The worldwide spread of COVID-19 and wide-reaching anti-racism protests have transformed the global marketing landscape, impacting consumer behaviour in most markets. However, key 2020 global marketing trends around digital, design, brand and localization still hold true. Here’s what you need to know.

Last December, we predicted the top global marketing trends across brand, digital, localization and design for the year ahead.

Six months on, 2020 has been unlike anything we could have imagined. Aside from the tragic toll on human lives, the rapid spread of COVID-19 has sparked unprecedented changes to our daily lives, jobs and economies. Meanwhile, the death of George Floyd inspired global anti-racism protests demanding urgent reform.

In this climate, many businesses have been forced to rethink the value and impact of their global marketing and localization activities. Capitalizing on short-term marketing trends has been deprioritized in favour of long-term business survival. And brands have been challenged to back up purposeful statements with concrete action, or risk angering customers.

Yet despite the challenges of 2020, the trends we identified still ring true, and there’s a strong business case for incorporating them into your strategy. We’ve revisited our advice, highlighting how these global marketing trends can help you plot your way through – and beyond – this tumultuous period.

BRAND

In a global study, 90% of consumers said they’d switch to a brand that supports a good cause. That was in 2015 – the latest date the survey was carried out. In the years since, purpose has continued to rise up many businesses’ agenda, reaching a particular crescendo in the last 18 months.

In June 2019, Unilever announced they would dispose of brands that didn’t ‘stand for something’. They must start defining themselves in terms of their positive impact on society and the planet. They aren’t alone. The triple-bottom-line ethos of People, Planet and Profit has become a priority for many businesses:

PLANET

In 2019, the focus on Planet gained a lot of traction, as the climate emergency finally took centre stage. As consumer attitudes continued to shift, many brands recognized the need to make sustainability a priority. Now discussions have begun planning for a post-COVID world, Planet is in the spotlight more than ever.

Several economic models – like the “circular economy” and “doughnut economy” – have proposed how society and business can function sustainably. These concepts are gaining momentum, acting as a further incentive for brands to take Planet seriously. Preparing today will make it far easier to adapt to any future changes.

PEOPLE

In the first half of 2020, the spread of COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter protests forced brands to re-evaluate their approach to People.

Changes in recruitment patterns – and the unexpected influx of people on the job market – have placed the employer value proposition in the spotlight. More than ever, the way brands handle this period will impact their current and future workforce. To attract, engage and retain the best people, companies need a compelling brand positioning that goes beyond compensation. We expect to see more brands aspiring to awards like ‘We Invest in People’ and B Corp certification.

PROFIT

It’s not surprising that the pivot towards cause-related marketing has sparked a backlash. Consumers are aware that Profit is the top priority for many businesses. It’s all too easy to champion social issues for selfish reasons. Brand causes must stack up or they’ll be accused of woke-washing or greenwashing.

For example, L’Oréal was accused of hypocrisy for tweeting “Speaking out is worth it” (in reference to the Black Lives Matter protests). But in 2017, they fired one of their models for doing just that. Amazon’s stand of solidarity with black workers rings hollow, as they’ve done little to protect warehouse workers from COVID-19. And BP is on the wrong end of a lawsuit for pretending to be greener than it is.

So yes, look after your People, do more to save the Planet and take a stand on social issues. But don’t fall into the trap of posturing for Profit. Back up well-meaning social media posts and emails with tangible action – or your customers will look for a more authentic alternative elsewhere.

DIGITAL

COVID-19 has pushed people and businesses across the globe online.

Even after the crisis, we won’t be returning to the way things were. Digital is set to play an even more important role in our lives and commercial transactions.

This means it’s critical your international digital marketing strategy takes Google’s transition from search engine to answer engine into account.

In June 2019, the number of zero-click searches passed the 50% mark. It’s a trend that’s continued unabated in 2020. This means the majority of Google users don’t click on any link (paid or organic) after searching.

Why? Over the years, Google’s introduced a variety of search results, like knowledge maps and featured snippets. It’s now prioritizing this content over other sources. Users can watch videos, find hotels, follow sports results and (from December 2019) track packages without leaving the SERP.

This is starving third-party sites of clicks – brands like Expedia and TripAdvisor are particularly struggling.

In other words, Google’s becoming a direct competitor. Already around 14% of all clicks on Google go to its own properties. Will it follow in the footsteps of Chinese search giant Baidu? Their rich snippets can take up to 70% of the space on page one, leaving little room for even high-ranking websites.

Chinese consumers often skip search engines in favour of virtual marketplaces – a trend that’s spreading elsewhere. In the US, the majority of product searches start on Amazon.

So how can you boost your visibility in 2020? Here are some starting points:

  1. Optimize relevant content for zero-click searchers: featured snippets, CTR optimization and the Google knowledge graph.
  2. Review brand visibility on all relevant sources – including social media and marketplaces, which are often imported into the SERP.
  3. Consider paid media to nudge awareness and post-search behaviour on specific keywords.

LOCALIZATION

Your international markets can be a much-needed source of growth and revenue at the moment. If you’re in an industry that’s grown during this period, you may even be considering further expansion – and the localization that comes with it.

The rapid rise of the Chinese economy has made China a firm priority for many brands. The advance of India and other emerging markets means we’re likely to see a further shift in language sets in the 2020s. And the global impact of COVID-19 will undoubtedly impact localization priorities, as countries grapple with the virus at different speeds and in different ways.

However, our predictions for 2020 are more closely related to factors that haven’t changed. In 2019, our Denver team visited the LocWorld conference in San Jose. Here are their thoughts on how to avoid the problems plaguing localization managers – before, during and after COVID-19.

1. LOCALIZATION SHOULDN’T BE AN AFTERTHOUGHT

Localizing product content late in the development cycle can be challenging, because changes are then difficult to manage. Planning for internationalization from the start significantly reduces both localization cost and time to market.

2. PARTNERS, NOT VENDORS

Translation has been commoditized. Pricing per word and decreasing turnaround times put the emphasis on efficiency. Which isn’t enough on its own to solve the challenges businesses face when going global.

Marketers need a partnership that goes far beyond delivering efficient translations and instead strategizes for brand experience. When localization is carried out thoughtfully, in the context of your business and marketing goals, you’ll not only have a more effective end product, but a cost-effective investment in your long-term international growth.

3. BEYOND COST PER WORD

Business leaders don’t care about the number of words translated. They care about results. And yet the localization industry is more likely to report on words, deadlines and accuracy than on the content’s impact.

True return on localization investment is about whether product and marketing content at a local level is directly driving international growth.

Establishing measurable cross-market metrics can provide a fuller picture of how your localization tactics are contributing to your global marketing goals. This includes attitudinal data from scorecards, behavioural data (e.g. uplifts in traffic, time on page) and business data like increased sales and market share.

DESIGN

Design moves fast – it always has. Here are a few global marketing trends we’re expecting to see more of in 2020:

1. TYPOGRAPHY

Think bold fonts and independent text. Some brands are relying on type to the exclusion of all else.

2. COLOURS

Metallic finishes are gaining traction. They work well with minimalist designs, while conveying luxury and good taste. Duotones will be used increasingly to simplify images and focus attention on content.

3. LAYOUT

With a huge range of templates available, competition for attention is fierce. Designers are breaking boundaries in a quest for viewers’ elusive attention.

Of course, perceptions of design trends are deeply influenced by culture. Colour associations, information density and image choices are just the start. The best approach is to combine creative design know-how with local market insights – which is exactly what we do.

wordbank-designsFINAL THOUGHTS

The key takeaways from our 2020 global marketing trends: corporate social responsibility and purpose-driven practices are increasingly important for customers – but they must feel authentic. Account for zero-click search in your digital optimization strategy. Combine creative design know-how with local market insights. And make sure your localization partner knows how to blend marketing and localization best practices.

If you need advice on how to approach your global marketing in 2020, please get in touch.

Photo by Eun-Kwang Bae on Unsplash

ABOUT Jonny Simpson

I make sure English content is excellent. And I'll write, edit, proofread and translate for that to happen. I believe the most impactful content combines useful, culturally relevant information with compelling copy, and I've seen great results with Ermenegildo Zegna and Maserati.

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