By Godwin Anyebe
Socio-political polarization, the potential of generative AI, masculinity in crisis, “sportswashing”, and community-based sustainability are five key trends that have reached an inflection point and will shape global marketing strategies in 2024, as revealed in WARC’s Marketer’s Toolkit 2024 released recently.
Now in its 13th year, The Marketer’s Toolkit 2024 provides marketers with strategic support for planning and decision-making to help navigate the challenges and benefit from the opportunities in the coming year.
The trend identification for the report is based on WARC’s new proprietary GEISTE methodology (Government, Economy, Industry, Society, Technology, Environment). It further incorporates a global survey of 1,400+ marketing executives, one-to-one interviews with CMOs, industry commentary, and analysis, data and insights from WARC’s global team of experts.
Aditya Kishore, Insight Director, WARC, says: “Marketers globally continue to be concerned about the economic picture with 64% of survey respondents seeing it as the biggest factor in 2024 planning. But a majority (61%) of firms expect improved business performance next year, up 10% from last year. WARC forecasts global adspend to grow 8.2% in 2024, topping $1 trillion for the first time.
“As consumer insights become ever more critical to aid success, The Marketer’s Toolkit runs through some of the emerging threats and opportunities marketers will face as they look for sources of growth.
Generative artificial intelligence (Gen AI) has crossed the threshold from promise to practical deployment, overhauling media strategies and audience targeting. 2024 will see brands look to capitalise on the emergence of accessible Gen AI tools to experiment with creative development.
Nearly three-quarters (70%) of respondents to the Marketer’s Toolkit survey plan to unlock the potential of AI in their marketing, 12% of which will look to adopt the technology wherever they can and over half (58%) describe themselves as “cautiously progressive”, actively testing and evaluating Gen AI in marketing.
However, such opportunities come with potential risks including brand safety, copyright, sustainability and agency remuneration.
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Jonathan Halvorson, Global SVP, Consumer Experience & Digital Commerce, Mondelēz, comments: “The question is, how do you build [AI] into a scaled organizational competency? That is the obsession of every single day, every single week for the next 18 months. Because it’s a race you have to win.”
13% of marketers said the best strategy is to “drop all ‘purpose’ driven strategies and political positions”
Political ideologies have become increasingly entrenched in marketing. However, with high-profile brands caught in the polarization crossfire, there are signs of increased timidity regarding social causes.
While 76% of Marketer’s Toolkit respondents advise standing ground in the face of controversy, 13% pursue the path of least risk saying that the best strategy is to “drop all ‘purpose’ driven strategies and political positions.”
When addressing polarizing issues, brands should examine their audience through cultural and demographic lenses, and scenario-plan against any potential fallout.
Speaking at the recent ANA Masters of Marketing conference, Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer, Procter & Gamble, said: “We serve diverse consumers. That requires precision to serve in ways that are relevant and better for each person, so we can unlock the potential. Inclusion to serve all people and each person matters for market growth.”
Almost two out of three marketers (63%) agree that the way they communicate with young men needs to change
Around the world, young men are increasingly being marginalised both socially and economically and struggling with their mental health. In their search for a contemporary identity, some are being drawn to toxic role models online.
Almost two out of three marketers (63%) agree that they need to shift their advertising and influencer selection strategies to reflect emerging models of masculinity that offer positive and helpful messages to young men.
While there will be mounting pressure to eliminate stereotypical male depictions in advertising, there will also be those who will attack the brand for being too “woke” if they do so.
During Advertising Week last month, Stephanie Jacoby, SVP/Brand marketing, Diageo, said: “As an alcohol advertiser, we’ve certainly contributed to this culture, (…but) we are starting to make the change that we need to see. It’s really time now that we open the aperture (…) which broadens how men are depicted beyond, and so replaces a single, undifferentiated idea of masculinity with a multi-faceted view of what this term can encompass.”
“Sportswashing” is a growing concern: 61% of marketers concur that it is “very important” for sports organisers and owners to avoid being politically divisive.
In a fragmented media landscape, sports remain a natural passion point for brands to leverage. It delivers mass real-time audiences, yielding a growing competition for media rights, fresh content and sponsorship opportunities.
Critics allege this is resulting in the rise of “sportswashing” whereby entities accused of a poor human rights track record invest in sports to bolster their reputation. 61% of Marketer’s Toolkit respondents concur that it is “very important” for sports organisers and owners to avoid being politically divisive.
Opportunities for marketers include developing new content formats, engaging with growing sports and different communities, and data-driven insights to track performance and fan attitudes.
James Williams, Investor/Advisor, Nobody Studios, says: “There’s a danger with the term “sportswashing”, because it becomes one of those words that’s now thrown around all over the place for when people don’t like something, especially in the world of sport.