Spilling the Tea: 5 Consumer Marketing Trends to Watch

By Annie Perkins, Managing Director, Consumer & Health and Megan Gaffney, VP, Consumer

It is our favorite time of the year, when beefy research and insight reports appear outlining anticipated consumer behaviors for the upcoming year. We’ve seen a ton of brands emerge as powerhouse cultural icons by tapping into and even setting these direct to consumer marketing trends. We’ve combed through them all, and here’s what’s been rising to the top and will be guiding our thinking in 2023.

Brands putting customers in the center of consumer marketing

This past April, we were grateful to attend the McDonald’s* Worldwide Conference, which brought together thousands of restaurant owners/operators, leadership, regional staff and partners. One of my favorite quotes from McDonald’s CMO Morgan Flatley reflecting on recent marketing success was how brands must “move at the speed of culture,” offering highly relevant moments for customers to not simply engage with a brand, but actually create with the brand and make it part of their everyday. This is also a takeaway in Mintel’s 2023 Global Consumer Report. The brand’s Menu Hack and Sprite campaigns this year are notable examples of customer-led initiatives.

2023 to-do: Intently listen to what customers are doing and love most and allow them to run with those stories. This will cultivate superfans.

Accessibility in the digital age

There is no question we have seen massive DE&I brand shifts recently, with commitment and innovations coming from all angles. For DTC marketers, many are prioritizing website design enhancements to help blind and visually impaired consumers shop seamlessly. Headspace has doubled down on this, partnering with Perkins Access to make accessibility a number one priority. They say, “Our mission is to create a world where everyone is kind to mind – which is why we’re committed to making our mobile product more accessible for every person, regardless of their visual, auditory, cognitive or more abilities.” 

2023 to-do: Reassess milestones you’ve set out to achieve in your DE&I strategy and communicate progress ongoing.

Cross-channel integration at the forefront of cultural-driven marketing and PR

We’ll RT our own predictions from last year because it is even more important now. When you look at internal and external teams (data, strategy, PR, marketing), are they in lockstep? If you want all gears in the funnel to be successful, they cannot be siloed. The convergence of brand and performance marketing is here (it’s been here for a bit), and direct to consumer marketing campaigns need to be culturally relevant and fully supported across all channels for impact. Hidden Valley’s Ranch on a Branch is a great example of taking a cultural event (Elf on the Shelf) and creating an ownable moment supported by multiple touchpoints via an integrated channel approach.

2023 to-do: Make sure your teams are coordinated like a symphony to make campaigns and content reach further, faster.

Rethinking celebrity endorsements

The Adidas and Kanye West — or “Ye” — partnership sticks with us as an example of the risks involved in working with any influencer (especially a high-profile celeb). It can be beneficial if you find the right long-term partner who is truly invested in business but tend to work best when promoting a campaign with an authentic cause. Before committing to a macro-level partner (and price tag), test a strategic approach with ongoing nano and micro influencers, who are creating big ROI because they have sizable engagement rates and 1:1 trust with their audience. The right channel, affiliate and paid strategies behind these partners can drive massive impact, and we’ve seen it work incredibly for our clients — especially direct-to-consumer SMB brands, for whom the price tag is more accessible.

2023 to-do: No matter the size of the partner, at the end of the day only work with those who share the same values as your brand.

Invest in planning sprints and high-performance channels

While a recession hasn’t officially been declared, consumer behaviors and spending are dizzying and all over the place. Consumer sentiment took another hit in October, yet consumers are still spending, and the holiday shopping outlook appears fairly healthy. The instability reinforces the need for strong, nimble integrated marketing teams (like mentioned above) to ensure every dollar spent is maximized. Toss out any planning beyond 6+ months and stay laser-focused on short-term consumer marketing campaigns (quarterly). Track towards measurable and integrated performance-driven tactics that enhance trust and validation (during a shaky time) like influencer engagement, PR, affiliate programs and sponsored editorial.

2023 to-do: Closely watch outputs and reinvest where the revenue or leads are coming from.

Whatever direct to consumer marketing trends you plan to capitalize on in 2023, ensure they are backed with an integrated team who can help fire on all channels, with a laser focus on performance and ROI.

*SHIFT client

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