Data & Tech

Practicality may trump purpose in 2024 marketing, report says

CMOs will invest more in AI and data privacy tools and spend less time on ESG, Forrester predicted.
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Amelia Kinsinger

4 min read

Practicality is in and purpose is out, according to Forrester’s predictions for B2C marketing in 2024.

The predictions, compiled by Forrester’s team of B2C marketing analysts, are based on economic forecasts and their own research and “are meant to swing big,” according to Mike Proulx, VP and research director of the company’s CMO Practice. The overarching takeaway, he said, is that in 2024, CMOs will lead with practicality, and purpose-driven decisions may take a backseat for the first time in a long time.

“CMOs are under increased pressure to drive profitable growth, and we are entering a year in 2024 where consumers will be more divided than ever before because of what’s going on with our culture war,” Proulx told Marketing Brew. “That’s only going to become more inflamed by the 2024 presidential election that will play out here in the US.”

If purpose goes out the window for some CMOs, Forrester also predicted that more “practical” investments, including in AI and data privacy, will be more front and center in 2024.

Purpose less

Driving the topline prediction was a slight decline (of three percentage points) in the share of US online adults who said they regularly buy from brands that display values in line with their own—marking the first time that share has dropped in four years.

The report anticipates that nine out of 10 mainstream brands in the US will go quiet on social justice causes and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) concerns, marking a turnaround from recent years in which it’s become more common for companies to speak out.

Some recent brand efforts that have touched those issues have proved more contentious than others, and instances like the backlash to Bud Light’s collaboration with Dylan Mulvaney may have taught brands that taking a stance on social and cultural issues, either inadvertently or intentionally, can be “a risky business choice,” per the report.

“Speaking out on social values as a brand has become that much more risky because of the contention that exists in the marketplace among consumers. It is a no-win situation at this point,” Proulx said. “We are advising clients that if you’re a brand that is already defined by its social values, then absolutely stay the course. Otherwise, consider the risks before you wade into the culture war.”

Hi, AI

Perhaps less contentious is the decision for marketers to lean into AI. Many are already all about it, and Forrester predicts that 20% of CMO job descriptions will soon include experience with generative AI.

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“Generative AI is one of the biggest transformative technologies of the current generation, akin to what happened with the internet in the early ’90s, or mobile and the iPhone in the mid-2000s,” he said. “This is a big deal, and the reason it has big-deal implications heading into 2024 is that there are actually practical use cases for generative AI right now.”

Agencies and consultancies tend to be further along than the brands they work for when it comes to integrating AI tools, Proulx said, but that is to be expected, since they’re meant to help clients navigate new tools and strategies.

“CMOs are really just entering the experimentation phase,” Proulx said. “If 2023 was the year of generative AI intrigue amongst CMOs, 2024 will be the year of experimentation, and CMOs have to double down on it to make it a priority within their marketing strategies.”

Privacy, please

In addition to investing in AI, Forrester predicts that CMOs from five big consumer brands will allocate funds toward bolstering privacy teams next year. Maybe that’s unsurprising to those who’ve been followingprivacy laws closely.

Enhanced privacy considerations may not mean hiring a whole new team, according to Proulx, but could instead come in the form of retraining existing privacy team members to be dedicated specifically to marketing. Just 17% of “privacy decision-makers” said the privacy team at their company has marketing skills, according to Forrester.

“Every company has some privacy team that exists, but the problem is they’re servicing the entire enterprise,” he said. “Because of the fundamental importance of privacy as it relates to consumer marketing, you simply can’t decouple privacy from the marketing function.”

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