Five reasons marketers should be cheerful in 2023

Experts at Campaign’s recent Year Ahead breakfast briefing highlighted the importance of employee morale, radical empathy, and purpose as brands and agencies look to thrive despite an uncertain year

Five reasons marketers should be cheerful in 2023

It’s undeniable that 2023 has its fair share of challenges in store for marketers. The looming recession and political volatility don’t create easy conditions. But for the experts at Campaign’s recent breakfast briefing at the Regent Street Cinema in London, there are many reasons to be optimistic and to look for the positives.

Flagging the need for adaptability and agility, Anne Stagg, UK CEO at Merkle, said: “Yes, there’s a cost-of-living crisis, and yes, there will be pressures on budgets. We need to make sure we have the tools and technologies to understand consumer motivations and have some fun creating beautiful and engaging campaigns that resonate. If we work together to do that, the opportunity as we move into 2023 is significant.” 

Speakers at the event flagged five trends and suggestions that will help brands and agencies spot those opportunities in the year ahead. 

1. Focus on enthusiasm and employee morale Many of our experts spoke about the need to focus on employee positivity. Visha Kudhail, director of business marketing, EMEA at Pinterest, flagged how this will be the first recession members of the Gen Z workforce will have experienced. She said the business is focused on bringing enthusiasm into the workplace, adding: “Businesses are born and careers are made during these times.” 

Gemma Flanigan, marketing director for Cadbury brand equity UK&I at Mondelez, agreed that challenges can make things more interesting: “It’s an opportunity to learn and grow. It’s often a more stimulating environment to learn in, and experiment in.”

Boosting morale during a time of hybrid working adds another interesting element into the mix, with culture and communication often suffering if there is no office interaction. Several attendees spoke about the need to encourage people into the office on the same day, allowing them to mix and learn more. 

Stagg at Merkle flagged the company’s recent move to a smaller, denser office where collaboration is easier, and said the company is working hard to make sure people stay engaged. “It’s about making it an enjoyable experience to come in.” 

2. Embrace radical empathy 
Nicholas Hulley, joint chief creative officer at AMV BBDO, talked about how the notion of radical empathy is likely to help brands tackle the volatility that is due to impact businesses this year. He noted that all political data is showing that populations in western democracies are moving to the left, signalling an expectation for brands to actively consider and support consumers’ emotions. 

Spotify Wrapped – the music platform’s shareable round-up of each user’s year in audio – is one strong example of this. “It’s about reliving a year emotionally – what moved us; help us feel the joy we felt at certain points of the year. It’s that emotional understanding of each other,” Hulley said. 

Other speakers noted how similar trends are impacting leadership. Larissa Vince, chief executive at TBWA\London, said: “The most successful agencies in the past have tended to be run by very strong, uncompromising, driven personalities. It’s not easy to make great [creative] work, so how do we be strong leaders while creating a more inclusive culture than probably existed in those golden times?”

3. Retail media networks are thriving
Some areas of the marketing mix are growing quickly, with retail media networks being one. Sam Knights, chief executive at Shopper Media Group, quoted Boston Consulting Group’s prediction that the market will be worth $100 billion globally by 2027, with the medium also forecast to be bigger than TV advertising. 

The medium’s success is down to a recent realisation that conversion at the point of sale is in many ways the most crucial moment. Knights said: “The lower funnel has a massive impact on the execution and efficiency of campaigns. If conversion is low everything is more inefficient.”

The use of first-party data, provided via retailer partnerships, is transforming the way brands interact with shoppers, and even which shoppers they choose to interact with. But with so much growth still to come, the market still has some maturing to do. Having been focussed heavily on process and technology now, in 2023 Knights expects the medium to become more creative. 

4. Use new technologies – where suitable
Nicky Bullard, chief creative officer at MullenLowe Group UK, talked about the metaverse being potentially important in 2023, but added a note of caution: “One of my fears is if we focus too much on the M word. If we’re going to introduce it into our brand experiences, we’ve got to make sure it fits, and that it sounds like and looks like the overall experience. We don’t want to dilute our brands.”

For Hulley at AMV BBDO, 2023 will start to bring more AI and virtual-powered creativity, lowering production costs, improving sustainability, and lowering barriers to executing creative visions. But Hulley said jobs won't be lost to robots just yet - humans still have the edge when it comes to having empathy and making creative leaps. 

5. Don’t forget purpose 
Sebastian Munden, chair of Ad Net Zero, outlined a range of basic steps all teams should be taking to make progress towards net-zero operations. These include measuring the impact of production, implementing training, and using the organisation’s free resources to improve knowledge and performance. 

He added: “Perhaps the most crucial step is to ramp up the number of campaigns that promote or support more sustainable products and behaviours. There is a competitive advantage to be had, and business to be won. It’s an economic gift and a social necessity.” 


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