2024: A Dragon year for Marketers?

Shai Luft
By Shai Luft | 15 February 2024
Shai Luft.

Here we go again. Another year done and dusted and a new year starting full of hopes and dreams for marketers. As the year kicks off, many marketers seem cautiously optimistic about 2024, yet there is much unfolding that may bring about
another unpredictable year.

It also happens to be the Chinese Calendar Year of the Dragon. The attributes of a dragon may have some interesting parallels with what’s in store for 2024 and perhaps marketers may be able to benefit by learning a little from this truly magical
creature. On one hand, tenacious and intelligent working towards conquering whatever challenges come their way. On the other hand, aggressive and unforgiving.

Now, I happen to be born in the year of the Dragon myself, so I know a thing or two about being a “dragon”! In the last few years, marketers have found that they have been dealt challenges left, right and centre with many unpredictable fires and
challenges (lockdowns anyone?). Marketing teams needed to adapt quickly to fast changes and adopt some dragon traits channelling that intelligence, adaptability and harnessing fearlessness.

So here are five challenges and simple strategies that harness our inner dragon and may help us through the upcoming turbulence.

Eroding consumer confidence - We have several international conflicts impacting consumer confidence including Ukraine, the Middle East, Taiwan and others. In addition, the upcoming US elections towards the end of 2024 are expected to create fear and uncertainty amongst consumers as well as challenge international relations especially between China, Russia and the US. An unstable global climate is never a good thing for marketers especially when consumers are fearing escalations of
global conflicts.

In addition, Europe is still experiencing major challenges in airspace, energy supply and general instability as a result of the war with Ukraine, sanctions on Russia and now new issues arising around major transport passages such as the
Suez Canal, Red Sea and drought impacting the Panama Canal. These will all further magnify the supply issues we face and may push inflation up again and further dent consumer confidence.

Marketers need an always on strategy to create confidence amongst consumers.Tactical campaigns should be overlayed to augment the always on strategy, not replace it. As Binet and Field’s study “The Long and the Short of It”, conclusively found a strong and consistent investment in brand paves the way to short-term performance marketing, making it more effective when used at the right ratio. Working out the optimum mix of investment against each part of your media mix is therefore critical as is the ability to retain some flexibility as conditions change.

Lack of digital talent - Marketers are still in a race for talent, especially when it comes to digital skills. While there has been an easing of this shortage from 12 months ago, the Australian Government has announced a raft of cuts to immigration quotas and tougher criteria which will cut access to digital talent, especially in the working holiday and skilled streams. Furthermore, the digital media landscape is becoming more complex with many additional data providers, DSP’s and publishers offering increased options and capabilities which will require more technical and analytical skills. Along with marketing budget cuts this means marketers need to work smarter to retain and attract the best digital talent to their business.

While there is still room for digital specialists like a social expert, businesses need to attract experienced digital natives who can work cross-channel or partner up with a digital first agency. Marketers should ask tough questions around the tech stack their agency uses and the experience of staff managing their account to ensure they are getting the best team possible that is equipped with knowledge, experience and ongoing training.

Poor investment in brand - The majority of brands have underinvested over the last 4 years in brand awareness. Given this focus on lower funnel activity and short-term wins to “keep the lights on”, many brands are suffering from long-term underinvestment and are finding it harder to reap the benefits of being top-of-mind. As a result, they are also becoming more reliant on a handful of platforms like Google and Meta, neglecting other entities that could better serve their business goals.

Now is the time to build brand equity. With more channels turning digital such as Outof-Home, TV and Audio and better tools such as integrated brand lift studies, search and social uplift and more, marketers don’t need to invest huge sums to build their brand awareness and can better connect the impact of investing in brand building to their bottom line. Brand building should be an “always on” strategy not something you turn on and off.

More competition - Many brands are experiencing heightened competition. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reported a net increase of 187,619 business trading over the last 2 years. As time goes by the number of brands competing for the same dollar is increasing. We only need to look at the average supermarket shelf and the size of supermarkets to see how competition is increasing and new brands are constantly popping up.

Marketing teams need to be constantly studying their competitors and differentiating to stay ahead. We’ve heard enough about Blockbuster, Nokia and others who fell asleep at the wheel while the competitors drove ahead of the curve and took their market. This should encompass not just features and pricing but also ongoing media experimentation to find new high performing channels, creative and messaging. With strong media pricing inflation already underway plus additional inflation drivers such as the US election and UEFA Euro 2024, marketers need to diversify and increase their media agility this year.

So as you begin to face the challenges of 2024 remember to embrace your inner dragon. It just might help lift your success.

Shai Luft, COO Bench Media

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