Just like that, 2019 is over and 2020 is underway. Many of last year’s marketing developments fade into insignificance as the industry focuses on the future.

Future gazing is important in the fast-moving world of marketing and in particular, social media; consider how much our industry has evolved in the last 12 months. The growth of TikTok, Facebook’s pivot to privacy, a handful of high-profile influencer scandals and…. did anyone say 'Ok Boomer'?

Here, in the first part of a two-post series (15 offices are a lot to fit in!), our global leadership team share their thoughts on the trends that will shape marketing, and social media, in 2020.

Benjamin Arnold, Managing Director, New York
2020: The year to shake shit up
Social is becoming increasingly homogenous. Brands are creating the same type of content, using the same best practices, referencing the same influencer playbooks. Even the platforms continue to replicate each other’s features and converge. Feed fatigue and preference for dark social suggests there’s cause for concern, while TikTok’s explosion into the mainstream shows people are crying out for novelty, for a less generic, less polished forum for self-expression. In 2019, several brands recognized this new reality: Pepsi, adidas, TripAdvisor and Old Navy admitted they over-invested in the performance side of digital at the expense of building their brands. This doesn’t mean performance is no longer important. But it does address a challenge all brands are now facing: How to stand apart, provide real value and differentiation as the social world around them becomes homogeneous. One solution? Shake shit up. Reimagine that formulaic playbook. Scrap the same old content calendar format. Understand what audiences really want, then deliver that in bold, original and creative ways. It’s this brave social thinking which needs to be the heart of everything next year.

Coby Shuman, Managing Director, Toronto
Cleansing Influence
2019 saw a tipping point in influencer marketing cynicism. People can now decipher those authentically influencing from those making contrived attempts; 2020 will mark the acceleration of an audience-driven influence cleanse. More users will unfollow, unlike and troll content creators who perpetuate the influencer stereotype. This growing backlash against bad influence, a key trend we highlighted in our 2020 Think Forward Report, won’t overthrow the soaring influencer economy, but it will ignite a widespread shift. Brands will respond to authenticity pressures with refreshed social strategies that consolidate their influencer roster. Personalities who genuinely work hard to add value and connect with their engaged communities will win. Conversely, reach-based macro influencers and easy-to-buy aspiring ones will be washed from the consciousness of people who were once gullible enough to stop scrolling.     

Alberto Pachano, Managing Director, Madrid
The NO LIKE momentum 
‘Likes’ have been losing their value in recent years. With clever algorithms and growing fakeability of engagement, trust in the Like has diminished. And with Instagram testing hidden Likes globally, it’s no longer the metric it used to be. A lack of Likes is said to make people less self-conscious of their content and the risk of disapproval, therefore there's less pressure on posters (good news), possibly leading to more content. People spending more time is clearly good for a platform, especially when selling ad space. What’s less clear is how influencers are going to demonstrate reach and engagement; something Instagram is ‘working on’. Brands love to see those hearts and thumbs-up racking up quickly; it’s often their GRP, a public announcement of their work. So, it will be interesting to see the adjustment and how this is portrayed in their content. Will brands become less self-conscious? Less polished? More spontaneous… more social?! 2020 may have the answers. 

Jim Coleman, CEO, London
Social Self Care 
Our relationship with technology and personal devices is growing increasingly complex. Can’t live with them, certainly can’t live without them. A digital detox may be a short-term answer but, in the long-term, we need better solutions to manage the overwhelm of our digital lives. Social Self Care is one of the trends we covered in-depth in our 2020 Think Forward Report - in the wake of increased mental health awareness, people are starting to take a more measured approach to digital consumption. This is being championed by social media platforms and people alike. Platforms are looking to become healthier places to spend time with well-being focused tools and initiatives; communities are beginning to self-regulate how they use social. Brands will have the opportunity to get involved as well, whether it’s in encouraging healthier habits amongst fans and followers, to creating a culture rooted firmly in kindness. 

Sandrine Plasseraud, CEO and Founder, Paris
The explosion of social commerce
Every year since social media became mainstream, platforms have introduced a commerce functionality. Facebook pioneered ‘F-Commerce’ a decade ago, allowing brands to create online stores, but they were just re-creating their e-commerce experience on Facebook without adding any value. It didn't work. Fast forward to today: the Instagram feed is rife with ‘shoppable posts’, allowing consumers to easily identify and purchase products. Transactions can be made both in-app (via the ‘Instagram Checkout’ feature) and from merchants’ online stores. On Pinterest, ‘Shop the Look’ allows people to search and buy products directly from fashion and interior decoration pins. The arrival of Digital Native Vertical Brands (DNVB) is what has proliferated social commerce offerings. The DNVB is created in direct-to-consumer mode, with no other choice than to sell online. As such, it’s forced the evolution of our behaviour, with consumers now accepting and embracing social commerce.

Gabriele Cucinella, Stefano Maggi and Ottavio Nava, Co-Founders and CEOs, Milan and Madrid
Social and customer journey: what goes around comes around
The customer journey is evolving, shaped by our behavior online. It’s becoming definitively circular; we are influenced, we are involved, we are targeted, and we buy. Social media is able to fill an increasingly totalizing role, creating a loop that feeds itself: The Full Customer Journey. Here’s how it happens. Step 1. broad targeting; brands identify and start interacting with wide and precise audiences. Step 2. “warm the public” via light actions (like, comment, video, etc.). Step 3. detailed targeting (prospecting); light actions correspond to signs of interest, coded to create a series of warmer, smaller audiences. Step 4: deep actions: people are ready to be exposed to content that drives them to take more complex action, like a purchase. Our tools to do this are a content distribution approach; in the past this was implemented downstream, now it’s the guiding element in the process. Creativity becomes the trigger to drive the action and paid media allows us to build audiences and drive the customer through the journey. 

Roberto Collazos Garcia, Managing Director, Munich and Berlin
Bursting the filter bubble
The internet, and social media, allow us to overcome some of the social and geographical barriers between people, giving us a more balanced view of the world. However - although millions of people are using these online platforms to expand their horizons, many are doing the opposite, creating a 'Daily Me' - a filter bubble that is specifically tailored to their own interests. This year, I'd like to see more brands doing their part to break this cycle, to connect people from all over the world; helping them learn about one another's cultures, to explore valuable new perspectives and opportunities. Brands have the opportunity to promote diverse, meaningful opinion and embrace what diversity can do for them and their environment.

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Tomorrow we’ll be sharing predictions from our offices in China, Sydney, Dubai and more.