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4 “hot” marketing trends for 2019 that went cold by 2020

New buzzwords and trends flood the marketing landscape each year, vying for attention and clout. But not every innovation lives up to the hype and many fall flat in the application. Other times, it takes longer than expected for a new tool to charm the hearts of marketers.

As we kick off 2020, marketers from nearly every industry will release lists of the top bourgeoning trends for the coming year. But before we jump on any bandwagons in 2020, Amy Scissons has taken a look at how some of 2019’s anticipated ‘hot’ trends experienced tepid and chilly temperatures in the marketplace.


1. AR/VR gets a reality check

In 2016, SuperData Research predicted that the augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) market would be worth just over US$12 billion by 2018. The actual figure paled at US$3.6 billion so momentum was already in a decline before 2019 began. AR/VR suffered yet another blow in October when Google confirmed its new Pixel 4 smartphone would not support its VR platform, Daydream. Furthermore, the tech giant discontinued its Daydream View VR headset, determining that the smartphone wasn’t the right medium to build a base of VR users.

Though it was predicted again that marketers would adopt AR/VR in droves, the industry response has been lackluster and many companies struggle to find uses beyond virtual tours. Meanwhile, in a catch-22 situation, AR/VR startups report that slow adoption and lack of an established market are the two main impediments to innovation, according to a report from the XR Association.

Despite hurdles, some brands scored big in AR/VR in 2019. For example, Oreo introduced cupcake flavoured cookies with an interactive and whimsical journey through a ‘wonder vault’ to a magical river filled with the new treat. And who could forget the New York Times’ VR project ‘Displaced?’ Immersing readers in the devastating effects of war, this project was an innovative method of telling a worthy story but also a savvy marketing move to captivate new digital audiences.


2. ‘A’ before ‘I’

Artificial intelligence (AI) is unquestionably influencing the market, changing the way consumers research and buy. In today’s marketplace, 64% of consumers expect an experience that is tailored to their past interactions and 62% expect brands to adapt to their behaviours, according to Salesforce data.

Marketers are largely struggling to deploy AI strategies that meet consumer needs. This probably stems from a persistent, cloudy understanding of AI’s potential. According to field research from Digiday’s AI Marketing Summit, 68% of marketing executives said nobody really understands AI. Meanwhile, on a grade scale from A to F, roughly half of the marketers rated their company’s AI understanding as a C.

While AI still mystifies some marketers, the industry is already seeing promise in machine learning and automation led by chatbots and voice marketing for copywriting, translations and content. And this success is also translating to tangible results in other areas like media buying. For example, IBM’s AI-based bot Watson reported a landmark 71% reduced cost per click.

Though AI’s potential has been overstated and left marketers disappointed, the industry will likely see more intelligent lead generation, segmentation and ROI metrics as technology advances in upcoming years.


3. Blockchain fails to link up

I’m just going to say it: blockchain is an undeveloped technology with a small, nascent market and marketing applications did not surface in 2019. Without clear uses, many marketers are sceptical of this technology. It doesn’t help that in 2018 the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology reported a 92% failure rate for blockchain projects.

Though much of the chatter around blockchain seems hyped, there are pilot projects that marketers should track. For example, in media buying, Blockchain4Media detected almost 20% invalid and fraudulent traffic beyond the current in-market solution and up to 76% fraudulent individual publisher activity. This solution could help brands ensure they are only buying media seen by real consumers. Meanwhile, IBM is investing in its Hyperledger platform, aimed at providing brands ROI-based spend capabilities, fee transparency, fraud detection and ad viewability metrics.


4. Marketers still don’t own data strategy

 Anyone in the industry knows that the expectations for marketers have intensified in recent years, with companies demanding expertise in CRM, workflow tools, PR, insights, etc. Data knowledge is among the greatest shifts and although we’re improving, there is still progress to be made in using data optimally to drive branding and messaging.

Despite consumers being more protective of their data, marketers are not taking full ownership of data strategy and therein lies the problem. According to data from Martech’s 2019 Salary Survey, practitioners largely describe data management as a “compliance” matter and only 36% of participants in the reported being responsible for data privacy and compliance. This number must increase before marketers harness the power of data.

So 2019 was just not the landmark year for aligning data and marketing strategy—but stay tuned. Though fewer than 50% of documented corporate strategies currently cite data and analytics as fundamental elements for enterprise growth, Gartner forecasts this to climb to 90% by 2022. Prioritizing quantitative data over other elements will be a competitive advantage, enabling companies to create precise, personalized branding strategies that better resonate with customers.


Amy Scissons serves as CMO (international) at global HR consultancy Mercer, which provides marketing leadership in more than 100 cities and 41 countries, outside of the United States and Canada. She has over 20 years of experience leading and developing go-to-market strategies for firms across the globe, primarily in business-to-business finance, technology and consulting industries. Her areas of expertise include marketing strategy, demand generation, customer-centric digital/data-driven marketing, and leading high-performance teams.