Highlights from Forrester’s 2020 Marketing Predictions

As every year comes to a close, marketing pundits feel the need to make bold predictions about the upcoming year. Technology trends. Audience shifts. These trends usually live somewhere between the obvious and the preposterous.

Voice search will be bigger this year than last. Duh.

AI is coming for your job. Doubt it.

On December 5th, the Calgary Marketing Association (CMA) held its Marketing Trends 2020 event at the Calgary Public Library. You know, the fancy new library downtown.  Thanks go to Platinum Sponsor Canada Post and also for Forrester Research for helping make that happen.

This year’s keynote speaker, straight from New York City, was Bret Sanford-Chung, Vice President & CMO Executive Partner from Forrester Research. First, bringing in a speaker from a research company is a smart choice. Her subject matter was backed by evidence. Her speaking style was authoritative, yet relatable. Sanford-Chung’s background, real-life examples and stage presence were quick to subdue the marketers in the room whose natural response to any industry talk, like mine, is suspicion and doubt.

Before Sanford-Chung even took the stage, the first marketing trend of 2020 became abundantly clear – The Calgary Marketing Association will continue to be THE hub for the Calgary marketing community, bringing together over 300 of the city’s top marketers across all industries and fields. Agencies hobnobbed with clients. CMOs rubbed shoulders with media. In fact, everyone rubbed a few shoulders because the cocktail portion of the evening was packed. The net impression of the evening was that the CMA continues its ascent to be the go-to face and voice of Calgary’s diverse and dynamic marketing industry.

Sanford-Chung took the stage and spoke for about 45 minutes on What’s Ahead for 2020. She started by talking about the pragmatic year that was, 2019, and then split her forward-looking discussion into both B2C and B2B marketing trends for 2020, a presentation no doubt tailored to Calgary’s business mix.

The presentation was refreshing because it wasn’t focused on technology or channel trends, as so many of these types of presentations are. Rather, she focused on the customer and the customer’s evolving expectations of brands. If there was one key takeaway from the evening it was that brands need to be more customer-obsessed than at any other point in history. The successful brands and CMOs will be the ones that stitch together customer experience, company values, employee experience and traditional marketing under the banner of customer obsession.

The presentation was structured in content-rich, bite-sized nuggets of wisdom, reviewing the top 5 big marketing themes that Forrester is predicting in 2020, and then focusing on the top 5 B2B big marketing themes. In discussing B2B marketing themes, Sanford-Chung explained the role of technology and brand in the buying journey.  She finished the presentation by connecting the dots between all the marketing themes and the new B2B consumer, and not surprisingly, consumers are demanding the same personalization, experiences and communities when buying for work as they do in their personal lives.

Cameras flashed as insights and infographics hit the screen. The audience leaned into data points and Sanford-Chung’s relevant examples and personal anecdotes. And while everyone in the crowd took a nugget away that was meaningful to them, I will share my top two:

“Be overt in asking for the data, and covert in using it.”

Sanford-Chung is a marketing realist and admitted that many companies who collected consumer data (which is everybody now) weren’t using it to their fullest advantage. Consumers are getting smarter about how they give away their data, but what of their tolerance for being targeted, and re-targeted, because of it? Smart brands use data to add personalization and add joy to the consumer’s lives.

“Point of diminishing returns: utility of buying one more purpose-filled product or joining one more meaningful group will approach zero.”

Sanford-Chung’s point, which I personally found insightful, is that as brands and products are all striving to differentiate themselves through values and purpose, they are approaching commoditization and consumers are becoming fatigued. Her prediction is that consumers will likely limit themselves to seven brands or fewer that they choose because of shared values or aligned purpose.

The audience was engaged throughout the presentation and followed with approximately 15 minutes of questions and answers. The occasional clanging of a tipped over beer bottle reminded us all that this was a social event. The last one of the season for the CMA in fact.

Whatever 2020 has up its sleeve for Calgary marketers, I know that we will collectively come through it stronger, smarter and better if the CMA continues to bring in high-quality speakers like Bret Sanford-Chung and finds more reasons to bring us together as a community.

Bring on 2020.

About The Author

Rob Fairhead is an experienced marketer with experience on both the agency and client-side of the marketing game in Calgary, a board member at the Calgary Marketing Association and Partner and Chief Strategy Officer at ZGM Modern Marketing.