Clockwork Media’s white paper on marketing trends 2024 reflects the upheaval in the market right now. Here’s an edited preview on what we need to know.
A cookie-less future. The decline of Facebook. An all-out AI panic. With a little perspective, you’ll see it isn’t the rapture. It’s just Y2K … stepping up.
That’s really what this paper is about: turning what seems like apocalypse number 159 into an easy-to-navigate near future in just a few simple steps.
So take off the tin hat, pop a Xanax, and let’s get ready to do what we should have done all along: change.
The cookie is crumbling – now what?
South African brands, renowned for their adaptability and creativity, continue to thrive despite challenges like cookie restrictions. Woolworths has pivoted to first-party data, enhancing customer interactions through loyalty programmes and app usage; Standard Bank employs contextual targeting and content-driven strategies, maintaining a strong digital presence without heavy dependence on third-party cookies.
Meanwhile, Superbalist has built a brand community through social media, influencer partnerships, and user-generated content, connecting with its audience without over-relying on cookies. Each of these brands offers insights and strategies that others can adopt to meaningfully engage audiences without heavy dependence on third-party cookies.
To future-proof digital advertising, a multi-faceted approach is essential. Brands should prioritise collecting first-party data directly from users via sign-ups and interactions on their platforms. Contextual advertising, which aligns ads with content context rather than individual user data, can ensure relevance without infringing on privacy.
It’s crucial to adopt transparent data practices and focus on user consent, building trust and staying compliant with regulations. Emphasising creative outputs will drive personalisation when targeting isn’t feasible. Crafting non-intrusive and valuable content can persuade users to disable ad blockers.
AI and the future of marketing
Ever since James Cameron warned us about the robot uprising in his 1984 action hit The Terminator, people have been on the lookout for the signs. But no one could have imagined that the real revolution would be quite so… weird.
It’s tough to tell whether AI is coming for our jobs or creating entirely new ones.
2023 has been the year of AI in business. Over the past year, marketers have leapt at the opportunities presented by the rapid release of AI tools, and are already reaping the rewards.
The great thing about AI – in 2023 and beyond – is its accessibility. Many agencies, Clockwork included, are quickly spinning up concepts with Midjourney, getting copy ideas from ChatGPT, and processing natural language with Whisper. In 2024, we’re expecting to see some brilliant trends and innovations emerge that can help save marketers time and keep us on meaningful workflows.
Before the rise of AI, chatbots dominated, acting as basic programmes mimicking human conversation. Introduced in the early 2010s, many users found these early chatbots frustrating.
But AI in marketing has much more to offer. With enhanced data collection, we can now accurately identify customer cohorts, allowing for more precise and specialised marketing. While traditionally cohorts were mainly defined by gender and age, these parameters don’t always depict a customer’s actual desires.
Previously, tools like Facebook Ad Manager were used for cohort identification. Now, in-house neural networks can analyse our existing data, enabling AI-driven cohorts to deduce customer preferences more effectively. For instance, dog owners have distinct needs compared to horse owners.
As our insights into consumer behaviour refine, we can better match offerings to the right consumers, all while adhering to POPIA/GDPR regulations.
Ideation can face challenges, especially with potential biases in both small and large teams. AI has enhanced the ideation process in 2023 and looks promising for 2024. While AI-driven concept generation isn’t entirely bias-free, it likely introduces fewer biases than human teams. As we approach 2024, we foresee AI crafting initial storyboards and copy that creative teams can then refine into impactful content.
We’re in the ‘content creator’ era
‘Content creator’ seems like another one of those jobs Gen Z made up so they could afford to buy houses – but you’d be wrong, Boomer. Search for ‘The Rise of the Content Creator’ and you’ll be faced with a million results, highlighting the vast discussion on this topic. Yet, there’s still ambiguity surrounding ‘content creator’ marketing – and here’s what’s good to know…
Two key elements propelled the content creator’s ascendancy:
Platforms prioritise individuals: Marketers keeping up with platform tweaks will note that updates often empower creators, offering monetisation tools.
Personal recommendations remain crucial: Data from market researcher GWI suggests word-of-mouth remains dominant for brand discovery. With the evolution of social media, followers often see creators as quasi-friends. Brands exploit this bond to enhance social media advertising efficacy.
Culture influences communities, which then shape content creators. Conversely, these creators affect their communities, moulding what becomes culturally relevant. Clearly, the future of influence is niche and tribal.
For brands, this means identifying their communities and adjusting messaging to align with their chosen content creators. It’s crucial to partner with the right creator, as a mismatch can harm a brand’s reputation. What works for a gaming brand might misfire for one selling printers.
- The community that aligns with the brand’s proposition, offering, and niche.
- Expectations from content creators in terms of creativity and credibility.
- Community preferences, like platforms they use and their content inclinations
- The types of influencers within these communities: nano influencers for niche segments or celebrity influencers for wider audiences
The future of search: zero clicks, social search – and AI
Search has always been about one thing and one thing only: answers. But what happens when the search engine decides to save your click? No one visits your website, which means no one sees your ads. Without ads, how will consumers know what to buy? Truly, the next epidemic. What can brands do to thrive?
Here’s what to consider.
- Invest in optimising your content to appear in featured snippets.
- Create concise, valuable answers to frequently asked questions in your niche.
- As voice search plays a significant role in zero-click searches, focus on conversational keywords and long-tail phrases to cater to voice search queries
- Implement structured data markup on your website to increase the chances of being featured in rich snippets and knowledge panels.
- Develop comprehensive, authoritative content that complements the information available in featured snippets.
- Encourage users to explore further by clicking through.
- Incorporate various content formats – videos, infographics, and interactive content – to diversify your offerings and capture user attention.
- Consider paid advertising strategies like Google Ads to maintain visibility on the SERP, even in the absence of organic clicks.
Platform changes in 2024: A future view
Choosing where to invest your ad spend is no longer about knowing where to find the most relevant audience, but recognising the least risky platform. After all, no one wants their shampoo ad showing up next to Andrew Tate.
The fast-paced changes in the social media landscape have been challenging for marketers. In 2023 alone, Threads debuted, and Twitter unexpectedly rebranded to X. Marketers found themselves grappling with daily operational issues, from ensuring Twitter’s API connections remained intact to deciding on the best avenues for their social advertising budgets.
As we approach 2024, these challenges are poised to continue, given the ongoing shifts in both social platform capabilities and user behaviour. Pundits describe the future of social media as ‘less social and more media’. The landscape is transforming due to evolving audience behaviours.
What we see
- Posting frequency has decreased among users, as influencer campaigns and algorithm-curated feeds raise the perceived stakes of posting. Most platforms see increased user activity, though Facebook and X (formerly Twitter) are exceptions
- Platforms with chat services, like TikTok, witness a rise in direct messages and small group interactions.
- Adam Mosseri, Instagram’s head, noted on the ‘20VC’ podcast that teens on Instagram spend more time in DMs than in Stories, and more in Stories than the main feed.
- Meta’s applications (Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp) continue to set user records into 2023. Daily active users hit 3.07 billion, while monthly active users reached 3.88 billion. With 98.4% of Meta’s revenue from advertising, user activity remains vital. However, while user counts rise, it’s essential to evaluate growth rates. While Facebook’s user growth rate currently sits at 1%, it is set to slow to 0.6% by 2025.
- Looking to the future of Meta, it is worth taking a closer look at Meta’s Reality Labs. Meta’s Reality Labs, responsible for AR and VR product development, have seen substantial investment despite losses. Mark Zuckerberg has announced plans to launch four new VR headsets in 2024, hinting at them as potential phone replacements.
- By 2025, TikTok is projected to overtake Facebook in user time spent, with its core draw being entertainment. Despite this entertainment-centric focus, TikTok is continuously evolving: their job listings in September 2023 sought engineers and product managers for new social engagement features.
- This points towards TikTok placing more focus on messaging. Initially designed for creator-fan interaction rather than genuine user connections, it will be interesting to see how TikTok advances and nurtures its communication approach in 2024 as it enables more typical social networking features.
Caroline Hillary is marketing manager of Clockwork Media. Insights provided by Clockwork Media’s Amanda Hoosen, Bryan Turner, Daniela Riquelme-Morales Thomas, and Daniela White.