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Seven trends that will affect the future of marketing 

Published 10 March 2021 in Uncategorized • 5 min read

From the opportunities presented by digital marketing to the hazards of failing to grasp that brand transparency is now a crucial marketing asset, here are seven trends that are increasingly impacting your marketing strategy.  

What will define the future of marketing? Trying to predict the future is always a risky thing to do; most of us are terrible at it. But if I had to bet on what the near term will hold, I would put my money on the following 7 trends. 

Your organization will be working on addressing some of them now and those that they are unaware of should be tackled with urgency to keep your value proposition relevant and, above all, to help you be aware of where potential pitfalls may lie.  

1. There will be increasing complexity in consumer purchasing decisions 

Consumers use all kinds of media to make shopping decisions, from YouTube to Facebook, and it’s never been harder to categorize them according to their purchasing preferences. Traditional consumer categories, such as mainstream or high and low end, are been challenged. Segmentation is, therefore, becoming increasingly complex. The same customer could buy one high-end and one low-end product at the same time, selecting the products they want to buy with an unbalanced mix of emotions and rationale.

Once we can travel again, you might easily find someone who would take an EasyJet flight from London to Milan to buy a Gucci bag. Some consumers might not have any emotional connection to airlines and thus the cheapest offer will do. But when it comes to a luxury bag, they might place a value on tradition and craftsmanship.  

2. Personalization in product design and communications will be more prevalent 

Thanks to big data, social media and flexible manufacturing, more companies are learning to offer customized products and designs. This trend is reaching a growing number of industries including the health sector.

While pharma companies continue to treat all patients in more or less the same way, they will soon be moving towards personalized medication based on differences, such as age, sex, weight, and medical history. Watch out for many other industries starting to follow suit. 

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 3. Mobile communications are becoming the center of marketing  

There were accusations about WhatsApp giving Facebook its users’ phone numbers to deliver targeted ads. Although getting a text message about one of your favorite products may seem intrusive, so is telemarketing, and that hasn’t gone away. 

As companies attempt to communicate with consumers more and more via their mobile devices, watch out for consumers’ negative reactions if they feel their privacy is being intruded upon.  

4. Transparency will dictate brand-customer relationships 

From The Weinstein Company to Monsanto and even Facebook, the list of disgraced companies keeps getting longer. Businesses cannot escape the transparency offered by social media.

More companies are learning the lesson that if they aren’t truthful, they will pay the price: not only in hefty fines imposed upon them by authorities, but also in lost loyalty and business from their customers. 

5. Personalized data-driven marketing will become friendlier 

Thanks to big data, companies are learning an awful lot about who you are and what you like. They will get keep getting better at targeting you and communicating with you in the most effective way depending on who you are and what your habits say about you. 

That might not mean we can say goodbye to spam just yet, but the companies that figure out how to stop casting their ‘one-size-fits-all’ messages widely, and start targeting people in more meaningful ways, will win.  

6. More accurate metrics will continue to emerge 

Until recently, justifying and measuring the impact of their decisions has often been a major challenge for marketers. Today, there are many ways to measure online activity – likes on Facebook, clicks on articles, and so on – however, many of these are not comprehensively meaningful quite yet. Facebook was recently caught out data about how many views videos on its platform elicited. Imagine the ramifications of that elaboration on advertisers who thought they were getting more bang for their buck! But this should change soon.

Remember when people used to talk about not knowing which half of their advertising budget was wasted? Well this should be approaching somewhere closer to 20% soon. Measurement will probably never be perfect, but digital technology is improving it. Will we ever know the exact trajectory of who views an ad and then opens their wallet to buy a particular product? I’m not so sure. But that is the stuff marketer’s dream are made of. 

7. The marketing organization will increasingly move from digital silos to integrated teams 

A few years ago you would have the digital team on one side and the marketing team on the other. It can no longer be that way. Digital has to be part of everything now so the two have to be fully integrated. As one marketer recently suggested, companies do not necessarily need a digital strategy, what they really need to know is how to plug the digital component into the complex process of how consumers make purchasing decisions! 

These are just some of the main trends I see happening in marketing over the next few years but there will certainly be others, such as the circular economy, sustainability and regulations surrounding it.  


Dominique Turpin - IMD Professor

Dominique Turpin

Professor Emeritus of Marketing Strategy

Dominique Turpin is Professor Emeritus of Marketing Strategy at IMD. A marketing expert and Japan specialist, he was IMD’s Dentsu Chaired Professor of Marketing and the Dean of External Relations until 2022 and served as IMD President and Nestlé Professor from 2010 to 2016. He was previously the Director of the IMD MBA (Master of Business Administration) and PED (Program for Executive Development).

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