Marketing Year In Review: How’d We Do As An Industry?

by Kristine Hamlett

posted on 01-22-2020

While nearly every blog (including ours) is busily predicting what to expect in 2020, we’re going to do something a bit different and look back at our 2019 predictions piece to see how well we did as an industry in meeting our experts’ prognostications.

Below are the 2019 trends predicted by industry experts, who analyzed the marketing space to identify what they expected would be the biggest impacts on brands. Then, we dive into each of the predicted trends and show how the industry faired. Did we live up to expert expectations?

Trend #1: Data-driven creativity will be a strategic differentiator

This may have been a no-brainer, but it didn’t necessarily feel like it at the time.

Marketers always talk a good game around creativity. Yet, analysts say they somehow lost their way over the years as an explosion of online ads, aimed at boosting the number of eyeballs glancing at them, became the norm. The ads overwhelm many consumers, especially young people, who started ignoring them. In fact, a Kantar Millward Brown study in 2017 found Generation Z, in particular, was more averse to advertising and significantly more likely to ignore ads altogether. Conversely, the study also found that creative approaches, like those involving music, humor, celebrities, or the ability to get involved in various experiences actually attract Gen Z’ers to brands.

This is part of the reason why there’s been renewed energy around creative campaigns in the last several years. Case in point: Taco Bell. Customers know them for tacos, burrito supremes and clever campaigns like “the fourth meal.” But in marketing circles, their in-house creative team is also gaining notoriety for stretching the boundaries for different forms of expression. Of course, that started in traditional ways with fun and funky communications across its website and social media platforms. But they also jumped into extending the brand name to consumer goods with their own ankle socks, bathing suits, and phone cases. They even established a hotel called The Bell in Palm Springs, California.

Forrester Principal Analyst Jay Pattisall recently told CMO by Adobe brands emphasizing creativity over customer acquisition numbers and stats is a huge trend. We think data combined with creativity is a winning formula for companies today. We’ll continue to see this resurgence in creativity throughout 2020 — and beyond.

Trend #2: Retailers will double down on experiential commerce

There’s no shortage of studies out there that show that today’s consumers don’t just want products and services — they want experiences. In the retail space the focus on experience is clearer than ever, with many household names closing stores (Think Toys R Us) in the last few years. This puts a new kind of pressure on merchants both big and small, not just to sell but also build relationships and engage customers in order to thrive in the digital landscape.

Experiences did play a prominent role in marketing campaigns across the United States and around the globe in 2019. In fact, research by our Adobe Digital Insights team reveals that retailers used mock showrooms and augmented reality, to name a couple, to entice consumers this holiday season. The study found that out of 403 U.S. retailers surveyed in October, 56% said they expected to add experiential elements to attract customers. The survey also found 66% of retailers believe their loyalty programs are key during this busy shopping period.

A retailer that really stands out for its experiential work in 2019 is The Home Depot (see some of the work they are doing with Adobe technology here) with their online, and in-store “do-it-yourself shoppers” strategies. The Home Depot offers experiences via voice, chat, 3D augmented reality, and more. Furthermore, all of these touchpoints are connected, seamless, measurable, and complement one another.

Trend #3: Personalization: Brands will seek to connect content and data, ethically

We know for a fact that personalization was big in 2018 and even bigger in 2019. The key to personalization at scale is breaking down the data silos within an organization for a more complete view of the customer. We surveyed CIOs in 2019 who claimed that data integrity still continued to be an issue that plagued organizations last year. Despite a general acknowledgment in the industry of the importance of data, just one in three CIOs said their companies were doing a good job cleansing, integrating, and leveraging data to personalize customer experiences.

Connecting data, for the most part, has traditionally been a technology problem — tying together disparate systems across the organization. However, heightened concerns over data privacy regulations have stymied some companies’’ efforts. But there’s a bright side: customer experience management platforms such as Adobe Experience Platform can help (Forrester named us a Leader in digital experience platforms).

Providing personalized ads, something seven out of 10 consumers want, and ensuring that’s done ethically, something fewer than half of consumers see as possible, isn’t an easy undertaking. That’s why in 2019 we announced new data governance capabilities in Adobe Experience Platform to help our customers better enforce data usage policies and facilitate the proper use of their data to comply with regulations, obligations, and restrictions. With Adobe Experience Platform, marketers can stick to the jobs they know — creating engaging customer experiences — without worrying about the mishandling or misuse of their customer data.

Indeed, connecting content and data ethically for personalized experiences was a top priority for companies in 2019. Fifty-five percent of nearly 12,000 respondents in a 2019 Econsultancy and Adobe survey identified better use of data for more effective audience segmentation and targeting as their top priority.

Many brands have made a strong commitment to striking a balance between the collection of data and the ethical use of it. For example, premium cruise operator Holland America Line goes out of its way to personalizes passenger interactions — before, during, and after their vacations — using the precise audience targeting enabled by Adobe Analytics and Adobe Audience Manager. Those tools also enable them to target audiences while complying with global privacy policies, corporate governance, and various partnership agreements.

Personalization continues to be a strong trend, and most marketers will tell you ethics are important in 2020 and beyond.

Trend #4: B2B ABM will reach new heights

Many account-based marketing (ABM) efforts (defined as a way of designing and executing highly personalized marketing programs with specific named accounts) were still in their early stages at the beginning of 2019.

Research firm Altera Group found that 97% of ABM initiatives in 2019 had a somewhat higher or much higher ROI than other marketing initiatives. Furthermore, ABM helps build alignment between marketing and sales to improve business performance and ultimately marketing transformation. That’s exactly what the global consulting and digital services firm ICF has been doing for several years now. Using Adobe’s Marketo Engage to orchestrate more sophisticated and personalized account-based experiences for its customers and prospects, ICF has been able to address organizational challenges with a marketing automation solution that natively supported both lead- and account-based strategies. The firm also recognized early on that the key to success would be putting people and experiences at the center of the company’s strategy. Today, sales and marketing at ICF share an ABM dashboard that gives both teams visibility into marketing and sales activities. As a result, the teams no longer debate about who they should be targeting, and who is engaging with their content.

We’ll see ABM become an always-on strategy for many B2B organizations in 2020, as they attempt to scale account-based engagement.

Trend #5: CX will advance through digital marketing transformation

The crux of this prediction was that, as organizations continue differentiating themselves around customer experience, they will necessarily adjust their digital infrastructure to make that possible. This meant streamlining martech stacks to build “a seamless flow of connected customer data — behavioral, transactional, financial, operational, and more,” as Stacy Martinet, vice president of marketing strategy and communications for Adobe, said at the time.

Really, what Stacy and others were talking about is a digital transformation where all parts of an organization have the ability to communicate and collaborate on campaigns — easily and seamlessly.

Orvis, a 160-year-old retail and mail-order brand specializing in fly fishing, hunting, and sporting goods, has been building a customer experience management (CXM) platform for a few years now. Moving from a traditional catalog model to delivering dynamic experiences across direct mail, web, and email has been a big shift for the company. But by deploying Adobe Experience Cloud applications such as Adobe Experience Manager, Adobe Analytics, and Adobe Target, Orvis thinks its digital marketing transformation program is likely to pay off for “years and years.”

Customer experience will remain imperative in 2020 and organizations will continue to invest in digital transformation across all parts of the business — not just marketing.


We’re giving our experts, and ourselves, a pat on the back. All five trends cited last year remain relevant and are making progress. With customer experience at the crux of the 2019 predictions, we think they will become commonplace in the near future, as brands keep applying technology efficiently and ethically to deliver differentiated and personalized brand experiences to receptive audiences everywhere.

Topics: Digital Transformation, Artificial Intelligence

Products: Experience Platform, Analytics, Magento Commerce, Experience Cloud, Marketo Engage