5 Marketing Trends for 2020 – plus a wild card

Each year we see incremental shifts, that taken collectively can become seismic over a decade. In 2010 some people had smart phones, but many were using flip phones. Youtube and Facebook existed, but they were primarily desktop based, and APPS were yet to become widespread. With 2020 marking a new decade, it seems hard to imagine what the next 10 years might look like for marketing. But we can be certain that some of the following predictions will point us in that direction.

For those that prefer to watch and listen instead of read, this Youtube video sums up the post! (please share and SUBSCRIBE to my YOUTUBE CHANNEL if you want to receive the DEEP DIVE video series over the next 5 weeks looking into actions to take as a result of each of these five trends)

1. Influencer marketing will explode and mature

Early influencers were like charlatans at the party – making easy money, many fueled by fake followers. It became a wild west where it was hard to separate the wannabes from legitimate content producers with value. In 2020 that is all going to change. Previous issues with transparency will be banished to the fringes, and make room for a more accountable process. Measurement will move beyond superficial metrics of follow counts, likes and engagement rates, and shift to a more detailed analysis of audience demographics, unique reach, actual impressions and engagement that lead to conversion and sales lift reports. There will be more influencer creative analysis to compare the work along-side the rest of the marketing mix. Look for creative briefs for influencers, and the demand for authentic and exciting creative content. Paid amplification of influencer posts will also be added – because it not only increases control and targeting, it also adds reporting, metrics and transparency. Although I’ve got more to say about AI (artificial intelligence) in point #3, we can expect the use of AI to find the right influencers, identify those with better engagement, those with fewer fake followers, and essentially those with a higher chance of ROI. Also expect AI to be used to flag content not within disclosure guidelines, and to spot fake engagement and spam bots. There will be longer term relationships between well matched brands and influencers, and fewer one off dates and single promotions. Brands will be looking for authentic advocates and the whole process will become much more highly vetted. Also look for co-created products between influencers and brands. On that note, we can expect that in 2020 some brands may be damaged by actions of influencers private lives, as media looks for indiscretions, not unlike what happened in the past with celebrity endorsement. Think Tiger Woods. Many influencers are genuine celebrities in their follower’s eyes. It will be a natural maturing of this new form of paid media.

2. SEO will see seismic shifts to voice and visual search

Three big things will happen in SEO during 2020: voice search will overtake typed search (more than 50% by end of 2020), visual search will grow significantly, and the “Featured snippet” at the top of search will mess with Google rankings. The mobile internet is at the heart of these changes, but it will impact across platforms. Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and Apple Home – devices without a screen, will account for 30% of voice searches by the end of 2020, and smartphones will drive the balance. Smartphones are also enabling visual search, where consumers can snap a photo and applications like Google Lens, and Pinterest Lens will search and match the image, then deliver a direct link to learn more or buy. Top visual search categories currently are: fashion, home décor, art, food, products, animals, outfits, beauty, vehicles and travel. In 2019 there were already 600 million visual searches on Pinterest Lens. Pins as search results link directly to a website URL. Think of the ramifications of visual search and voice search. Suddenly it doesn’t matter if you’re on the first or second page of Google. It only matters if you’re THE SINGLE ONE which is recommended.

Hmmm… Now on to the featured snippet…

The featured snippet is that “box” at the top of search. Coincidently the featured snippet is the one that will also show up in voice search. Try it yourself. You might also be curious to see who shows up in the listing screen display of voice search on your phone– in my experience they aren’t necessarily the “top businesses” for the search, nor the order you would get if typing in search terms, but they are likely the ones best optimized for voice search, whether it was intentional or not! Being optimized for visual search on Google and recognizing the unbelievable power of Pinterest if you work in one of the listed frequently searched categories, will be a gold mine. And being optimized for voice search will be huge. How do you best do that? Think about how you use Google Home, Alexa or Siri. You ask it a question like a person. SEO for voice is SEO for spoken sentences and questions. Not phrases like “ski boot fitter + best store + Vancouver” but rather, “Who is the best custom ski boot fitter in Vancouver?” This whole SEO thing is a major work in progress this year for my and sites as well as my travel content creation site, Adapting to voice and visual search is one of the biggest opportunities in 2020. There will be a lot of competitors asleep at the wheel on this one, trust me.

3. AI automation will have deep and wide impact

Chat bots splashed on the scene a couple years ago, and have become more widespread, user friendly and engaging. Chat bots enable 24/7 responsiveness, ensure prompt answers, and record the entire buying history. They are used for product recommendations and e-commerce transactions. So far uptake in that capacity has been from progressive companies on the leading edge. This use will continue to grow exponentially in 2020, but also enter new areas. Expect AI to get into content creation, automated ad buying and audience targeting. There’s no good reason why AI can’t be used for this, and it will dramatically change the competitiveness of social media creative, targeting and buying. AI is currently being used to test/create and automate Trump ads on Facebook and Instagram. Split A/B tests are run on visuals, headlines, and various tweaks, all auto generated, pushed out, measured and monitored for the biggest impact with micro selected audiences. While there’s a big machine (and money) behind the Trump campaign, once a few players use the system this way, there will be no going back. As social media ad space costs climb in 2020, efficiency and ROI will prevail. In the end, using AI will be the only way to remain competitive. This huge shift will start in 2020.

4. We will need to be more human in our marketing

Although this might seem an odd trend to place right after the rise of AI, it will be absolutely necessary to “become more human” in the face of increased automation. We will need to humanize and personalize our marketing. Great marketing creates customers, but great experiences create fans. At the heart of great experiences is the human touch, being creative and being personable. One tactic might be to look at all your customer touch points, write down what is “normal” and then brainstorm how that could be done differently. Do you have a boring announcement that nobody listens to? Why not sing it? Is your customer expecting a standard email reply to a complaint? Why not send a video email from the CEO, or better yet an in-person phone call? Are they expecting to pay shipping for a return? Why not PAY THEM to return it if they’re not happy? Are customers expecting a half time show with cheerleaders? Why not have some players dance with fans on the field in a competition? You get the idea. Touch point experiences that surprise and delight get talked about both online and off. They are golden.

Humanizing things also means showing the people behind your business. Casual, informal content goes a long way and Stories on Instagram and Facebook can be great for this. Video, and especially “live video” can add an incredible humanizing dimension if used to show behind the scenes stuff, people who work there. Think fun and informal, not polished and pitched.

Never under estimate the power of email in the bid for humanizing and personalization. They key of course is to have been invited in, to be offering value, and to be like a real person. Not a corporate robot pushing product all the time. But if you’re going to sell, it will need to be personalized. Easyjet out of the UK did an email campaign using customer travel history, and built personalized stories that suggested future travel. They reported 25% higher click through rates with just some simple personalization.

Live events with an online fan base is another way to humanize. Record companies figured this out as a survival technique – there was money to be made in producing live events, not in selling albums. It became more about creating experiences for a fan base to share in, not about distributing content as they did before. Some leading digital marketers like Pat Flynn, Amy Porterfield, Michael Stelzner and Mark Schaefer have applied this thinking to their business too. They all have a huge online following that they have leveraged into conferences and retreats where a fan base “gets more” and has a memorable experience meeting them and interacting with other humans! We’re starting to see brands like S’Well and Yeti do this now too with live fan events.

At the heart of being more human is focusing everything on customer experiences and creating customer delight – then letting those raving fans do your marketing for you. This is a major shift since it demands that marketing through customer experiences extend well beyond the walls of the traditional “marketing department” where messaging could be purchased and controlled. We’ve already seen some progressive companies move in this direction. Expect more of this in 2020 as companies come to grips with their customers controlling 2/3 of their messages through word of mouth, rating sites and online social media.

5. There are still platforms with opportunity

As of 2020, the social media landscape has settled into these major players: Facebook, Instragram, Youtube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Snapchat. Each has its own audience, features and capabilities. Most businesses could do well grounding their efforts in primarily one or two, and either forget the rest or significantly scale back. As ad costs rise 2020, pay to play will continue to dominate as organic reach decreases. Using any new feature launched immediately will help, since that will ensure maximum organic reach while the platform builds interest around it. Stories and IGTV when first launched are good examples. There are three exceptional opportunities in 2020 beyond this however. LinkedIn is now like Facebook in 2011. Tik Tok is like Youtube in 2007 and for some businesses, Pinterest is the new Google.


LinkedIn is no longer just for job search, as dismissed by many. Posted content is like Facebook for business. A huge number of people log in daily at work, looking to connect, learn and get insight. The targeting and mindset for business is amazing. LinkedIn organic reach right now on personal posts is still a huge opportunity. I’ve seen posts hit views of over 4,000 recently and routinely get in excess of over 1,000. No other platform delivers that kind of well targeted organic reach right now! Using video, and provoking engagement is key, but LinkedIn is golden for organic and will be well into 2020.

Tik Tok

Tik Tok is another one to watch. Unless you are targeting teens, it’s not your audience – at least not yet. But the reason to be on there now is to learn.  The grown in users in huge. Since launching in 2016 it has grown to over 500 million active monthly users worldwide. 90% of users access the APP daily, and the average time spend daily on the APP is 52 minutes. That’s a lot of eye balls, and as I learned from my first-year university daughter home for Christmas, a lot of time that could be used otherwise for studying! Jokes aside, it IS ADDICTIVE. It’s fun, goofy and authentic. And as best I can figure the number of users and craving for content far exceeds what is available. Pat had a UVic friend with fewer than 100 followers, who had a video go viral. It was at 850,000 views when she showed it to me, and went over 1,000,000 in the time it took to make tea. With some coaching from Pat, I opened a TikTok account. My strategy was to follow 50 people that were active in #hashtag search areas of interest, consume content daily for 10 minutes, watch and learn, then post. I’m not on Tik Tok because my audience is there – far from it. But as I explore areas of content, I am finding older people on it. As with all APPS, the audience will age up, and it will then either be acquired or die. I’m there to monitor for opportunities. Plus, if I want to remain relevant teaching marketing at a university level, it’s important to grasp that the kids on it now will be in my class within 2-3 years. Yes, it’s Chinese owned, and there could be security threats. Just go into it with your eyes open.


The last platform of huge 2020 opportunity for some is Pinterest. Pinterest is not really a social media platform, it is a visual search engine like Google, where your content (as pins) links directly off the platform to your website. People on Pinterest are searching with intent, not mindlessly scrolling like on other platforms. And Pinterest’s willingness to deliver them directly to your site is unlike all other platforms that want you to stay there to consume more content and be served ads. It’s a huge fundamental difference that many companies overlook. That spells opportunity as platforms get crowded and expensive this year. Reference those visual search categories previously mentioned in trend #2. If you compete in those industries, you will find huge opportunity on Pinterest in 2020.

The WILD CARD prediction: Increased nationalism

This is “wild card” prediction, and admittedly it’s where my passion for politics and marketing collide. The internet promised an open platform to connect and unite us globally. It all worked fine until commerce and marketing came into play (marketers always screw things up!) With commerce and a drive for investor returns, came ads, targeting and audience selection through data use analytics. That created funnels where content was shared between those with similar interests, values and beliefs, because that is what served advertisers well. This capability took on a more sinister angle with political ad targeting, and arguably likely some meddling in the Brexit vote and the US 2016 election. While the rise of nationalism may have happened anyway, it has been made more extreme with the internet and social media. As it stands the internet serves commerce globally. However, some rising nations such as China have their own closed systems, and countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia already restrict citizens online. I believe this trend will be on the rise in other regions and countries globally in 2020. In fact, late in December 2019, Russia claimed to have successfully tested their own internet.

What is happening here is essentially a giant “intranet” within these countries. America has become decidedly nationalistic, and they could be one major security threat away from justifying a US only intranet. Think about the implications that could have. Coupled with increased animosity towards all things American, and decidedly US based tech companies dominating social media and the digital landscape, what if the “splinter-net” became a reality? I think this might be a bit far-fetched for 2020, but I do think it is something to at least consider, if for no other reason than scenario and contingency planning. I actually do hope I’ve got this one wrong.

A bonus prediction?

Buy Shopify stock. Over the next decade they will give Amazon a run for their money, utilizing long tail economics as many individual retailers currently selling through Amazon look for an alternative with more control. And maybe buy some Walmart stock while you’re at it. They are best positioned to eventually acquire Shopify.

Hit me up, and let me know if any of these predictions resonated!



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Mary Charleson

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