What changes will we see in marketing communications in 2013?

Candice O'Sullivan & Ryan Wallman
December 21, 2012

As marketing communications professionals, we’ve seen some significant changes in our industry even in the past 12 months. So what does 2013 hold? We’ve looked into our crystal ball and we think these will be notable trends in the coming year.

1. The rise and rise of the marketer

While marketing is often viewed as a discretionary spend and the first item to be cut from a budget come lean times, there is a new aura (I could go so far as to say halo) surrounding the marketer. Translating brands has always been a complex task (albeit an under-appreciated one) but the job of translating customer data into well-informed business strategy is widely accepted as no easy feat. Data analytics has given marketers the ‘numbers’ they need to get respect within an organisation – no more fluffy metrics for the finance guys to poke fun at. With respect comes influence. With influence comes money (i.e. bigger budgets). With money comes means. And with means comes success. The marketer may be battle weary from having his head put on the chopping block so many times in recent years but he now has the tools to triumph – even in still weak economic times. As the CMO Council’s vice president of operations and programs, Liz Miller, so eloquently puts it, marketing is now our ‘first line of defence.’

2. Agencies will have to transform to survive

In an interesting turn of events, the rise of the marketer has heralded the demise of the agency. In order to survive, marketers have had to re-arm themselves and get tech- and number-savvy, very, very quickly. Most agencies haven’t been as agile. The gap in innovation and strategic thinking between marketer and agency has left the door wide open for agency changes and agency change. The business models emerging around content development, content sharing, digital platforms and data-led strategy are heralding a new guard of creatives. Their challenge is to:

  • Shift from copy to content
  • Balance online and offline channels
  • Find new ways of working with a more sophisticated, confident client
  • Collaborate with a growing number of in-house teams on the client side (where the value of customer-centricity can be overwhelmed by brand myopia)
  • Have their creative judged by a new voice – the customer’s (branded by industry folk as the ‘voice of reality’); there are few places left where gut instinct can still validate an idea.

3. There will be a greater emphasis on content quality (over quantity)

The rapid evolution of digital communications over recent years has led, inevitably, to a preoccupation with SEO. And it’s understandable; without a decent search ranking, some businesses face virtual oblivion. A corollary of this, though, is that many businesses now feel compelled to produce ‘content’ in addition to their core product or service. Unfortunately, the fact of simply having content – any content – is sometimes considered more important than the content itself. And when that content is then stuffed with keywords and tags rather than structured as a logical and well-written whole, it’s a recipe for poor communication – and poor communication damages brands.

4. More businesses will realise that great content requires great copy

As the demand for ‘content production’ has risen – and the demand for traditional journalism has fallen – businesses have increasingly turned to journalists for the production of their content. In many ways, this makes sense; journalism requires a knack for storytelling, a keen appreciation for what appeals to readers, and a close attention to detail. But what journalists lack – broadly speaking – is a strong understanding of how to craft communications in order to achieve marketing objectives. They may be good storytellers, but they are not copywriters. And good copy – not just a good story – is what will build your brand.

5. There will be a stronger focus on the digital you can’t see

Off-page SEO, back-end analytics, marketing dashboards … never before has there been such a focus on what audiences can’t see in order to make sure they do see. As the systems and processes supporting these functions become even more sophisticated, what’s done behind the scenes will become more and more important to informing, improving and elevating your brand activities. If you don’t use these tools to listen to your audience and closely document their needs and desires, you will not be able to craft compelling content on topics close to your audience’s heart that intimately connect them with your brand.

To hear more of what we think in 2013, subscribe to our blog. And in the meantime, have a happy festive season!

Candice O’Sullivan is Head of Strategy at Wellmark. Ryan Wallman is Head of Copy at Wellmark.

 

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