network, and open up avenues to work with other companies for mutual benefit.
All of those are good ways to get your CEO’s words out.
But beyond just words, there has to be action. Employees are the biggest asset of any company, and if your CEO treats the employees terribly and talks a good game about community and the four-day work week, it’ll back-fire – so whatever’s said, make it true.
It won’t work otherwise.
Case Study – Rik’s LinkedIn
Rik’s experiences with LinkedIn have been well-documented.
But there’s more to it than that.
Switch upper-management has always led from the front-lines: when the office had to be shuttered during the pandemic, the company worked to safeguard our ways of working and to make sure that no-one felt left out, and no-one had preferential treatment due to their rank in the company. As a result, there’s a lot more that we’ve learned in the past two years that has changed the way we work, from the top down. As a company, we have always been an open book to everyone that works here, but the pandemic has further emphasised that the way we work best is to work on the same level.
So that’s what we’ve done. And Rik is public about both the good and the bad of how we work – and encourages us to do the same on our own personal social media. As a result, that fosters trust: between us and our clients.
You Had to Be There
Trend 7: Limited pop-up activations
Real-life events have come back – and in 2023, we’re going to see a lot more people seeking out experiences that take them out of the house and make them a set of new memories.
With a twist.
Instead of big, sprawling, everyone’s-invited events, what we’re going to see a lot of is limited pop-up activations that are entirely brand-run and focused on the niche: fans of the brand who want to support them no matter what and new consumers who were always curious but have never taken the plunge and now have an opportunity to try before they buy – and have fun in the process.
Limited-run activations help brands connect. Brands that put their all into small events created specifically for their consumers, their fans, and their would-be consumers are going to see the benefits of what it means to have a community in a year that is going to thrive on building connections.
- 81% of brand owners say that they’re going to match or exceed pre-pandemic experiential and event budgets.
- 91% of consumers say that participating in branded experiences or events makes them more likely to purchase from that particular brand.
- 72% of B2C marketers say that in-person events are crucial for brand success.
How can I use this for my brand?
Start small and run local events.
Local events are a great way to embed your brand as a cornerstone of your community and help foster the idea that your brand isn’t only taking, it’s also giving back to you. Partnering up with small businesses and artists, especially as a bigger brand, will build up your reputation among consumers as someone to support – and it gives you a way of continually adapting to changing consumer desires.
Case Study – Shipt ‘Back to School’
Back to school season is always a hectic time for parents, regardless of how well-prepared they might be to face it. To make life easier on them, Shipt created a mobile tour bus with a four-stop schedule that took them to New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, sharing information about the must-have classroom supplies, snacks, lunch items and dorm room products. In addition, they also held family-friendly activities right outside the bus, such as colouring stations and reading nooks, and created a donation drive where visitors could pack a backpack with supplies to donate.
Ongoing Trends 2023
There’s a lot we’re going to see in 2023 that we’ve seen before, just on a grander scale.
Macro, mini, micro, meta?
Macroinfluencers are on the way out.
They’ve been in steady decline since before the pandemic, but COVID-19 and the months after really put a stop to a lot of influencers’ climb. Additionally, the ongoing problems of Instagram mean that a lot of the original macroinfluencers have to find other ways of creating connection with their audiences – either by moving to a new social media, or by working in a different niche.
For 2023, we’re going to see less macroinfluencers around, and more virtual influencers and micro-influencers, though this hinges on the platforms they’re using to communicate. With Instagram’s changes making it that much harder to create a meaningful foundation for influence, it’s likely that we might see a stop to influencer marketing in general, but a big leap in virtual influencers where brands can hinge on the technology and innovation rather than the human connection.
We are the World
There isn’t a moment before climate change that people remember.
Brands can help change that – but it requires deep-down change. Fundamental change.
Change that lasts through the rest of the brand’s existence.
It’s true that corporations create a significant amount of waste. It’s true that there are ways of combatting that waste – but a lot of what we know about the eco-friendly movement has been built on greenwashing, and there’s enough confusion around what actually helps that brands need to make a clean slate of it.
And that starts with education. Educate yourself. Educate others. Educate consumers.
The more education there is going around, the easier it is to put measures in place that can help everyone.
I Am Woman
Women’s rights the world over remain a pillar of social change that brands have yet to completely catch up with. However, the recent global events that have pushed them back to the forefront means that brands wanting to capitalise on this trend have a thorny road ahead of them.
It’s impossible to please everyone. Women’s rights are the kind of issues that will prove divisive to your audience, and if that matters to you, do your audience research first.
If it doesn’t, put women forward. Crowdsource information from the women who use your products, and not just the ones in your community. As we’ve said about the diversity measures brands undertake, a key metric to avoid is marketing to the smallest segment possible and still calling it inclusivity.
The world does not work in small segments.
And your consumers will not appreciate the obfuscation, either.
I Know You
It’s the hardest attribute for brands to pull off.
A lot of brands simply broadcast sales messages so they are, by definition, unable to listen.
However, the people behind the brands need to learn to relate to their audiences.
Your consumers are changing. Your consumers are always changing, in myriad ways: growing older, growing poorer, growing richer, growing more. A big part of your brand’s success is to understand those changes and to adapt to them, rather than waiting for your consumers to adapt to you.
That’s what builds community. It’s what builds relationships.
Brands need to relate to their audiences. If you haven’t started by now, there’s still time until the end of the year to do so – but make it your priority. Consumers are quick to shift their loyalties to brands that relate to their experiences more.
A Note on Trendwatching and Forecasting
This year we’ve done things slightly differently.
New trends for 2023 are a little less pronounced than the ones for 2022. We’re settling into a new way of living, thinking, purchasing, so the trends that we see in 2023 are a continuation of the ones from 2022, 2021, and 2020.
This happens with all trends. They carry over. They adapt to the circumstances.
But they don’t fully change unless there’s a shift in audiences.
2021 changed the way we lived.
By 2023, we’re getting adapted to our new life.
Last year, we spoke about trends as the result of change.
To a certain extent, that still holds water.
But in 2022 and 2023, we’re predicting that the trends we’re seeing will be the catalyst of change. Brands and small businesses have more power over the consumer than ever before, and those that understand how to use that power will set the pace for the innovations we’ll see after.
Our goal as an agency has always been to use that power for as much good as we can do.
That means helping brands see where the good they can do is.
And that means this trend report, and the ones that are going to follow.
As a collective society, we need a lot more good in the world. We need to help each other, and we need to set the tone for a future that we all want to live in.
And brands can provide that, if they know where to start.
And if they don’t? Start here. Start with trends.
Start with now.