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4 marketing trends emerging during the pandemic

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No sector will come out of COVID-19 unscathed. From production to freelance design, every creative in the industry has likely been forced to reinvent during the pandemic. This includes marketing.

Whether it is a larger focus on upskilling and innovation or empathetic marketing, there are some major trends in the sector that will likely shape the future of the industry as lockdown restrictions get eased around the globe.

We've had a chance to speak with Ashling Kearns, VP EMEA Marketing at Salesforce, to identify the 4 major latest trends in marketing which emerged from Salesforce's annual State of Marketing report. Keep reading!

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How do marketers weather the pandemic this year?

The COVID-19 crisis has forced marketers, like all professionals, around the world to rethink how they can continue to do their jobs effectively and drive results. Lockdown measures have almost overnight acted as a catalyst for accelerated digital change, and brands are now assessing how their marketing initiatives can respond to this huge societal change, enticing and serving customers in ways that reflect their lives in this “new normal”.

For professionals, particularly those in sectors such as marketing or the creative industries, there are many new adjustments, with remote working being just an example. The fundamentals of the work and the outputs haven’t changed, but the way in which it is being delivered certainly has. The challenge now lies in how these professions address their customers’ new realities.

The fundamentals of the work and the outputs haven't changed, but how it is being delivered certainly has.

Salesforce's latest annual State of Marketing report collected data from nearly 7,000 marketing leaders across the globe just as the COVID-19 crisis emerged. The findings and insights from the report demonstrate the values that remain especially important to consider as businesses navigate away from crisis mode, to getting back to work and once again driving growth.

Here are four key takeaways from the report that are particularly pertinent for the creative industries.

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Photo by Nine874 Creative

A fresh focus on skills development and reskilling

Workforce development and employee reskilling for new ways of working has never been more critical. Back in February, a quarter of marketers that serve the creative industries said insufficient human resources was proving a challenge in reaching their overall goals. That is something that will be increasingly challenging with budgetary restrictions and worker shortages over the coming year, and so marketers need a way forward.

Traditional marketing roles focused on specific stages of the funnel are falling out of favour. Two-thirds of media sector marketers say that traditional marketing roles limit customer engagement. Marketing leaders generally rate their teams as advanced across a wide array of skills, with particular confidence in their communication, creativity and data analysis abilities.

Online learning tools such as Trailhead give people the opportunity to learn remotely, at a time convenient to them and on any device.

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Photo by Juice

Continuous pursuit of innovation

Innovation is a top priority, with 95% of marketers in the global creative industries in agreement. Our research found that the expectations for how marketers interact with customers is continuing to rise – a related study of consumers and business buyers found that 84% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services. This is up from 80% in 2018.

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Use of Artificial Intelligence

Once a hyped-up buzzword, AI is now making real-world impact. There has been a global increase in adoption of 186% in just two years. Two-thirds of marketing leaders in the creative sector who use AI, apply it to drive next best offers in real time, while 68% are using it to bridge online and offline experiences for their customers. 

With the world in crisis, the use of customer data for empathetic marketing has come to the forefront. It’s essential to have a clear understanding of customer needs as they evolve. AI helps achieve this type of personalisation at scale by distilling insights from data and taking action

Most marketers are onboard globally with this tactic, with 82% of them describing their customer engagement as data driven. They are turning to a myriad of customer data sources (median number: 12), with the top three being transactional data, declared interests/preferences, and known digital identities.

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Photo by Inition

A new set of emerging technologies

No one can truly predict what is next for marketing. But one outcome of these current societal shifts is that it has forced businesses across industries to figure out how to better connect with their customers and deliver what they need and when. Marketers can be at the forefront of this innovation – 77% of those in the creative industries say they lead customer experience initiatives across their organisations. 

Over the next 10 years, marketers expect to see even greater impact from new technologies and societal developments. These include online access to more of the global population, the implementation of 5G networks, and virtual reality becoming mainstream. 67% of leaders believe 5G will have a major impact on marketing in the decade ahead. 61% of creative sector marketers also see opportunity with millions of people in the digital darkness expected to get online access over the next ten years. 

As we make our way through these unpredictable times, and figure out how to get businesses back to full speed, having a sound strategy focused around listening to our customers, combined with embracing technology, will help us recover. The COVID-19 crisis is forcing professional sectors to rethink and innovate differently in a socially-distanced world, but I believe that it is a challenge that can be overcome, and one that will lead to more inspiring creative work in the future.


Ashling Kearns is VP EMEA Marketing at Salesforce.

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