Media & Marketing Trends that Could Impact 2020

We asked some of our SJC subject experts — ranging in fields from e-commerce and branded content to magazines and package design — for the trends that brands and retailers should consider to engage with their audiences in 2020.

Regardless of your industry, one thing is clear when it comes to content: there is more of it out there than ever, all vying for our attention.

To be successful in 2020, brand marketers need to figure out how they can cut through this clutter to have their brand seen — and heard.

From overall approaches (simplifying your content and tailoring it to growing technologies) to specific channels (we predict podcasts, direct mail and e-commerce will be key areas to connect through quality content in 2020), our round-up of trends from our inter-disciplinary team of experts provides insight to consider for your marketing strategy this year.

A common thread? The need for authenticity. Inundated with messages across an increasing number of channels, consumers are looking for engaging content from sources that they deem are legitimate and brands that they trust.

Here is your source for the media and marketing trends that could have an impact this year (listed in alphabetic order by last name).

SJC expert header_Duncan-Clark
In 2020, I expect we’ll be seeing rising value in quality and authenticity, driven by the ever-growing attention being paid to fraud and privacy. Even if it’s a self-interested decision, Google announcing that Chrome is following the lead of Apple and Firefox in phasing out cookies is a big moment — and as consumers demand more in privacy and security, brands will have to rely more on providing content of legitimate value and quality to successfully engage.
By the end of 2020, Gen Z (loosely, people born from 1995 to 2010), will make up 40 per cent of consumers. So for a brand to be successful with the type of content it creates, targeting to this generation is a must. Gen Z has a lot of interesting traits to consider. First, they are extremely tech savvy. They have never lived in a time without wifi, mobile devices, or Google, meaning they expect to get whatever they need in the shortest amount of time possible, and they don’t mind if you ask them to engage with your content in a meaningful and interactive manner. In fact, they welcome it. Secondly, they spend up to three hours a day on social media, meaning integration of social media content is also most welcome, as is using your content to leverage those same platforms as a location for engagement. Finally, they appreciate brands that make authentic, personal connections with them. They want to believe brands can be a part of their lives. So what does that take? Well, a recent survey said 65 percent of Gen Z felt brands should take a stand on social issues, so integrate whatever stance you adopt into your content. We must develop content that reflects their interests and media consumption habits. We need to make the experience of viewing content a personalized, rewarding and valuable one. We need to make sure they feel that if they chose to engage with your content, they feel they are winning out on that value exchange.
Content that really connects will be key in 2020. Consumers are looking to brands to do more than just sell products and services. The focus will be on creating meaningful highly-personalized content, a quality over quantity approach, targeting niche audiences on niche platforms will continue to evolve.  We will see a big shift from brands pushing out content on multi-platforms to dialling back and honing in on the channels that really work.
For brands that market to women, I think we’re ushering in a new era of authenticity and telling it like it is. No more being coy about the confusions and challenges of women’s lives by talking around it, or showing air-brushed, sanitized versions of life. No more assuming that only white, cisgender, thin, straight women buy your products. Brands like Knix, Lunapads, Dove, Billie Razors, Aerie and others are taking their cues from women’s content brands and pushing marketing message boundaries by including more real talk and relatable imagery. When content and retail brands are both willing to speak honestly about women’s lives, it creates amazing opportunities for branded content that resonates and engages deeply.
The value of direct mail as part of the marketing mix will continue to grow in 2020. As consumers are increasingly saturated with messages across channels, direct mail holds the unique benefit of being tangible. Neuroscience research shows that tactile communications are easier for our brains to process, recall and take action on. (Plus, with less mail than there used to be, consumers take more time with each piece, especially when it is unique and addressed to them.) The most successful campaigns will be those that integrate across channels, using direct mail to drive digital activity and influence online research and purchasing decisions.
Data privacy and brand safety will be at the top of mind for advertisers. Trusted media brands will benefit from this shift. Media brands of all sorts will need to prove their ability not only to generate clicks, but to win hearts and minds and drive sales. Fan-centric media brands that are able to connect with audiences through great experiences as well as through media will rise. Quality journalism and trust-worthiness will be the distinguishing features of brands capable of navigating change.
Publishing formats have entered a more mature phase with the recent double-digit growth in audiobooks creating a mixed market of print books, ebooks and audio books. Publishing strategy will use the format that makes the most sense to the book and reader. Celebrity memoir? Readers want to hear it in the voice of the celebrity. Tell-all insider accounts of political turmoil? Ebooks mean readers can have it minutes after the book is released and read it in hours. Compelling images? A book you want to keep and have on your shelves for years? Print is king.

This year for the first time, Canada will be the Guest of Honour at the most important international book trade fair held in Frankfurt in October. The industry has been preparing for this opportunity over the last few years with many foreign-language rights deals already being signed. It’s a singular opportunity for Canada to show the strength of our books to the world and build our business globally.

SJC expert header_Doug Kelly
Although they have been part of the modern-day media mix for some time, podcasts will continue to grow in popularity, both as an editorial exercise for traditional media companies and as a content marketing strategy for brands. Podcasts are one of the most successful mediums for much-sought-after engagement in today’s highly competitive media environment.
Sustainability and climate change are top issues influencing shoppers to look for ‘sustainable retail’ solutions. We will see more and more brands developing holistic strategies around sustainability efforts. Marketing will be focused around communicating stronger values and supporting recycling, reusing, refilling and reselling. Many brands are already moving in this direction: H&M recycles old clothing, Bulk Barn has a reusable container program that supports a zero-waste lifestyle and Ikea will allow customers to sell their gently used furniture to the store for a credit.
Content built for voice search
As voice-enabled devices continue to evolve from voice only to voice and screens, there will be an increase in content created specifically for voice search. According to ComScore, 50 per cent of all search in 2020 will be conducted via voice search, and according to PwC, 55 per cent of households are expected to own a smart speaker device by 2022. This will drive the requirement for content that is based on semantic search queries. Creating custom branded voice scripts for Amazon Alexa and Google Home that drive to e-commerce will quickly become the norm. As voice-enabled devices shift from voice only to voice and digital screen, marketers will have the opportunity to layer in interactive video with rich content such as product demos, buying guides and tutorials that will all drive to e-commerce conversion. Creating content designed for voice search via scripts and video will quickly become a top priority for brand marketers in 2020.

Content that converts
The role of content is quickly expanding from its top-of-funnel role of inspiration and engagement to a deeper role of driving e-commerce conversion. Social platforms are now shoppable with in-app commerce, and the growth of content required for e-commerce platforms such as Amazon and Shopify and retail DTC e-commerce sites will fuel the need for a high volume of content to guide the customer experience to sales conversion. The demand for mobile-first shoppable content will increase the amount of content required by marketers well beyond the traditional marketing ecosystem. Brands will take on the role of content always-on publisher across channels. With the upcoming launch of 5G mobile networks and 5G-enabled mobile devices, the mobile wallet will take over as the e-commerce platform of choice. Brands will require a content strategy that includes content built for e-commerce conversion.

Content volume increases for omnichannel marketing
Omnichannel marketing is a content vampire and requires a high volume of content produced to align with an agile content strategy. Retailers and brands will struggle to evolve in-house marketing teams and in-house e-commerce content on-boarding needs to meet the demand for the increased amount of content required. In addition, we will continue to see marketing budgets shift from a variety of marketing channels into content to meet the consumer expectation for real-time content, access to product information and frictionless purchase via e-commerce.

Fast turnaround times, flexibility, unique personalization and customization capabilities, and the added level of sustainability. (Only print what you need when you need it, and easily change it up each time.) These are all the reasons why digital printing will be driving force in the industry’s growth for 2020. It’s important to remember that while we are in a digital marketing age, the print industry has been seeing yearly growth since 2011. Technological advances in digital printing have opened up exciting new opportunities for marketers to efficiently and effectively send targeted, tangible communications as part of their multi-channel  strategy. We’ll see many more applications of this in 2020 and beyond.
SJC expert header_Bryan Raymond
As we start off into a new decade with most of the population trying to deal with information overload, a major trend in package design is simplicity. Gone are the drop shadows, full-colour logos and complicated design architectures of the past. Consumers are arriving to the shelf distracted, over-stimulated and unengaged. If your package design doesn’t make it extremely easy to find your brand, deliver your message and engage the consumer in as few steps and seconds as possible, you risk losing that sale (and the opportunity to drive and grow your business). This thinking goes beyond the shelf into the digital realm. Online representations of your brand packaging need to engage and deliver in the most simple way. Optimized web images can be done quickly and inexpensively if done right. Pulling out key information such as flavours and count sizes as opposed to just posting a regular pack image can drastically improved your engagment online.
Gone are the days when branded content was just another word for thinly veiled advertorials: in 2020, the most successful client integrations in publishing will be those based on genuine convergence of subject matter and target demographics between brands. The winning formula for these integrations will be equal parts trust and alignment on the overall vision for the execution. The best branded content programs will leverage a client’s themes and investment alongside our publishing brand’s curated voice and the hard-earned trust of our audience to create something that consumers are actually already clamouring for.
Whether you’re a publisher, an advertiser, a marketer, a content creator or a reader/consumer, we all have the same problem to solve: How to cut through the massive volume of messages vying for our attention in the market to get to the people and ideas that matter. Above all, it’s important to understand the motivators for each generation when making choices about the brands they surround themselves with. Defining our identity is an ongoing exercise for humans. Content, storytelling and brands are key to this exercise.

Boomer identity has been largely defined by “What do you have?” Establishing stability and security through goods purchased was important in a post-war society, and magazine brands helped to influence how one saw themselves, with advertising being a natural part of this ecosystem. This generation has grown up with our brands and trusts us to bring them the best take on any story.

Gen-Xers define themselves by “What are you into?” The cultural touchstones one engages with in terms of books, magazines, films, music, TV and movies, shape the Gen-X identity. Marketers and content brands have a huge role to play in continuing to help this consumer know about what’s coming (and they like to be the first to know) that will help them build on their personal brand.

Millennials are about “Where have you been?” And, “What do you have to share?” Travel, learning, anything experiential and a globally-oriented mindset are tenets of this generation. And if there’s an opportunity to take that all-important social media photo to share, all the better. Content brands and marketers are integral to this audience, but must find new ways to engage with them, using social media and events to captivate and build loyalty.

Gen-Z (or Zoomers) believe deeply in “What have you done?” or “What do you stand for?” Who better to help this generation understand this increasingly complex world than our journalistically trusted brands, in partnership with the increasingly socially conscious advertiser? Video, events, social media, print, digital… this is an active and informed cohort who wants to change the world and define their place in it. Marketers and publishers have an important role to play here, but we need to really put these customers first and begin to align with their values if we hope to win their loyalty.

I think the future is bright with integration opportunities from print to digital, video and podcasts to exciting sponsored events, all of which reach valuable consumers who choose to engage in brand-safe environments on the page or screen, or live in person.

I’m heading into 2020 with a sense of optimism in circulation. We’re starting to see some of the print declines that publishers experienced over the past few years flatten out. A couple of drivers that I think will help stabilize and possibly grow circulation include lowering prices to drive volume and moving towards auto-renewing subscriptions.