In 2022, we listed out the trends that would define how brands create content and go to market. Some of them played out just as expected and are still very relevant today. But 2022 was also filled with some unexpected challenges. Inflation, stock market volatility, and a general feeling of uncertainty made for a tougher year than anyone could have predicted, and that has had a direct impact on creative content and marketing in general.

So with that as the backdrop, we look into 2023 and what will define the year ahead with a renewed forecast to set ourselves up for success no matter what uncertainty in a down economy we may face. Let’s dive into the top six trends that will shape the future of content marketing in 2023 and beyond.

1. Digital ecosystems grow up quickly in the down economy

Every organization is in a different stage of their digital journey. But one thing is true across the board—that digital maturity really got put to the test in the last six months, and that will continue throughout 2023 as organizations double down on the efficiency and ROI of every decision. What does that mean? You’re going to hear a lot more about platform consolidation, breaking down silos, automation, and content performance.

This could mean:

  • Finally eliminating legacy systems: after years of heartache and frustration, it’s time to finally break up with that outdated, ill-fit legacy system that only creates silos for your content. Change management isn’t easy, but your end users (and probably your CFO) will thank you.

  • Finding new ways to automate workflows: the thing about a digital journey is that it’s never complete, and many brands are only scratching the surface of orchestrating the automatic flow of assets across their core platforms. Web content managers are between a rock and a hard place - so many requests back to the creative team, so many variations that their downstream platforms require… Eliminating this hamster wheel will add so much efficiency for those digital teams looking to increase speed of execution.

  • Diversifying the content creator base beyond the creative team: Is your creative team wasting hours on low-impact, high-volume tasks? Creating ad variations across channels and languages for global brand campaigns used to be a prerogative of the creative team. But as long as the right templates are in place for everyone to use—with governance on how they can be used—creatives can get hours of their day back to focus on strategic initiatives.

  • Doubling down on analytics: which color variation do your retail partners download the most to use in their marketing? Do you know if they’re using your assets at all? Closing the loop between content created → downstream effectiveness will remain a top priority in 2023.

2. Tougher markets will force brands to innovate

Many organizations are set in their ways when it comes to how content is created, managed, and distributed. Does this sound familiar? "Yes, it takes 13 steps to get a banner ad approved to distribute, but those are OUR 13 steps!" Or what about, "Yes, that file folder is a little hard to navigate, but not if you catch that one person who set it up five years ago, and he's in a good mood. It's just how it goes." But sometimes, the choice to evolve is made for us, and this year will be one of those times. Hiring freezes, tightening budgets, and increased pressure to generate returns on every effort will make even the most set-in-their-ways teams come around to a new way of operating if they want to thrive in 2023.

For a precedent, we need not look back any further than 2.5 years ago at the height of the pandemic. Here are some top results that our customers saw during an exceptionally challenging time:

An innovation to keep an eye on: we predict that more brands are going to start putting more of their in-house subject matter experts in front of the camera in short-form video, as opposed to paying for external, bespoke content projects. It’s “free” content, and sometimes those forced restrictions lead you down new creative avenues and create a new standard for the future.

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3. Content reuse has a MOMENT

“Content reuse” as a best practice and goal at organizations is nothing new. But let’s be honest, a lot of teams have been mostly talking the talk the past few years. Despite a desire to get better at it, duplicate content, unused content, and content in silos have persisted. Why? As mentioned, it’s not easy to change. But this year, it becomes a necessity, and a lot more teams will be walking that walk. “Content reuse” can refer to a number of things. Here’s what it most commonly refers to:

  • Atomization: intentionally creating content in a way where the core material is delivered as building blocks that can be further adapted to fit a market, channel, or audience as it becomes “final.” Creative professionals will always have the secret sauce, but instead of delivering the final entree, they want to deliver the ingredients and the recipe so the meal can be made over and over again.

  • Second usage across channels and markets: the content was created for one purpose but then finds new life elsewhere in the business. E.g., one business unit does a photo shoot, and once they’ve used the assets they need, they upload it to the organization-wide DAM so other groups can use those images as they see fit. We call that creating greater mindshare for your content.

  • Here are a few brands that are already walking the walk on content reuse:
    • YMCA - When the pandemic hit, YMCA Central Florida opened up their brand portal to all other Florida Y’s so everyone could access Covid-specific content and continue to serve their communities, even while staff and budgets were reduced. That practice of collaboration and self-serve across business units remains in place today, and the Florida Y alliance has a unified approach to providing content to its communities.

    • Queensland Health: cut down on duplicate assets/repeated work, boosting asset reuse by 75%. Since the pandemic, they’ve also doubled the size of their asset library as their usage and adoption grow.

    • Nordea: “We’re using Brand Templates daily for not only creating new assets but re-using existing ones too. We can make minor adjustments to a ‘Master’ asset for different languages and markets while still communicating a uniformly ‘Nordea’ style. It saves so much time!

4. Digital advertising gets a few curveballs

We knew that Google’s removal of third-party cookie tracking was going to make life difficult for advertisers. Now throw on top of that the fact that ad spend is projected to slow down vs. previous years, and TikTok continues to gain traction over Facebook/Instagram, and you’ve got a very interesting picture.

TikTok is the platform to keep an eye on this year. They’ve successfully agitated Meta and Google by stealing market share and mindshare from each, respectively. And their emphasis has been on creativity over advertising, though that has resulted in a lot more organic posting from brands than brands investing in sponsored content. Now, TikTok wants brands to start paying up so it can post greater net revenue. All that said, however, TikTok still emphasizes brand voice and creativity in order to get more brands actively engaged on the platform, free or paid:

This holiday season, I wish for brands and marketers to feel empowered to rely less on curated perfection, and more on creative marketing that expresses their brand voice and point of view
Khartoon Weiss
Global Head of Agency and Accounts at TikTok

And what’s up with Google? Previously, third-party cookies were used on web browsers to allow for hyper-personalized retargeting across different websites. With the growing demand for increased privacy, regulation has now forced Google to follow in the footsteps of other big browsers like Safari and disable third-party tracking on Chrome.

How we predict brands will rethink their advertising:

  • Brands will focus more on generating first-party data and will need to rely more on that data to target customers. Gone are the days when a brand could throw a boatload of money at third-party advertisers and say, “find us our customers please!

  • A/B testing elevates in importance. To generate valuable insights on target audiences, it will be necessary to perform more A/B tests on a broader audience.

  • Content quality gets taken more seriously, and ad creative is now firmly established as the dominant driver of ROI. It was already plenty hard to cut through the noise and stand out but given these restrictions; advertisers will have no choice but to double down on quality and ensure their messaging is resonating with buyers.

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5. Brand and community are your cash reserve

Sometimes “brand” and “community” are abstract terms, but another lesson from the pandemic is how brand and community become undeniably tangible. The strongest loyalties and tightest-knit communities withstood the hit of the pandemic, and, in some cases, these ties grew stronger. Here are some brands that have built up incredibly strong loyalty and recognition that will serve them well if/ when their broader markets cool off:

  • Bentley: Doubled down on their loyal customer base to power through during a tough stretch in the height of the pandemic.

  • Airbnb - Maintains demand despite a tougher economy posing a threat to travel spend. 90% of its traffic is direct or unpaid, and it dominates the city search “AirBnB London” vs. all hotel city searches combined. Think about it: you’re much more likely to say, “we’re going to AirBnB it” than you are to say, “we’re going to Hilton it.”

  • Dominos and Pizza Hut: These iconic pizza brands thrive despite facing headwinds in the past few years. There are so many more delivery options via UberEats, Doordash, etc. But because these brands have spent decades generating brand loyalty—and also commercial loyalty in the form of points and promotions for members—they continue to retain business and win valuable wallet share as consumers get more careful with purchases in a tighter economy.

In sum, brand loyalty is a real asset you can call on in times of need. Exceptional content experiences will lead to increased brand loyalty as customers will be compelled to choose your brand and recommend it over your competitors—almost literally like a cash reserve.

6. The creator economy and user-generated content are taken more seriously

Last year we talked about User-Generated Content. And all our points from last year still ring true, but it’s elevated another few levels, primarily with the emergence of Tik Tok as a dominant platform. Even as recently as two years ago, Tik Tok was a little tongue-in-cheek, as if to say, “are you on it yet, *wink wink*?” Today it’s a dominant force, and to the most creative individual go the spoils, with its most popular creators raking in more than $15 million per year.

Brands need to get their heads around this and establish a strategy for existing in this ecosystem, which is not the same thing as starting to post incessantly on it from their brand account or sponsoring a ton of streams (though, as mentioned above, TikTok might not mind that.)

One brand that seems to have capitalized on the emergence of TikTok is, shocker, Starbucks. Their reusable coffee cups have become a TikTok craze being used as props. And with the low-end retailing at around $24 and reselling on eBay for almost $200, that is some very valuable user-generated content for Starbucks.

One tip to get started: Subject matter experts are very in style right now, and that is not going to change. Putting them in front of the camera for short-form videos has a high chance of producing something valuable. It may not go viral, but your most loyal fans (per the above prediction) will appreciate it. And “subject matter” doesn’t always have to refer to a product, although it can. E.g., if you’re a mattress brand, focus on sleep, and if you’re a running sneaker brand, focus on cardiovascular exercise.

Beyond just Tik Tok, any user-generated content, when done well, is by nature authentic and typically free (if it’s paid, it’s usually on the cheap compared to professional content projects). Authentic and free are a great place to be in with content if you’re a brand in 2023. The luxury brands got a head start on this trend because everybody wants a picture with their bottle of Dom Perignon or their poolside spot at the W. But any brand with a compelling story that can center around its users/customers/community can benefit from user-generated content. Here’s one example of a brand elevating its community in a non-luxury category:

Queensland Health, being a large healthcare organization, was constantly updating their content and messaging during the pandemic. When the vaccines were rolled out, they had to get information out there quickly and accurately—and were able to showcase firsthand how their community could get vaccinated:

I think the hospitals are seeing the added value that we can create. Recently, we had a photo and video shoot where kids were getting their vaccines for the first time. We were able to share the photos and video interviews with hospitals across the state on the very same day. So Bynder has really made it more accessible for our stakeholders to get information and assets quickly.
Rohan Young
Creative Team Lead at Queensland Health

If 2022 taught us anything, it’s that we need to expect the unexpected and put our customers at the center of everything we do. In 2023, it’s more important than ever to break down technology silos, focus on repurposing what you already have instead of reinventing the wheel, and get innovative when budgets get tight.

Ready to learn more about how Bynder can help you overcome content marketing challenges in 2023? Get in touch with us today!
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