If you think 2023 was busy, brace yourself for 2024 says Ian McGrath who offers a raft of insights into how the year might pan out for marketers, taking in everything from the economy and politics right through to tech, media and advertising and culture.
We are 19 days into 2024, and while the masters of the universe are in Davos discussing how to ‘rebuild trust’, the most prominent point emerging is that the picture of the year ahead is becoming less clear.
Here is some of what’s in store for us.
- Over 60 national elections will take place worldwide, including USA, Mexico, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Russia, Iran, Turkey, UK, and Germany, and with them changes in policy and regulation.
- The lack of fiscal discipline will continue to compensate for some of the delayed transitional realities finally hitting markets.
- Geo-political pressures will challenge the ease of businesses expanding trade internationally.
- More regulation and anti-competitive probes to keep the lawyers happy.
- In individual markets, there will be heightened political tension as governments try to balance the books with an increasingly poorer / stretched middle.
- Pressure will continue to mount on the little guy, as small businesses struggle with increased costs and regulation.
- Pressure on property!
- Increased regulation and policy changes on the horizon will mean businesses are cautious investing in risk/reward versus efficiency. Marketers should demonstrate the dangers of reducing investment during a slowdown.
- There is a cultural shift back middle and emerging partisanship. Democracy is in decline. We will start hearing from vocal majorities as the boiling political environment spills into in peoples’ lives.
- The new Rat Race is here. With everything so squeezed and everything to play for, people are a little more interested to know what’s in it for them.
- Urbanisation will get a shot in the arm. Cities are being forced to switch back on and clean themselves up. More resources will be directed to these efforts.
- ESG and purpose has gotta pay its way.
- Brands should focus on broad appeal and being easily accessible. Consistency and continuity leads to campaigns that are almost 3 times more effective. And, ensure your marketing communications has the visibility to reach lighter consumers.
- The world economy has slowed. According to the World Bank, global economic growth for the half decade from 2020-2025 is set to be the weakest it’s been for 30 years (but, don’t panic, remember the bull market that broke out in the second half of the 80s).
- Nervousness is percolating across markets. Bearish markets trade more on the sentiment of fear and caution. Tricky for money flows. But, markets always move faster than anticipation. Expect the narrative to change quickly.
- The restructuring required to tackle Global Debt will get under.
- Interest rates will be cut (most likely from May) and inflation will shrink, but both rates and prices are still higher than the free money days, meaning that more companies may look to M&A as they face off higher input costs and slowing demand.
- Stagnant productivity is bleeding into the long-term for some countries. New policies will be introduced to drive stimuli.
- IMF has warned of the job exposure risks to AI being averaged at 40% globally, but we’ve all seen these type of headlines and corporate restructuring before. And jobs will be on the agenda with so many national elections live this year.
- Dried up funding and sunk valuations are flattening start-ups. VC investment was down almost 40% across all series of funding in 2023.
- Broad swings in Working Capital are squeezing the ability of some big companies to invest. It’s always a balancing act.
- Businesses will continue to diversify their supply chains and build new trade routes.
- Supply is struggling to match demand, but 2024 is likely to have less shocks on the supply side than previous years.
- More government spending will be needed to relieve the impacts of extreme weather events.
- Any soft landing or recession will become the new baseline for businesses as this represents the start of the new growth cycle.
- 2024 is a reset year for many economies and sectors. Consumer demand will soften. However, this is an excellent opportunity for marketers demonstrate the role that marketing investment and branding play in keeping a business resilient in slowing markets. Also, new baseline. Great time to review or kickstart your marketing measurement.
- Maybe the biggest news is manufacturers has discovered how to significantly reduce the Lithium requirement for batteries (one report said by as much as 70%). This has serious implications for advancements and costs of future tech hardware.
- AI sweeps across platforms. Keep a watch for Co-Pilot Pro and Google Gemini as they naturalise AI for the masses.
- 0, not legless avatars, will be back in the narrative. What’s the point of all these LLMs if they do not sit across connected and intelligent ecosystems. (Coupled with this is the ramp up of hardware from Apple and Meta.)
- AI is also decimating Vertical SAAS, coding, old tech engineering as businesses look to more effective ways to streamline workflows and consolidate datasets.
- Blockchain enters maturity, helped by tighter regulation and broader adoption. And, with that, convergence with AI. Also, a reason why Web3.0 will come back into the frame.
- Watch this space, as always. Everything will feel supercharged, but the rapid spread of a new age will be scary to some. Marketers need to embrace these changes and ensure its advantages are used to create stronger inputs and not just operational efficiencies.
Marketing & Media
- The likes of Europe’s Digital Markets Act and the influence that it may have on US tech regulation is pushing consent to the top of the agenda. This has the potential to break your conversion tracking as your digital ad performance is directly tied to the quality of your data. Google recently shared an important update on what marketers need to do to comply with the DMA regulations. Most important is that marketers should always seek high-quality consent, where consumers understand why you need their data and what you will do with it.
- Cookie depreciation is only at 1% of the marketplace, but one early report suggested that monetisation was down 30% in the sites operating without them. Despite the long run-in on this, is the market ready? Apparently not, with only 27% of businesses with a plan for the removal of cookies. Worst still, these cookie pools are not being drained for audience insights before they disappear.
- Search is changing, uprooting SEO and Google Ads. Search Generative Experience (SGE) means that the search interface is for AI first. This dramatically changes the requirements for brand awareness, SEO, programmatic landing pages, and content management.
- The so-called “social slowdown” is real. We see this as user behaviour moves from feeds into messaging and marketing returns shifts from the main platforms to a broader mix of platforms. What happens across platforms is disconnected and what happens within platforms is miniaturised and siloed. One certainty is that social media platforms get boring after a time, because they only tell you what you know or what they think you want to see. We’re starting to the waning impact of this. Simultaneously, the big networks are pivoting as their ad targeting capabilities are being diminished.
- The collapse of the mainstream is stretching media companies balance sheets. And, stretched more by big tech’s increased interest in content. Further consolidation is in play.
- The costs of live sports and sponsorships will take a significant jump.
- Few news brands will fix their business model and inch closer to a slow death. Content copyright, audience data, and channel integration are key to their future.
- The rapid flow of money into Retail Media Networks will surely slow as returns become more incremental, which is slightly against forecasts and is highly dependent on the expanded reach of this channel into publishing and CTV (currently would caution against the lack of measurement in this channel). With many deals done, this may be delayed until 2025.
- A move back to short-form content, too much content now runs long creating huge drop offs in even the most heavily subscribed channels. Relevant content management and an organic presence as essential to navigate the changing landscape in search across 2024.
- Gaming will skip centre stage, again. Such a missed opportunity from a channel with attentive, signed-in consumers (who have their credit cards at the ready). Expect to see an increase in integrations.
- Influencers move to being pure-play affiliates from the ‘pay per shout-out’ market.
- And with all the above will come increased fraud and misinformation, bringing an heightened effort from marketers to mitigate against it.
- Improved measurement is badly needed, at a marketer / advertiser level. Improved measurement, not more measurement.
- Too soon for Attention Metrics to be a currency yet, but you should be on board. Both attention metrics and creative testing need to be aligned with the likely impact that campaigns will have.
- Marketers will need to simplify the navigation to their websites, eStores, and platforms. Both to these digital assets and restructured journeys within them.
- All the above means higher CPMs/ CPCs and, in general, higher costs in marketing. Marketers will be paying more to stand still. But, marketing, done right, is not a cost. It’s a highly profitable investment.
Have confidence! Despite all the above, marketing is in the best shape that it has been in for years.
There are lags in how markets respond to changes. However, the macro-environment is having a more immediate effect these days. The best way to isolate your business in 2024 is through marketing, most notably branding.
I love marketing.
Ian McGrath is a marketing consultant and former media director with the Flutter-owned Poker Stars. He is also a former managing director and director of strategy of the GroupM-owned Mediacom. In addition, he was a former board director and EMEA business director with the denstu-owned Carat.