Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Surviving the 2023 digital marketing storm: navigating recession, privacy and disruptive innovation

By Lars Lehne, Global CEO of Incubeta

Let’s face it, 2023 is going to be an undeniably challenging year for most. Rising inflation, supply chain disruption caused by the ongoing geopolitical unrest and a looming global recession will affect brands and consumers alike, with a tighter grasp on the purse strings for both discretionary spending and company budgets.

For marketers, this presents something of a double-edged sword. The consumers they’re trying to reach are less likely to be making purchases and, even when they do, buying cycles will be extended as they spend more time comparing products before making a decision. Additionally, with marketing budgets being one of the first to receive the cut in times of crisis, marketers will need to work harder to justify their investments as well as facing the likely prospect of doing more, with less.

On top of this, a shift of focus to more privacy-centric marketing and the upcoming deprecation of third-party cookies will mean that advertisers will need to completely overhaul their marketing strategies to ensure they are prepared for the future.

Challenge itself, however, doesn’t always have to be negative. We are presented with an opportunity to inject more creativity, disruption, and innovation into our marketing strategies and come out of 2023 stronger than we were before – as long as these challenges are acknowledged and dealt with appropriately.

So, as we begin the new year, here are some of the key considerations and trends we believe will drive marketing over the next 12 months, and the impact these might have on the future of our industry.

Doing more with less

This year will see a significant emphasis placed on efficiency and smart investments which, in turn, will drive a shift towards analytics and attribution to ensure money is being spent wisely and is driving the biggest business impact.

While budget cuts may be inevitable for some, history has taught us that those who maintain or increase budgets during a time of recession come out stronger the other side, meaning any reduction of marketing expenditure should be carefully considered. Ultimately though, the main consideration for brands in 2023 should be to make existing investments work harder – improving both efficiency and performance.

One way in which companies can unlock the maximum potential of their marketing teams is by combining their in-house brand expertise with the specialist knowledge offered by an agency. Research conducted by Incubeta in 2022 found that the key benefits for marketing leaders in partnering with a specialist were their ability to provide a more objective view of things (47%) along with their specialist knowledge (44%), both of which could prove beneficial while navigating a recession.

When asked the main benefits of using an in-house team, the most popular responses were their dedication to the job (46%) and their brand knowledge (44%). In combining the two, you can capitalize on the value provided by both, working in partnership to achieve your 2023 goals.

And while additional partnerships may not be the top consideration for a financially difficult year, working with an agency is often viewed as a more economical choice for marketing, suggesting it can be achieved without having to increase marketing budgets.

The year of privacy and first-party data

Privacy has already become a major part of marketing strategies, following the advent of worldwide regulations, following the trend set by the EU’s GDPR, and the focus will continue this year. As the depreciation of third-party cookies and the sunsetting of universal analytics edges ever closer, advertisers will need to develop new privacy-first, first-party data strategies to fill the gaps and continue to build in-depth representations of their customers – that will allow them to continue providing an excellent user experience.

As we head into the new year, brands ought to be running small, regular value exchanges to curate a consistent and up-to-date profile of its customers. Not only do they need to be offering value to consumers, in order for them to want to hand over their data, but they also need to be transparent of how that data will be used going forward.

Adopting strategies such as progressive profiling and continual first-party data enrichment will be key to developing marketing models for a privacy-centric future.

Traditional marketing rises again

While digital marketing is no doubt here to stay, the decline in measurability that will come as a by-product of the increased focus on privacy will see omnichannel marketing and hybrid strategies become more commonplace in 2023.

As consumer consumption continues to rise, brands will start injecting digital qualities into traditional marketing methods in an attempt to be ‘always on’ and in front of their customers. It has become more important than ever to reach consumers with the right message, at the right time – particularly during the upcoming period of economic hardship – and aligning digital strategies with other marketing platforms will help companies continue to do so.

Expect to see a renewed focus placed on Digital Out of Home, Connected TV, Marketing/Media Mix Modelling and Mobile Measurement Partner over the next 12 months.

A year of challenge and opportunity

While there are no doubt challenges to overcome in 2023, owing to the looming recession and the enforced changes to marketing structures, there is also a great deal of opportunity. The economic uncertainty will drive efficiency and adopting a privacy-centric marketing stance will help brands reconnect and re-establish trust with their audience.

By focusing on their customers, first-party data strategies and revised use of marketing platforms, potentially through partnership with marketing agencies who can offer specialist knowledge in these areas, brands can continue to reach consumers with the right message, at the right time – during, and following, the recession.