If only we had a crystal ball to tell us our future… But we have the next best thing—marketing insights!

While the world is still reeling to understand the post-COVID reality we live in, we know that not all futures can be forecasted—but they can be thoughtfully projected.

Here are the top PR and marketing trends you should know for 2023, backed up by consumer trends and client demand at The James Agency.

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Influencers will gain even more cultural influence

The world of social media has deeply affected everything from our skincare routine to our politics. Meta and Twitter laid off large chunks of their workforce in late 2022, and emerging social media networks have a tremendous opportunity to surpass these once-“too-big-to-fail” platforms.

It’s tough to call TikTok an “emerging” social media network considering it has more than 1 billion monthly active users. That means that 1 in every 8 people in the world will use TikTok this month. TikTok’s short form video content and live-streaming capabilities appeal to a different type of audience—and is an incredible avenue for advertisers for targeting marketing campaigns.

Gone are the days of the perfectly curated, insanely-polished (Eh hem, Photoshopped) Instagram feed. TikTok is all about authenticity. It’s an emerging trend we also see on up-and-coming social media networks such as BeReal, which encourages users to take photos of their surroundings the moment a notification pops up, with no opportunity to slap on makeup or fix their hair.

That means new types of social media influencers are emerging—the realists. These influencers aren’t focused on presenting perfectly—they’re focused on a genuine connection with their followers and creating original content in virtually any genre—think fashion, makeup, politics, gaming, cooking. Whatever you think of them, these new influencers can do it and connect with your audience better than any  TV commercial. In fact, many influencers won’t work with brands they wouldn’t personally support. The content is incredibly niche, and therefore more targeted. Your ads should follow suit.

Influencers live in the realm of social media, but more and more, high-profile influencer engagements have fallen into the scope of public relations professionals. In addition to handling media outreach, PR pros are being asked to handle the communication, contracts and KPIs of influencer engagements. PR pros would be well suited to brush up on their understanding of these social media networks to keep their heads above water in 2023.

Gen Z will revolutionize with their spending

Gen Z is growing up, and they’re bringing their wallets. The generation born between 1997 and 2012 grew up in a tumultuous time when the Internet became as ubiquitous as oxygen, a Great Recession greatly impacted their family’s bottom line and insurmountable student debt became the norm. Combined with the idealistic spirit of youth, Gen Z wants to be the change they wish to see in the world.

Gen Z consumers want to see practical social behaviors from brands. More than half of Gen Z claims to specifically buy from brands they view as eco-friendly and socially responsible.

But don’t expect to take a half-hearted approach. For Gen Z, brand virtue signaling can be spotted from a mile away. Sure, you can change your logo to a rainbow color scheme during Pride Month, but what other actions are you taking to support the LGBTQ+ community?

Rainbow packaging won’t cut it. Impactful donations, educating staff on the issues that mean the most to the LGBTQ+ community and implementing company policies that support same-sex parents means a lot more to Gen Z than a one-off social media post.

Big shifts could become the norm

Adapt accordingly. The pandemic created a new set of expectations and consumer patience with brands. Wait times, higher costs, lack of product availability and limited options became the norm—expected even.

With the pandemic at our sunset and a recession at our sunrise, we have a generation prepared to shift gears with less pushback.

Brands may be able to get away with moves they couldn’t before, simply because consumers understand how pandemic challenges have affected everyday life. Rising prices due to supply chain costs, for instance, are understood. As long as price changes are clearly communicated, they can be met with empathy, not ire.

An integrated marketing approach will make sure all changes are communicated to your customer. Social media, public relations, creative, paid media and web all play a part in wrapping the customer into your brand’s journey into the new era. Again, it’s all about conveying that authentic message—good, bad and ugly.

Want an easy PR win? Corporations posted record profits in 2022. As the supply chain becomes more manageable and supply prices begin to fall, drop your brand’s prices accordingly. Sure, you might put a dent in profits, but you’ll build consumer brand loyalty when customers think “Wow, this brand really has my back!”

Climate change will affect everything

In 2023, we might not see the immediate environmental impacts of climate change, but climate change will affect how consumers choose their products. If you’re not already acknowledging the climate crisis in some way, better is late than never, but our research indicates that consumers already have an expectation that the brands they support are doing something to be a solution to the problem.

Fast fashion retailers, while still popular, have gotten some majorly bad press recently, which has highlighted the human and environmental impact of ultra-cheap consumer goods. Global fast fashion retailer Shein found itself in the crosshairs of “Untold: Inside the Shein Machine,” a documentary in which concealed cameras captured the subpar labor practices and waste that goes into keeping up with the endless trend cycle.

The same day the documentary was released, Shein launched a resale program to “combat the ongoing issue of textile waste.” Consumers called BS.

As a backlash to fast fashion, we can anticipate a focus on reuse, thrifting and sustainable practices. Consumers have had enough of “greenwashing,” the marketing practice of making a brand seem “green,” when the reality is quite different. Be prepared to back up your brand’s claims of being environmentally conscious with documentation and statistics.


Author: Christina Caldwell is public relations account supervisor at The James Agency, Scottsdale’s woman-led, insights-first, fully integrated advertising agency. To learn more, visit thejamesagency.com.