TikTok, AI and other marketing trends we can no longer ignore

Marketers are still scrambling to adjust in response to the pandemic. The good news is that, even with major shifts in audience interests and behaviour, trends and technologies continue to evolve in a way that creates exciting and promising digital opportunities.

Here are a few things we’ve noticed. Let them spark ideas for where to focus your attention next.

  1. Audio ads on the rise

Lots of people staying home is giving audio ads a big boost. Last year, 69 million new users and 30 million new subscribers joined Spotify. Podcasts are also gaining traction: most recently, Spotify announced an audio ad marketplace for targeted ads on specific podcasts. And for something pretty neat, did you know 30% of Canadian homes have at least one voice-activated smart speaker? This makes a great opportunity to experiment with interactive audio ads that allow listeners to respond with voice controls like voice search. Last year, cosmetic company NARS teamed up with Spotify on a campaign where listeners could talk to the ad to order a free product sample. With online communities like Clubhouse also soaring in popularity, audio is one tactic not to overlook.

Screenshot of Spotify platform with NARS beauty ad
NARS voice-activated Spotify campaign (via: AdWeek)

2. TikTok

Unless you spent the past year deep in the woods, it’s no secret 2020 was the Year of TikTok. We, like everyone, turned to our phones to scroll aimlessly through feta block pasta videos, DIY haircuts and footage of dancing moms embarrassing their teens (we feel for you, kiddos). With over 2 billion downloads last year alone, TikTok is projected to reach 1.2 billion active users worldwide by the end of 2021. This means their influence for brands is unparalleled. From influencer partnerships to original brand content, companies are finding success using innovative TikTok strategies. It’s a cost-effective way to reach people where they’re (we’re) already scrolling.

3. Artificial intelligence (AI)

Remember when artificial intelligence was something out of a Kubrick film? Now that we’ve blown a decade past 2001, “Hal” is a real and pervasive technology with applications in every industry — including, of course, huge implications for digital marketing. By 2020, it was anticipated that AI would power 85% of customer interactions. Today, we see chatbots automating real conversations with customers, using natural language processing (NPL) to decipher what they want and respond like a person. This doesn’t mean “robots are taking over” — by leveraging machine learning, the more questions are asked, the better chatbots get at answering them. This automation can increase the volume of conversations, provide valuable insights and save time by gathering the initial basics needed to get into a more in-depth conversation with a human agent.

Top global Google searches: looking your best; ready to spend; app interest; out and about
Google uses AI and machine learning to identify the top global trends, year over year. (Via Think with Google)

4. Authenticity, accessibility and inclusion

Given the significance and momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement and the mass protests against racial injustice over the past few years, the most successful brands will work to reflect the diversity, equity and inclusion of their audience across tactics. A study by Accenture reported that 41% of consumers will move away from brands that don’t reflect their views on identity and diversity. Authenticity is key to supporting meaningful change in our culture and our communities. Lead with purpose, not lip service. And sustain it long-term.

5. Bite-size, easy-to-consume content

Content isn’t dead — it’s just changing. People are now spending more time at home, and we’re inundated with a constant stream of information everywhere. Prioritize formats like podcasts, stories, short videos, infographics and newsletters that connect quickly and are easy for consumers to scan through quickly.

screenshot of twitch roundtable with Bernie Sanders, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Jamaal Bowman and Cori Bush
Brands and politicians are turning toTwitch live video to engage with users in real-time. (via Sprout Social)

6. Video is still pervasive—live video too

Nielsen studies show that people are watching more videos than ever before. Home-bound consumers have led to a 60% increase in the amount of video content watched around the world. Closer to home, our studio has seen an increase in YouTube ads viewed on smart TVs. And livestreaming, beyond only gaming applications, has also soared since last year. From Q1 to Q2 of 2020, Twitch grew 56% in hours watched. To put it into perspective, this is roughly five billion hours. As a marketer, it’s more bang for your buck and a more engaging way to get content faster to your viewers.

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