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Gen Z, TikTok and artificial intelligence—they’re not only the future, they’re the present and in 2023, brands need to pay attention. When it comes to creating a winning digital marketing strategy, it’s time to stop pondering on what the future might bring and start proactively embracing new technologies with the top digital marketing trends for 2023.

Ready to get stuck in? You’ll need to be if you want to get ahead of the digital marketing game this year. And to help simplify things a little, we’ve broken down the top digital marketing trends that you’ll need to know about in 2023.

The 7 top digital marketing trends of 2023

    1. Social impact strategy front and center
    2. Youth-centered marketing
    3. Authentic, humanized branded content
    4. Audio-first marketing
    5. Sympaphonic ads
    6. AV product marketing
    7. Realist influencer marketing

1. Social impact strategy front and center

Brands taking a stand when it comes to their values is nothing new. But putting their impact strategy at the forefront of their digital marketing strategy reflects a shift in how brands are framing themselves in response to global events.

And we’re not just talking about reacting to disasters or socio-political events. Consumers want brands who take the initiative authentically and mindfully; who center themselves around the values and morals they stand for.

Putting your values front and center will help audiences connect with what you do by Eve Spears via Dribbble
Liquid Death cans of water
Liquid Death is known for being vocal yet humorous about fighting climate change by Liquid Death
Nike’s campaign with Colin Kaepernick
Sometimes highlighting your social impact strategy will be a risky, bold statement like when Nike worked with Colin Kaepernick following his taking a knee during the national anthem at an NFL game in 2016 by Nike

In terms of digital marketing, embedding social causes into your brand’s overarching mission isn’t a ‘trend’ as such, but a natural effect of what it means to be a values-led brand in today’s world. Your social content, your graphics, your email topics—it all needs to be influenced by, and feed back into, your social impact strategy.

2. Youth-centered marketing

Gen Z isn’t just the ‘next generation’ of consumers. They’re the current generation, with $143 billion in purchasing power under their belt, they made up over 40% of US consumers in 2021.

On top of their impressive power as consumers, Gen Zers are trail-blazing how we view and interact with brands, largely through youth-dominated platforms like TikTok. Seeing through traditional marketing ploys, they choose to connect only with the brands that truly appeal to their interests and the way they communicate. Gen Zers want companies to be honest, transparent, down-to-earth, and authentic.

bold branding for a puppet company
Studies have shown that younger generations find bright colors in branding more motivating by Dean Design

An increasing trend with younger generations is that they don’t like to feel like they’re being sold a product, they want it to be more experiential or imaginative. They like short-form video content with eye-catching visuals so softer, video-based campaigns that appeal to their values are the way to go if you’re looking to attract this market. Frame your brand identity around their tastes. For instance, studies show that in an often scary world, Gen Z find hope, motivation and togetherness in bright colors.

An app aimed at Gen Z
Connecting with younger generations means accessing hugh purchasing power by Andrew Jr via Dribbble
@chipotle *Takes only one napkin* #chipotle #pov #firsttime ♬ original sound – Chipotle

Chipotle is one of many brands that have adapted to TikTok by incorporating youth-focused trends by Chipotle via TikTok

It’s not just about slapping some acid graffix on your marketing materials and calling things ‘lit’. Developing a brand persona that truly resonates with younger generations is more than a trend for 2023, it’s the beginning of the way that all brands need to be positioning themselves, from the bright, colorful aesthetics that most appeal to Gen Z tastes, to the genuine mission and personality that they value above all else.

3. Authentic, humanized branded content

It’s not just Gen Z who are looking to connect with brands on a deeper level. Given the most recent world events, almost everyone is seeking light relief in their everyday lives—including how they align with brands.

A post from Aerie’s AerieReal website using a ‘real’ customer rather than a model
Fashion brand Aerie’s #AerieREAL campaign highlights authenticity through its digital marketing rather than focusing on models by Aerie.

Creating digital content that offers a true, humanlike personality complete with humor, vulnerability, honesty, and everything else we seek in our interpersonal relationships is one of the best ways to build brand loyalty in 2023. One effective way to create these bonds is by featuring characters or mascots throughout your digital marketing, whether we’re talking video, email or app designs.

Of course, the personas need to feel relevant and authentic to your brand as a whole. A fun and friendly face that target customers can relate to is a great way to create loyalty through your digital marketing.

a brand’s character animation
Characters and mascots are a great way to give your brand a human persona by barbaraku
Hootsuite’s mascot Owly in a social post inspired by @dudewithsign
Hootsuite uses its Owly mascot throughout its digital marketing by Hootsuite

Ultimately, we are moving past perfectly curated social feeds and into a space that’s more realistic, gritty and unairbrushed. Consumers want reminders that the people behind the brands are going through the same experiences as them, in the same world. They want to align with your brand persona on a more personal, meaningful level before they buy into your brand or service. For once, society is craving realism over aspiration.

4. Audio-first marketing

It’s hard to overstate the impact that TikTok is having on the world of digital marketing. But one of the more novel effects that it’s had on the scene is the rise of audio-first content. This, particularly, has been born from TikTok’s positioning as not just a social platform for video, but for audio-based content of all kinds.

branding for a podcast
Podcasts like this one have opened new channels for personalized marketing that customers can relate to. Design by Di Simoes

With 90% of users considering sound to be a vital part of the platform’s experience, they are eight times more likely to recall branded content when distinctive sounds are used. Being audio-first as a digital marketing strategy is driving loads of ads we’re seeing online, including how-to’s, product highlights and teasers, behind-the-scenes snapshots, and more.

@washingtonpost At least five people were killed and 25 were injured after a man with a rifle walked into an LGBTQ nightclub and opened fire, according to law enforcement officials. #ColoradoSprings #ClubQ ♬ original sound – We are a newspaper.

Publications like The Washington Post have moved to audio-first digital marketing to grab audiences’ attention. Video by The Washington Post via TikTok

What’s more, an impressive 81% of podcast listeners take action after hearing audio ads on their favorite shows. This ‘action’ could be following up on what they heard with online research, liking the brand on socials, and/or discussing what they’ve heard with those around them. Allowing the podcast hosts themselves to record the ad makes the content feel incredibly genuine to listeners.

This is because audio-first content can really help promote authenticity in advertising. Whether it’s on a podcast or TikTok, hearing the comforting tone and voice of your audience’s favorite influencer as they describe your product means the audience will be more likely to believe in it and trust you as a brand.

So move away from the fleshed-out, word-for-word script adopted by radio advertisers and give your brand partners room to play.

5. Sympaphonic ads gain steam

In 2019, British start-up AI Music launched the first sympaphonic ad, meaning they used a ‘shapeshifting’ technology to allow users to remix songs using artificial intelligence. In other words, the technology automatically adjusted the digital advert’s backing music to match whatever the user was currently listening to.

a Dunkin Donuts iced drinks advert
Dunkin’ Donuts had huge success with an AI-powered audio advert by Dunkin’ Donuts

It might sound like a fad, but Dunkin’ Donuts used this technology back in 2021 and their results were pretty monumental. They recorded a 238% increased engagement when compared to the non-personalized advertising featured in their other campaigns.

The beauty of sympaphonic advertising means that you as the brand doesn’t pick just one backing track for your content that all your users will experience. Instead, you tailor it to fit exactly what the individual wants to hear at the time the ad is played to them. Incredibly personal, this trend is surely the VIP section of digital marketing.

And since it’s proven that using music in adverts increases recall and purchase intent, the only thing better than finding the perfect song for your ad is allowing the ad itself to select a track that will resonate perfectly with your listener.

So, once you get past the confusing name and futuristic techiness of it all, one thing remains true: this works. In fact, studies have shown that audio-only content can actually have a stronger emotional impact on listeners than video, causing increased changes in heart rate and body temperature.

Users want immersive experiences from the content they connect with, as it helps them to build empathy and find connection and inspiration within the content they’re immersed in. Sympaphonic ads feel immersive because they fit in so seamlessly to the content that the listener was already engaged with, without taking them out of the experience like a traditional ad break would. So, the more seamlessly brands can adapt that feeling into their digital marketing, the more easily they’ll be able to reach their audiences.

6. AV product marketing

Speaking of immersing consumers into ads, exploring audio visual (AV) technology with your digital marketing strategy is becoming a key feature. In a sea of static imagery online, branded visuals that engage with multiple sense create a more memorable, impressive experience for the user. As the brand, you can enjoy being noticed and nurturing brand loyalty with consumers who actually look forward to seeing your content.

via Coach x Tom Wesselman

So how do you incoporate AV technology into digital marketing content? With increasingly sophisticated technologies known to be becoming more accessible, consumer’s expectations are heightening. So it’s becoming more common for brands to go the extra mile for key products or limited edition collaborations.

via Panasonic Connect

This means creating immersive, intricate and interactive mini-sites that users can have fun with. They often include gamification, meaning that designers reward the user as they navigate around the site and reach specific goals or CTAs. As we move into 2023, it’s not enough to rely on static digital marketing anymore.

Two Instagram filters by ASOS
ASOS uses Instagram filters to engage with audiences on social media by ASOS

AV technology can be adopted by brands on a smaller scale too. Think about social media filters where users can engage with your product while they’re browsing, such as trying on a lipstick to see how it looks. Or, you can follow the footsteps of Meta and go big, creating an entire branded universe for your users to enjoy.

7. Realist influencer marketing

Influencer marketing might not sound like anything new. But the way brands invest in and work with influencers to reach their audiences is in constant flux. In 2023 we’re expecting to see a shift away from the classically aspirational influencer.

TikTok (yep, it’s coming up again!) has altered the way social media users view one another, giving anyone a platform to amass huge followings (read: influence) without the need for perfectly curated feeds on Instagram or constant long-form content creation like on YouTube. Now, they’re seeing through the highly-paid ads by celebs and high-profile influencers, and are turning away in favor of more legitimate, trustworthy sources: each other.

@catfasoldt Let me know what I should do next!! #alphabet #babyboy #activities #summer #summerfun #fyp #fypシ #foru #SearchForWonderMom #momandson #trends #challenge #summer2022 #momlife #thingstodo #sahm #fun #lol #omg #socute #alligator #local #farm #microinfluencer #johnnydepp #met #trial ♬ Love You So – The King Khan & BBQ Show

Brands in all industries can work with micro influencers to promote their product or service by Cat Fastoldt via TikTok

So in 2023, we’re predicting a drop in expensive celebrity endorsements and a rise in the ranks for TikTok’s micro-influencers. Brands are learning that even users with the smallest followings can have the biggest impact. As long as their content is fully aligned with your brand, their followers will trust their content and take action.

an influencer’s website
You don’t have to be a celebrity to be an influencer by Soda Creek Digital

Quick, real-time content is the future and for brands working with the influencers that have nailed the genre, they’ll be able to reap the benefits of connected audiences that trust the people they follow on social far more than they trust brands, or even their friends. Finding and connecting with the right influencer for your brand is still a big move for digital marketing in 2023. But what’s more important will be the content you create together: from TikTok dances to livestream shopping videos to TikTok takeovers, there are plenty of ways brands can harness the power of micro-influencers to help them get noticed.

Reset your content with the top digital marketing trends

So there you have it. With these seven trends in your arsenal, you’re well-prepared for a successful year of digital marketing in 2023. Refresh your strategy and put these ideas into action, and you’re sure to secure increased sales, brand loyalty, and digital followings.

These big new trends, like AV, AI, and immersive experiences, aren’t going anywhere. So if you get ahead of these tech advancements in the next year, you’re set to be ahead of the curve in 2024 and every year to come. Just make sure every digital marketing campaign you adapt for 2023 feels authentic, engaging, and relatable to your audience. They’re embracing future trends, and so should you.

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