Marketing Brand Purpose Brand Strategy

Top marketers from United, Disney and Mastercard on the trends that will define 2023


By Kendra Clark | Senior Reporter

October 28, 2022 | 12 min read

From macroeconomic shifts and in-person experiences to web3 and streaming, these are the trends shaping the industry’s direction in 2023, per top brand marketers.

lightbulb in the dark

What macro trends will light up the industry in 2023? / Alessandro Bianchi

Marketers are already dotting their ‘i’s and crossing their ‘t’s on Q4 and looking ahead to the coming year. But setting key brand objectives when the industry – and the economy at large – is undergoing major disruption and facing countless unknowns is no easy task.

The Drum quizzed top brand marketers at the ANA Masters of Marketing conference in Orlando, Florida this week on where they’re investing time and resources in 2023. Here’s what they said.

Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communications officer, Mastercard

The priorities for 2023 are to really be able to navigate the headwinds – whether it is because of recession, inflation, supply chain disruptions or the ongoing war. These are the things [that are] profoundly impacting people’s lives.

So the key priorities are to make sure that our marketing strategies are in tune with the realities in the various countries and continents on the one hand – and to also make sure that whatever we are doing, we are measuring the returns in incredible fashion and connecting the dots between the marketing actions we are taking and the business outcomes that are happening. Attribution is very critical, so we can confidently say, ‘Hey, we are doing the right thing by investing more money in this area, or we are optimizing in a different way.’

Another top priority for me is talent. The reality is it is becoming tougher and tougher to attract top talent – particularly those who are like Leonardo da Vinci and understand the art of marketing, the science of marketing, the technology of marketing and the numbers of marketing. It’s asking quite a lot from one individual, but that’s exactly what it requires. And when you can’t find individuals of that sort, how do you make sure that your own team is equipped, cross-trained and upgrading their skills? If I put everything on a list, this would be at the top of the list.

Jennifer Donohue, senior vice-president, Disney Advertising Local

The explosion of streaming has only accelerated the rise of addressable advertising. Inherently, local is addressable – advertisers want to connect the right consumer with the right message at the right time by leveraging data insights to create a more precise view of audiences. Those capabilities are only getting stronger as streaming viewership continues to grow.

[Driving] greater engagement with consumers on a local level ... will be especially important as brands navigate an uncertain economic environment that could impact their businesses at a regional level. By putting a local lens on an advertiser campaign, brands can tap into regional nuances that include product availability, weather and seasonal implications that create greater relevancy in messaging.

Soyoung Kang, chief marketing officer, Eos

One of the common threads in a lot of conversations I’m having is the degree of uncertainty that marketers have about what 2023 is going to look like. While we are an industry that’s always evolving and there are so many new things coming our way, we’re all trying to temper our enthusiasm for all of the innovation in the industry [because we don’t know] what’s going to happen to the broader economy.

But I would also posit that now is the best time to test because, frankly, it’ll probably be more efficient than in a really booming economy. If things turn out to be more challenging macroeconomically than we would like, then the lessons that you learn now in a smaller way can still help fuel your business for when things are back on the upswing, which will be inevitable. That’s the sort of advice that I would have for marketers: despite the fact that it’s been a very uncertain climate, try not to cut your test-and-learn and your learning agenda, because it is actually the best time to learn when things are relatively quiet.

I am [also] interested ... in understanding what is the right way for us to dip a toe into web3 and the metaverse. Literally every time I say those words, I feel like I’m holding back my own eye roll – like, oh my god, yet another marketer talking about web3 and the metaverse. But the reality is that there are pockets where our consumer ... is actively engaging. And we just want to make sure that we are testing in a measured way our ability to connect with our audience in those places.

On the total opposite end of the spectrum, third-party retail media is the other massive area that we are looking at very carefully. The landscape is shifting pretty dramatically. There’s so much innovation that’s happening in retail media. For us to be able to close that loop with how we’re speaking to consumers, how we’re marketing to consumers and how we’re following them all the way through to the shopper journey is kind of amazing.

Andrew Springate, chief marketing officer, Keurig Dr Pepper

At the forefront is personalization – whether that’s custom messaging or one-of-a-kind offerings. That’s only possible when you build out capabilities around what is a reality, not a trend, that marketing today and in the future requires mastery of data analytics. A great example of that [for us] is the digital platform of Pepper Perks, where we can cultivate meaningful relationships and deepen brand loyalty while engaging and rewarding Dr Pepper fans with exclusive flavors.

[As far as our focus in 2023], it starts with putting consumer needs first. Then we’re challenging ourselves to go even further as a modern marketing team. For us, that means leaning into agile media so we can deliver the right messages at the right time through the right channels by leveraging best-in-class data analytics. And never forget that content is king – so the bar for engaging and relevant messaging gets higher every year.

Sharon Otterman, chief marketing officer, Caesars Digital (Caesars Sportsbook)

A lot of the trends we’re going to see [involve] this continued focus of ROI. Whether you believe that there’s a recession or not, a lot of marketers – even if it [has to do with] last-click attribution media – are looking for their return on investment. With all the new privacy policies and laws, [marketers are focused on] figuring out how we’re getting what we want to get out of these media deals.

Also, content and storytelling continue to be hot. More and more, we all become media companies in our own way of being able to tell really good stories. And content has never been as great as it is today, with more people and more companies [creating content].

Experiential continues to be important today – people still want to shake hands and see the brand, experience the brand and sample the brand. Being out there and talking to consumers is a really important piece, and I think that will continue. People are now out and about after two years, and they want to be experiencing things again.

That combination of experience, storytelling and looking for a good return on investment are the main themes that are going to hit home next year.

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Maggie Schmerin, managing director, head of global advertising and social media, United Airlines

[At Cannes Lions this year], the big theme was the attention economy and, ‘How can we capture people’s attention with everything that’s going on?’ Contextualizing our message – which we didn’t do a ton of prior to the pandemic – is something that ... our teams are really focused on.

A good example is we really are focused on our sustainability message – and that is a hard message. It’s complicated. It’s not necessarily the most important thing that people are thinking about as they scroll through their news feeds. But it’s important to us as a company; we’re investing more in sustainable aviation fuel than any other airline in the world. [Our marketing around that] really is helping differentiate the story that we’re telling.

When you think about where travel brands – hotels, airlines, destinations – advertise, for a while now it’s been that same traditional mix. So how can we really break away from that? We’re really focused on even more examples of that contextual message. How can we really move beyond our category and be seen as just a great brand and a great corporate leader in America and the world?

Tony Wells, senior vice-president of marketing, Verizon

Brand vs. demand: As I scan the larger marketing landscape and talk to my peers, we are clearly facing some economic headwinds and tighter budgets. This is causing a more pronounced focus on demand capture in the short term. As marketers, we have to prioritize our brand messaging to consumers on why our brand better meets their needs, based on more than just price.

Cross-media measurement: as an industry, we have never been closer to measuring audience impact across multiple mediums. We need all the players in the media ecosystem to help deliver in order to make this a reality.

Proliferation of data and digital media outlets: The volume, velocity and variability of data marketers have to process keeps increasing. Wrestling with how we protect the consumer and make the digital expression of our brands more personalized and humanized will remain paramount.

War for talent: Brand marketers have to continue attracting great talent to our industry and brands. With the expansion of digital marketing, we should open up the aperture and know we may need to embrace areas like STEM and DEI to help meet future industry needs.

DEI: Our industry needs to truly be a leader and not a laggard in this area. We’ve been talking about it for so long, but leading brands need to get ahead of the clear demographic trends we’re seeing in the US. Chief marketers should be putting in place Responsible Marketing plans that seek to drive measurable results.

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