Marketing in 2024: AI, Brand, and the End of Social Media?

As that song from Rent says, “525,600 minutes. How do you measure, measure a year?”

It’s been a heck of a year in marketing. We’re not going to miss a lot about 2023. It started as disruptive and tough. Many colleagues, especially in tech, suddenly found themselves without work, mostly based on the perceived best practices of some numbskull billionaire who played around with his tech company to see how far he could break it down before it broke.

But 2023 did have its moments. The explosive idea that remains generative AI prompted some amazing new startups and innovations. And, of course, the appearance of the predicted recession never happened.

Maybe the biggest thing in 2023 centered on all the handwringing about what to start in marketing, what to innovate, and what to change. If you were in the business of marketing change in 2023, you spent the large part of the year like Notre Dame’s Rudy — on the sideline just hoping that coach would call your name.

Watch CMI’s chief strategy advisor Robert Rose delve into 2023 and his hopes for 2024, or keep reading for his thoughts:

Almost one year ago to the day, Robert covered this new thing called ChatGPT. Demand was so high that OpenAI turned off access requests for the app. He advocated for exploring how it would expand your capabilities and fit into your marketing process rather than how it would replace you. He predicted generative AI would extend your capabilities as writers and content creators and close the doors on the need to do other tasks.

What does he think now? He’s still wrestling with which door (registration required) is best to open and which to close.

Is it still a Web3 world?

In January, Robert talked about the precipitous decline of Web3 and the metaverse. He did so by discussing the evolution of Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 and pointing out Facebook’s brand name change to Meta at the end of 2022. He talked about how NFTs (non-fungible tokens) and the metaverse attracted eye-popping valuations and headlines. Then, he delved into the buzzwords dropping into the conversation even as some of the experimentations continued.

Starbucks got a mention for its new NFT-based loyalty program called Odyssey. It still seems to be doing just fine as the year closes, as is Web3 after the crypto winter. It’s just that thing called AI gets all the type.

Search engines meet AI

As winter ended and spring arrived, AI continued its rumble and started more noise in the search engine market. Microsoft and Google announced AI chatbots that would power their internet search. Google made a big error during its chatbot announcement demo, quickly putting trust as a top issue for generative AI. How many errors would it make? What about hallucinations in which AI just made up stuff?

Robert talked about how searching the internet and generative AI were different use cases, and you needed to explore both. And now, Google tried again with the launch of Gemini, and well, it seems to have failed again with its demo being called fake news.

Giving podcasts and purpose a listen

As spring sprung, we talked about podcasts because YouTube got into the podcasting business. They announced the ability to create and label podcasts on the platform, allowing people to listen or watch. They also offered up new measurement techniques.

YouTube podcasts didn’t shake up the world this year, but the platform has become THE most-used podcasting platform.

The summer saw a pushback on purpose-driven marketing. Contention arose as marketing programs focused on social issues, as exemplified by the trouble that Bud Light’s use of Dylan Mulvaney during Pride Month to promote its products on Instagram. The story wouldn’t go away.

First, the company tried to backtrack and apologize for offending people. Then, the company threw the marketing team under the bus and blamed declining sales at the feet of their missteps. By the end of the year, many articles had appeared on purpose-driven marketing that included mentions of the potential risks it brings.

Robert says he expects brands to double down in 2024 and get even more involved with social and cultural issues. Brand—and purpose-driven brands especially—will be an incredibly important factor in marketing next year.

Social takes up sewing and exploding

As summer hit the dog days, the slow implosion of X, formerly known as Twitter, continued, and it went official with its X designation. In July, Meta debuted Threads, which became the fastest platform to reach 100 million users since, well, ever. Excitement grew that it might become the new Twitter.

But that thinking dissipated quickly as people kind of gave up on social media full stop. Now, at the end of 2023, X can’t get any lower or less useful. Advertisers and users continue to flee. People who stopped using the app increased by more than 30% this year and the company’s revenue is down some 50%

But the much smaller X still commands the biggest headlines and ranks 12th in popularity of worldwide social networks. That’s less than Snapchat and Telegram and slightly more than Pinterest.

Running in 2024

As you get ready for 2024, let’s just all put our collective hearts and heads together for a much more productive year. Predictions are always fun but kind of useless. We’ll let Robert share what he believes should happen in the new year:

  • Marketing teams will understand that AI really is a content strategy challenge, not a tech challenge.
  • Renewed action on Web3, blockchain, and perhaps a renewal of Web3 co-created community-building will occur.
  • Brand marketing will take center stage as the source of information. Investments will continue in influencer and subject matter expertise as a function of brand alignment, especially in B2B.
  • Social media’s upheaval will continue, becoming just another form of media available for renting or organically distributing your content for consumption. A small percentage of content creators will thrive, leaving most people to consume their content. Communities will grow in the form of owned media, especially through events. Both digital and physical brand experiences will be the new social media.

Finally, change will be sexy again in 2024. From innovation in AI integration to content and owned media strategy to the focus on brand, activity will center around how you become the trusted source of interesting things.

It’s time to roll up your leaves and get to work. You have 525,600 minutes.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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