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VIEWPOINT: 5 marketing trends for 2023: why back-to-basics is best

By Jordan Buning


Each year brings with it new technologies, new shifts in consumer behavior, and new selling opportunities that get marketers excited. In each regard, 2023 will be no different. 

While the new year can be one of great success and growth for your organization, it might not be the year to go all-in on the latest marketing tools and trends. Against the backdrop of a possible economic recession, 2023 is a good time to recall that patented paternal wisdom about purchasing a car or choosing a college major: play it safe. 

What might that look like? Rather than pursuing new assets, take time to harness the technology and human capital in which you’re already invested. Be responsible. Be level-headed. Stick to the basics and leave the risky purchasing decisions to your competition. The top five trends of 2023 will have a familiar ring to them, and that’s OK — you can thank your dad later.

1. Diving into your existing toolkit

With many economists forecasting a recession of varying degrees in 2023, budget constraints will be a reality for marketing departments everywhere. Instead of fretting, take stock of the last few years. Which tools in your marketing toolkit have worked? Which haven’t? Which might be underutilized?

If you have held off on upgrading your organization’s software or diving into a recent tech trend — AI-assisted search, voice-activated search, virtual reality, etc. — 2023 might not be the right time to act on your impulse. New technologies bring the potential to reach new audiences, but maybe your best audience is the one you already have. In tight-budget situations, it’s OK to focus less on using a new set of tools to bring in a new audience when the results aren’t certain to work.

Yesterday’s trend might be today’s best practice. The hottest new trend isn’t always the best fit, and the pace of change is likely to slow in 2023. Social media’s ad revenue is projected to grow by 5.2 percent in 2023 after seeing 48 percent growth in 2020 and 11 percent in 2021, respectively. The marketers pitching high-risk, bleeding-edge trends against this backdrop will appear tone-deaf while their corporate peers double down on austerity. 

2. Doubling down on talent

The global talent shortage isn’t news. Finding, attracting, and retaining the best employees is proving increasingly difficult across many sectors of the economy. One of the persistent challenges of 2022 presents the need to take action in 2023.

Center your team on its mission. That might sound easy, but any company culture initiative requires an investment of focus — often a more challenging proposition than investing money. Know that, in your employees, you have assets within your own walls, right now, that your organization hasn’t fully leveraged.

Engaging each employee in your corporate culture is the key to employee retention. In turn, retaining employees can affect your bottom line for the better. Customers are more than seven times more likely to buy from you if they’re referred through your employees.

3. Concentrating on current clients 

One old adage holds that five times more money is needed to find a new customer than to win more business with an existing customer. Now might be the time to try to deepen relationships and increase customer lifetime value (or CLV) than to chase down new clients.

In the same spirit, use advanced data to profile your current customers — especially those with whom you work well — to find new ones who offer the same potential returns. Do this to narrow your messaging, which makes your pitch more relevant and attractive to a select pool of the best customers.

4. Buying into responsible consumerism 

Studies are finding that people will buy from brands whose values align closely to their own. It can be a wise investment of time and company energy to give your clients the assurance that it’s good to buy from you. Of course, with that comes the need to “walk the walk.” Your organizational values, public messaging, and private behavior must align.

One increasingly common example: details like where and how a product is made matter more to consumers as awareness of the climate crisis grows. Even Black Friday is taking a hit in the face of what researchers call “conscious consumerism.” 

Define your values internally. Devise initiatives around those values. If it fits into your content experience, make sure you act the right way in regard to your given initiative; then tell people about it. 

5. Quality beats quantity

The tepid economic forecast for 2023 means many organizations are already anticipating fewer dollars in their advertising budgets. Treat each dollar more preciously. It’s time for quality to take precedence over quantity. 

What might that look like? Consider one marketing agency responsible for multiple brands, hammering out the same email campaign for each. If users have given their email to each brand, they’re effectively seeing the same ad over and over. Eventually they’ll catch on, feel hammered, and unsubscribe — a customer lost due to a simple lack of care.

To achieve the most efficiency, your marketing team should be equipped and trained to adjust to how your customers are engaging with your brand. If you’re buying fewer words, make sure those words define you better.           

Jordan Buning is president of ddm marketing + communications, a marketing agency for complex and regulated industries, including health care, financial services, and global manufacturing.