This article isn’t an indictment of the plethora of reflections, trends, and predictions for 2023. Rather, it’s a reflection on the role of identity, self-expression, humanity, and community in marketing in the coming year(s).
These ideas may or may not resonate with you. I consider it an invitation to question your approach to building meaningful relationships and experiences with people.
Take a Breath
Give yourself a moment to let go of the hype of shiny new toys like the Metaverse, blockchains, direct-to-consumer, social commerce, and Web3. Apart from the promise of the Metaverse, it’s easy to get caught up in technology and trends instead of considering how we better serve people and connect them to their passions.
Many of us have a macro understanding that living through a pandemic has taken a toll. Now, we’re facing a cost-of-living crisis that could deepen financial concerns. This is on top of the narratives we confront daily regarding the war in Ukraine, climate change, and mass layoffs.
It may have us questioning what we are doing and who we are. And this isn’t limited to the consumer, it’s also applicable to brands. Marketing tends to turn to humor in difficult times, and we see that reflected in the work over the last few years.
Ask yourself, have you changed the tone of your messaging to meet people where they are? So many people feel overwhelmed and downright helpless, leading to crisis fatigue. Force yourself to consider not only the people but their challenges, hopes, and fears.
In difficult times we witness the lipstick effect, an observation that consumers will still tend to buy small luxury items even during an economic downturn.
Amidst all this uncertainty, we see fewer brands and marketers creating a sense of belonging. Be savvy. Consider how you can invite people in. Perhaps they can’t make the purchase, but they can take part. And there is value in that escapism and the recognition of where they are right now.
Despite the hype, the vision of the Metaverse remains unfulfilled. This may change immediately with the anticipated release of Apple’s mixed-reality headset in 2023.
The foundation to fulfill our identity is already there. In the simplest terms, we can represent ourselves as Memojis, Bitmojis, and avatars in our favorite games.
In a world where identity and self-expression are colliding with technology, we’ve seen an awakening in younger generations where their physical and digital realities are interlaced.
Look for ways to understand and encourage self-expression. For many organizations, the foundation takes shape through diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Expect the economy for digital art, fashion, and collectibles to explode.
Have you gone a day without seeing news about OpenAI or ChatGPT in your LinkedIn feed or across mass media? The possibilities of machine learning and artificial intelligence are bewitching. I’m all in on the technological surge we see happening, but I’ve also wrote about the concerns over the accuracy and source of information for these tools.
Looking closer, I’ve watched people recoil as much as they lean in. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, recently admitted that younger users prefer discovery via TikTok videos, rather than a traditional written search. Zooming in further, we see people celebrating their failures in DIY videos as much as the process and successes.
As we place our trust in algorithms and use them as tools, find ways to imbue humanity that will bring emotion and meaning to soulless creations.
Consider ways individuality, authenticity, and even artistry can be combined with these technologies to bring a sense of craftsmanship to the final result. Data shows that although AI is captivating, consumers desire the more personal, human qualities these technologies lack (for now).
Be on the lookout for human algorithms. You know, the curated lists we all create and share with each other. We are the ones who can impart meaning in ways that make content resonate with us. I’m just as interested in recommendations from Spotify as I am from someone with impeccable taste.
Makers, Creators, and Influencers are not going anywhere. In fact, we’re seeing culture increasingly shaped and formed across a fragmented media ecosystem. It also means mass media, celebrities, and brands are no longer the gatekeepers.
Trends, movements, and belonging now emerge from communities based around personalities and passions. Rethink your media strategy. While certain channels are still relevant, we need to think in terms of targeting communities through their creators. This will require further maturation of your talent programs.
Creators are the heartbeat of this new, fragmented, digital ecosystem. It’s increasingly important to understand how your brand functions within this level of independence. In route to cultural relevance, how are you adding value for the creator and their community? We’ve yet to see consistent, meaningful investments in making experiences for these audiences.
It may be time to think of your brand in terms of pluralities. How can we create different meanings for these distinct people, communities, and passions while sharing a sense of meaning and relevance for all of them?
My advice: increase interest and investment in understanding communities. We’ve seen a maturation in process and partnership with creators, but many of us don’t understand the people that celebrate brands.
We’ve discussed the importance of collaboration and co-creation between creators and brands. As a challenge for all of us, turn trend into truth.
I’d place my bets on unique experiences – both in physical and digital spaces. Many brands won’t blink at a multi-million dollar sponsorship exercise but fail to invest in the experiences that truly move people.
Consider this an alarm clock. What will you do differently tomorrow in the wake of the accelerating change around us?