The 6 Marketing Trends That Will Drive Innovation in 2020

Top marketing innovators across industries share their predictions

a collage of 21 marketing executives
We asked 21 executives across a range of industries what they see as the emerging trends of 2020. Julian Gamboa
Headshot of Heide Palermo

Innovation never stops. But a new year—and a new decade—gives us a chance to pause, reflect and get excited about the possibilities. So we asked top marketing innovators from brands including Google, HBO, Hulu, Visa, Sony and Chipotle one question: What’s happening in marketing right now that you’re most excited about? 

We’ve rounded up their answers, along with key trends that surfaced in 2019 and will continue to shape the industry, from emerging technologies to experiential to the impact of culture 

1. The Democratization of Content Creation 

“2020 will be the year that we see the democratization of celebrity at scale. With new platforms in streaming and social media, we will see attention shift away from traditional media allowing new voices to be heard.” Nick Tran, vp of brand and culture marketing, Hulu

“The democratization of creative tools … has resulted in a marketplace full of talented content creators. In addition to external agency partners, [we have] an in-house creative team as well as a hybrid team made up of agency and in-house talent. We are also making content with influencers, media partners and content distributors of all kinds.” Brynn Bardacke, vp for North America content and creative excellence, The Coca-Cola Company

I am most excited about the shift in content consumption behavior, which is creating opportunities and forcing businesses to rethink how and where they go to for ideas and content. Brands can no longer thrive by going to the same places they’ve always gone. If the business of content has completely changed, why hasn’t the way we go about making it? The industry needs to innovate and I say, ‘bring on the challenge.’” Tina Walsh, chief brand officer, Tongal 

“Capturing content is now easier than ever. But VSCO users have taught us that providing tools for creation isn’t enough. They need safe spaces where they can express their own unique voice free of judgment. Creative democratization is best realized within supportive communities that are based on freedom of expression.” Tesa Aragones, chief marketing officer, VSCO

“Content creation has quickly moved beyond marketing and is now influencing product design in unique ways. With the right tools, consumer communities can now be given the keys to the products and experiences they love, which in turn changes their engagement with brands. It’s really exciting to see this beginning to take shape—it’s a whole new model of consumer ownership when you think about products that are designed and created in part by the community.” Jodie Antypas, vp of consumer insights and UX research, EA 

2. Voice Technology and 5G

Advancements in voice technology and ubiquitous computing will bring new levels of humanity to technology, simplifying how we use it and ironically helping us detach for it. Speaking is one of the most natural ways of interacting and will create whole new challenges and opportunities for brands, eventually redefining what ‘brand’ means in the future. Marvin Chow, vp of global marketing, Google and one of Adweek’s 2019 Brand Genius honorees

“Voice technology is something that we’ve been working on for the past couple of years, and we were excited to partner with Pandora on understanding how consumers are interacting with voice technology while they’re in their daily routines. Conversational AI is certainly something that’s evolving and advancing every day.” Orchid Bertelsen, head of digital innovation, Nestlé USA 

“Right now, I’m excited about what 5G will bring to the future of live entertainment. A faster, more powerful connection unlocks a more social, frictionless and immersive fan experience while presenting a powerful opportunity for deeper engagement between fans, artists and brands.” Kevin Chernett, evp of global partnerships and content distribution, Live Nation 

3. The Impact and Influence of Culture 

“We have a tremendous responsibility not only to our brands but also to our consumers. … We have the ability to bring people together, diminish divisiveness, and celebrate inclusion. And by amplifying those messages, we are in the driver’s seat to influence a culture that is truly about inclusiveness and connectedness.” Lizette Williams, head of U.S. cultural engagement and experiences, McDonald’s 

“I get excited when I see brands willing to stand for something relevant and meaningful in the marketplace, even if it’s not universally accepted. … Brand marketing should be about more than providing products and services—it should be about changing our culture.” Karla Davis, senior director of integrated marketing and media, Ulta Beauty 

One trend I find interesting is how customers today have increased expectations of how and where brands show up and what they stand for. … The role brands play in culture is at an interesting point in time, and I expect we’ll start to see great brands emerge from the pack through remarkable storytelling, cultural relevance and more contextually relevant creative. Lauren Weinberg, global head of marketing, Square 

4. Increased Personalization 

We are able to develop a deeper relationship with consumers because we have access to real-time data, allowing personalization at scale. This is motivation to raise the bar for the communications we put into the world. Marketers who understand the power of insights and data use it as an accelerator to create value for consumers through their work. Mary Yee, vp of global marketing for PlayStation, Sony Interactive Entertainment

I am excited about our newfound ability to leverage customer data for building brand, and not just for driving sales. What defines you as a person goes deeper than how much you spend: It’s your values, tastes, friends, personal features and overall identity. These are the data points you want to create an emotional connection with your customers.Benjamin Lord, marketing consultant (formerly executive director at NARS Cosmetics) 

A customer now expects you to know who they are, where they are in the world and what they value, and then orchestrate the service experience around them. … Through emerging tech like AI and near field communication (NFC), we can make the transaction totally frictionless and, more importantly, we can recognize you, greet you and provide an individualized service experience. That is the future of marketing.” Mark Berinato, vp of digital experience, Panera Bread 

5. The Value of Experiential 

“Young people respond to meaningful connections that support their values. I see an exciting movement in the experiential marketing space where authentic and innovative IRL consumer experiences are driving brand love.” Ivan Heredia, vp of marketing, The Walt Disney Company 

“The move from the age of the customer to the age of trust. The sooner companies realize that in reality, it’s the customers who are the heroes and begin catering to their solicited and unsolicited needs with seamless experiences, the better chance they have at building a brand that creates a lasting and sustainable impact. After all, experience is the new product, and time is the new price.” Hussein Dajani, general manager of digital and CX transformation, Nissan Motor Co. 

“For two years in a row at SXSW, we bucked the digital trend and developed experiential events. Similarly, earlier this year for Game of Thrones, we brought Westeros to Austin and gave fans the chance to step into the world of the show. We always have an eye on what’s next, but sometimes innovation means going left when everyone else is going right.” Zach Enterlin, evp of program marketing, HBO  

“In the world of experiential, it’s been exciting to see brands streamline their teams and agency partners to work together on initiatives as opposed to the separate silos we’ve become accustomed to seeing. We’re happy to see more cross-functional planning where marketing, media, comms and experiential all have a seat at the table together so we can curate and execute really dynamic experiences.” Andrew Steinthal, co-founder and CRO, The Infatuation. CRO, Zagat

6. The Power of Data

“I am fascinated by the changing dynamic in the media and content landscape, and how consumers are starting to recognize that ‘free’ services come with a price tag—perhaps your data becomes a currency you are not entirely comfortable with. … These still embryonic shifts in perception combined with emerging regulation will, in my view, gradually reshape the landscape.” Adrian Farina, head of marketing for Europe, Visa

“Retention will be king. As data provides access to a deeper understanding of the customer’s experience and preferences, marketers will focus as much on retention as acquisition. I am really excited about the opportunity that CRM provides to engage with customers where they are at in their relationship with the brand.” Tressie Lieberman, vp of digital and off-premise, Chipotle 

There is a huge pendulum swing around these walled gardens of data—the Googles, the Facebooks, the Amazons—right now. I think the pendulum will swing back to where consumers have more autonomy and control over what brands collect, use and for how long they’re able to use it, more than ever before. Jonathan Lacoste, president and co-founder, Jebbit 

@heidefaith Heide is the senior director of brand community at Adweek and Editor of the Inside the Brand series, including the CMO Moves and Gen ZEOs podcasts, Innovators, Challengers, and Women Trailblazers. She also leads Adweek's Innovators Council.