From a political perspective, 2019 can make you shake your head in bewilderment. Impeachment hearings, election meddling, market turbulence, an increasingly polarized voter base—the list goes on and on. Pundits predicted that once the rest of the world realized America had lost its damn mind, they would point, laugh, and replace us on the world stage. But then crises began to hit in Great Britain, Germany, Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, Hong Kong, Israel, Lebanon, and countless others. Instead of stepping in to fill the void created by a lack of leadership, these nations allowed the uncertainty to creep in. Soon, chaos reigned across the board.
Now we’re faced with an unprecedented and dangerous shift in the control of global power, natural resources, and influence. But as bad as this sounds, I view it as a harbinger of what’s to come for markets in 2020. If you pay close attention, you’ll see the major lesson to be learned here is this: When crises breed uncertainty, only those who are calm and strategic will triumph.
To take a very small example, when Instagram announced earlier this year that it would begin to phase out “likes” across the US (Lord save us!), many in marketing began to panic. Literal chaos—I’m not kidding—erupted in the influencer community, corporate boardrooms, and the inboxes of CMOs and marketing managers everywhere. At the same time, however, there were those who remained calm because they saw opportunity in the chaos. They knew their audience, they cared about their needs, and they were strategic and confident. They knew they’d invested in their brand story, strategy, and systems, and that something small like Instagram changing its “likes” policy can have no effect on a solid brand with a powerful story.
So, for folks like this, Instagram’s policy change was irrelevant. In fact, if Instagram deleted all its users tomorrow it wouldn’t matter.
Of course, far worse things can happen. But no matter what it is, the point is that the only way to save your brand and persevere is to ensure you have a strong brand story founded upon comprehensive strategy connected with effective and aligned systems. If this is true for you, here are five crises that may well become opportunities for you in 2020.
1. The Death of the Instagram Influencer Will Give You Life
Matt Turner, Executive Editor of Business Insider, wrote that brands are set to spend up to $15 billion on influencer marketing by 2022. In my view, I think this number will decline by at least 15% or more in 2020. If the Instagram experiment continues, brands will rush to shift those dollars to platforms like OTT or to new players like TikTok or video games (in-game advertising). They will do this because they’re scared, and in doing so will invite chaos and uncertainty within their organization. Considering that $15B accounts for nearly 12% of the projected $129.34 billion US advertisers were expected to spend this year, I’d say that’s fairly significant. Prepare to see opportunities grow in these other platforms.
2. The Fall of the “Unicorn” Company Will Give Rise to Higher Quality Brands
Google pleads “you can trust us with the medical data you didn’t know we already had.” Facebook’s once promising Libra Season is over. Congress has turned beating up social media giants into a full contact sport. And one recent poll shows that two-thirds of Americans favor breaking up companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook. All this while many of Silicon Valley’s former “unicorns”—e.g., Lyft, WeWork, Slack, Peloton, Uber—quickly enter at-risk status as they post double digit declines since their IPO.
The “Reign of the Unicorn” (2011–2019) saw thousands of companies shift their brand story, culture, positioning, and corporate structure to mirror these companies. But disasters like WeWork, SnapChat, and Lyft demonstrate for us why that might not have been the best idea. Millennials and Gen Z no longer trust the big guys. If a breakup does happen, expect monumental shifts in the way consumers do things and in the way marketers reach them. If you’ve learned the right lessons from these failures, you’ll have nothing to worry about in 2020, and you’ll likely gain market share.
3. Accepting This Truth Will Set You Free …
Most likely, your company—whatever it is or was—is probably a tech company now. Why? The proliferation, availability, and high importance of new tech means that every company is a technology company. Consider smart TV player Roku (ROKU) who’s stock has quadrupled this year.
Two years ago, they were known for making cheap TVs and their stock traded around $30 per share. Over the last 18 months, Roku recognized that the TV manufacturer market was crowded, inefficient, and controlled by a few large players. So, they took an honest look in the mirror and identified what they’re good at: the software that makes smart TV possible. They ditched making TVs and pivoted to licensing their OS to former competitors. As of this morning, their stock was trading at $161.91 while former competitors like LG Display post losses of almost 40% YTD. Whatever your brand is, consider being ready to turn toward digital platforms and cutting-edge tech in 2020.
4. The Decline of Traditional Services Will Make Way for OTT
OTT spending is projected to reach $5 billion in 2020. While this is still a relatively small chunk of overall spending, it’s an area that will continue to grow exponentially. Nothing much to say here other than if you don’t know what OTT is, you better learn. Ok, boomer? If you do, then good on you—you will flourish next year.
5. Forgetting “Feel Good” Metrics Will Make Your Brand Better
Agencies, marketing managers, web developers, consultants—we all live by metrics. #ROIorDIE right? Well, at the intersection of marketing and technology there exists a hard truth called data. Now more valuable than fossil fuel, data insights afford marketers the ability to assess their campaigns, audiences, and overall performance. However, how you choose to interpret that data has a huge effect on true ROI. That marketing automation tool you paid $50k for, or that 20% open rate that makes you feel good about your investment? Start trying to see past it. For instance, have you considered what percentage of that open rate represents people merely searching for the “unsubscribe” button? If you want to know more there’s an easy and affordable way to find out how well you’re using your own data.
The year 2020 is virtually guaranteed to be a year of constant disruption. It’s up to you to decide whether you allow the chaos to throw you off course. Taking some of my advice here and choosing, overall, to invest in who and what you are, what you’re good at, and why people should care is the best insurance policy there is. In the end, there is no substitute for exceptional story, strategy, and systems.
Whatever you choose to do, buckle up because we are in for a wild ride. It’s the Roaring Twenties, after all. In the meantime, if you’re interested in receiving more of my marketing insights, please connect with me on LinkedIn, subscribe to the TopRight blog, or buy a copy of CEO Dave Sutton’s latest book, Marketing, Interrupted.