In marketing, it appears the largest constant is change.
These last couple of years have presented a few of the biggest uncertainties in the market from the global pandemic and social justice issues to climate change and the ongoing economic depression. In research firm WARCs latest Future of Strategy report, marketing strategists highlighted a few of the biggest economic challenges and industry trends they will face in 2023 and beyond.
This years Future of Strategy reveals how strategists increased their influence with clients and delivered valuable insight through the COVID-19 pandemic, said Anna Hamill, senior editor of brands at WARC, as quoted in the report. The event is in a position to advise on the constant evolution of the media ecosystem and help brands navigate new priorities, especially in a period of ongoing uncertainty.
The study identified several major trends which will impact marketers and strategists alike, including the ongoing talent shortage plus some of the business enterprise problems CMOs face. Additionally, strategists also said helping brands demonstrate responsibility and ethical practices was a high priority, especially in sustainability.
Its certainly the case that strategy roles are taking longer to fill, said James Addlestone, chief strategy officer at performance marketing agency Journey Further. It has meant hiring prior to the curve has been more important than ever before, to avoid the chance of understaffing and subsequent burnout causing a snowball aftereffect of staffing challenges.
Here are a few highlights from WARCs strategy report surveying some 700 brand and agency strategists globally come early july.
The talent shortage is (still) real
WARC said clients are increasingly seeking strategists with generalist skillsets, but agencies are worried about competing with strong tech and consultancy offers. Almost half (46%) of strategists said they’re concerned about choosing the best talent, with only 30% expecting their next strategy role to be at a company as consultancies and brands compete for jobs.
This may mean agencies are hiring younger candidates that may not have the precise fit or experience now but can train them up. With an obvious training curriculum alongside the proper mentorship, [it] will ultimately make fulfilling a job quicker, Addlestone said.
The cost-of-living crisis will impact consumer habits
The economic trends due to inflation and recessionary fears that affect consumer behaviors have agencies and brands searching, with 69% believing this can impact marketing and sales communications from tone to brand building.
Duncan Smith, U.S. CEO of Journey Further told Digiday: Through the financial crisis by the end of the aughts, we saw brands pivot in two ways by concentrating on less expensive, value-based product development, positioning and comms to improve volumes or by increasing line extensions of premium products to keep margin and offer consumers with those small luxuries that have a tendency to endure through leaner times.
Industry diversity initiatives have quite a distance to go
WARC findings revealed too little progress in diversity at a business level, with the researchers adding that there have to be more tangible changes in hiring to serve clients effectively on these issues. WARC also said agencies themselves lack diversity by themselves teams, which affects their capability to deliver diverse insights and advice for clients
Clients understand that its socially unacceptable never to have DEI in your agenda It doesnt indicate that clients learn how to truly deliver on DEI, said Huiwen Tow, head of strategy in APAC at creative agency Virtue Worldwide.