Marc Paulenich has spent his career crafting strategies that influence campaigns and shift business planning in favor of critical thinking. Over the past few months Marc has toured the country speaking at conferences and with clients about preparedness and strategic planning in the year ahead. While every new year brings the usual doses of optimism, excitement and trepidation, 2020 seems a little different. As one meme states: we're closer to 2050 than we are to 1990.
We recently sat down with Marc to discuss the year ahead and find out what strategic changes, if any, need to take place in the coming months.
Hart: If I say 2020 is a year of change, what does that mean to you?
MP: A new SWOT analysis. There is tremendous opportunity if you see and respond to the right changes early enough – and a very different side to that coin if you make the wrong bets. And clearly, what is a strength or weakness today may be viewed very differently tomorrow, depending on how the market moves.
Hart: What is the word of the year for marketers?
MP: Assistance. More than ever, brands should be focused on how they can help consumers and support their buying journey. Doing so in an authentic way, and meeting them where they are with the right content, tools and experiences, will build real value for an organization. When you think about marketing like this, you're addressing needs in the market and creating relationships with lifetime value, rather than "selling" or "persuading" a consumer for short-term gain.
Hart: What trends have especially caught your ear?
MP: Quite a few. Voice and visual search. Consumer participation. Data privacy. Growing pushback on "purpose marketing," screen time and influencer marketing. For each of these, data needs to further substantiate the trend.
Oh, and high-waisted pants for men is apparently going to be a thing. 😊
Hart: What should we immediately stop doing?
MP: Proclaiming seemingly outdated or disconnected tactics as "dead." The reality is, most change happens over a period of time, and particularly in marketing, tactics declared antiquated by a clickbait blogger probably still have strong relevance for a marketer in a specific industry with a specific audience. Let your own analytics tell you when you need to move on.
To my point earlier, however, stop viewing your customer as an analytics dashboard, an "audience" to be manipulated and sold, or as having unrealistic expectations about your product or service experience. They are real people who need real help. And they know what's possible, having interacted with other brands. When that assistance is provided or a branded experience meets their needs, they'll happily exchange their hard-earned money.
Hart: How can companies build flexibility into their plans for 2020?
MP: Consider strategy constructs more as guardrails. Whether it's a three-year plan, a brand strategy platform or other framework, you're likely to drift left of center, overcorrect, even bounce off the sides a few times as you implement new things. That's okay. It's impossible to perfectly predict the future (that won't change in 2020). Just stay on course with your overall strategic focus and keep driving forward.
Hart: What skills/traits should be focused on in schools, based on the evolving skill sets required in 2020?
MP: Blame the liberal arts college I attended for my bias, but I value critical thinking above all. Knowing how to define a problem, examine an issue and its interrelated factors, and then "connect the dots" is a skill with far more utility than more specialized marketing training that's quickly outdated, given the pace of change.
For additional thoughts and predictions for 2020, click here to read Hart's five predictions for 2020 communications planning.