The 2020s: Three predictions for an unpredictable decade

Jonathan Bradley

by Jonathan Bradley

Ten years ago, we entered the new decade without being sure what to call it. Tens, teens, tenties, tenners and even onesies were all in the running. Today, we can at least be fairly sure that the decade ahead will be called the twenties. One other prediction I’m pretty comfortable with is that the 2020s will be one of the most unpredictable decades humanity has ever known.


Political, social, environmental and technological change are accelerating towards us at astonishing pace. Only a fool would attempt to predict what the world will look like this time next year, let alone by 2030.

Here goes…

Digital marketing finally gets digital

Sure, we’ve had digital marketing media for decades, and marketing automation tools are now standard equipment. But the classic techniques of test and learn have been the mainstay of offer and message testing since time immemorial.

Now Artificial Intelligence is finally coming to bear on what we create as well as how we schedule and target it. At Luxus, we’re piloting machine learning technologies that aim to predict the emotional impact of different creative approaches and so anticipate their relative performance.

Early indications are that this exciting new tool is remarkably accurate, and clearly there’s huge campaign optimization potential here. I’m pretty sure that next few years will see AI gaining prominence as a simpler alternative to focus group research and tool to help creatives make better choices, faster.

But what about the creative work itself? There are already many great examples of AI-enabled marketing creativity. But what AI can’t do at the moment is cost-effectively originate new creative ideas. We might start seeing that in the next year or three, but for the moment the vast majority of clients will continue to brief human creatives. By 2030 – who knows?

Personalized marketing finally gets personal

According to McKinsey, personalisation will be the prime driver of marketing success in the next five years.

In a sense, marketing has been personal since before John Caples wrote ‘They laughed when I sat down at the piano’. After all, one-to-one marketing has always relied on understanding prospects well enough to be able to convince them to do something in response to your message.

However, digital marketing has been slow to apply digital technology to create genuinely personal communications. OK, we can personalise messages with people’s names and (inferred) preferences. We can make suggestions based similar-looking customers’ purchase history. And we can pursue folks around the Internet like digital Sam-I-Ams with hyper-persistent retargeting messages.

All that is about to change. The combination of Edge computing, the Internet of Things and distributed analytics is ushering in an era of machine/human interaction that happens in near real time and feels a vastly more … well … human.

From beauty counters that show you how you’d look in their makeup and algorithms that identify your emotional state to smart speakers that can hear if you need cold medicine, AI is getting personal. And it’s going to bring the biggest changes in marketing for generations.

Right now, I’ve no idea of the best way to use all these new capabilities. Without doubt there’ll be a cornucopia of issues to work through, from ethics to how brands can exercise the restraint to avoid utterly overwhelming consumers with messages. Ultimately, though, marketing will emerge more empathetic and more effective.

Marketing will pass ‘peak in-house’

It’s billed as a sure-fire path to cost savings, brand consistency, better campaign control and improved decision making. And yet Marketing Week research shows that the reality of in-housing isn’t necessarily as utopian – on all these measures, actual performance is falling short of expectations.

Pepsi’s 2017 Kendal Jenner debacle is an extreme example of how in-housing can promote insular, internally focussed thinking. Few marketers will ever foul up so spectacularly, but there’s also a subtler risk of failing by limiting access to challenging voices and fresh ideas.

In-housing has been a defining theme of marketing’s last 10 years, and it’s not going away any time soon. But as more and more marketers experience its limitations, we’ll start to return to a more balanced approach to making marketing.

The other factor limiting the shelf life of the in-house agency is the sheer scale of the technological change we’re facing. Only the biggest, best-funded in-house outfits will be able to invest the time and effort needed to test their way to new marketing practices.

Many more will prefer to draw in scarce (and expensive) skill sets project-by-project to capitalise on new technology’s potential for competitive advantage.

Oh, and here’s one more

Finally, here’s a bonus prediction: however marketing changes over the months and years ahead, Luxus will be here to help. We’re inspired by the possibilities of digital marketing technology and we’d love to help bring them to life in your business.