Skip to main content

2020 Trends for Marketing Communicators

Your Guide to the Future of Marketing Communications...


As innovation in the marketing communications industry continues to accelerate, it is crucial professionals know what is on trend to stay ahead of the competition.

The "2020 Watchlist for Marketing Communicators" was created by West Virginia University's Integrated Marketing Communications and Data Marketing Communications Graduate Programs to provide a look in to the future of the industry based on today's popular tactics. Backed by expert insight from our practitioner faculty and extended marketing communications network, this resource aims to help your campaigns stand out in 2020.

Read below to uncover the future, or download the full PDF here.

View the 2021 Trends

View the 2021 Trends Guide Watch the 2021 Unpredictable Trends Integrate Online

What to Watch for in 2020

  1. Influencer Marketing
  2. Evolution of Cause Marketing
  3. Immersive Brand P op-Ups
  4. Addressable Advertising
  5. Championing Culture and Diversity

Influencer Marketing

INFLUENCER MARKETING is the practice of leveraging an individual’s following for the purpose of promoting, endorsing or supporting brands. What started as typically using celebrities to pose with cans of cola and talk about how they use certain makeup each morning has evolved into a highly specialized industry. As social media continues to rise, the ability for any individual to become an “influencer” in their space of interest is increasingly more attainable.

Today, brands are utilizing those of all levels of social following to put a face to their products, give consumers someone to relate to and spread their company name across the individual’s network

What to Watch For:

An Increase in Nano- and Micro-Influencers Partnerships: These influencers have followings that total less than 25K on social media. They are generally seen as being more “credible” than macro-influencers as their content typically focuses on a niche topic. They create communities using their platform and are more likely to engage directly with their following, creating increased feelings of trust and a sense of a real relationship with their audience.

Authenticity Will Triumph: As more posts with “#ad” and “#sponsored” appear, it may be time for brands to focus on building an elite team of influencers to champion their brand for a life-time, rather than focusing on having a high-volume of partnerships. Increasingly, more brands realize that the true metric to measure is engagement, which is more often more readily available with smaller influencers. Smaller audiences usually means more authentic connections, which are what lead to action and relationship.

Case Study:


Glossier, a Manhattan-based beauty brand, launched its online store in 2014 and soared in popularity nearly overnight due to its unique business-to-consumer marketing tactics rooted in making fans and employees their influencer team. Instead of paying celebrities and beauty gurus with high followings to promote their products to fans, Glossier sent 500 fans who had previously purchased products free samples to test and share with their network.

These typical consumers and micro-influencers who received the products have high-influence as they are closely connected with their followers, knowing most of them personally offline, but low reach. However, it appears these nano- and micro-influencers connections are doing more to help the brand than a celebrity, endorsement ever could. The brands rely on fans authenticity in posts to back reviews and drive sales.

In just five years, the brand has grown to achieve 2.3 million followers on Instagram, seeing 600% growth between 2015 and 2016. Glossier’s branding and promotion strategy also allowed them to raise more than $300 million in funding and brought them to be named “Most Innovative Brand” by Fast Company and acclaimed as a top beauty brand by famed publications like Allure and Teen Vogue.

Evolution in Cause Marketing

In an activist consumer climate, brands are increasingly becoming open to the idea of taking a stance on tough topics to align with the causes that are important to their consumers. While engaging with controversial issues was once taboo in the media world, but it is now a leading way to earn press coverage and start conversations about your brand.

Cause marketing is becoming more than just donating a portion of profits. Cause Marketing is evolving into brands making a bold advertising statement, investing time to make a substantial contribution to a cause, and creating products that allow consumers to showcase their views as well. As consumers begin using political beliefs and social justice passions to showcase their individuality, creativity in cause marketing campaigns is becoming increasingly important to stand out to these broad audiences and offer ways for their target audience to share the message of socially and politically active brands and organizations.


"33% of consumers are now choosing to buy from brands that they believe are doing social or environmental good." - Unilever Consumer Study

"73% of people agree that a company can increase local profits and improve economic and social conditions in its area." - Edelman 2019 Trust Barometer

Case Study:

March for our lives

Price on Our Lives: On February 14, 2018, a tragic school shooting took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, resulting in the death of 17 students and faculty. An alum of the impacted school and producer at McCann New York, headquarters of global marketing solutions network McCann Worldgroup, reached out to the advocates against gun violence rallying in Parkland. The ask came for support to help create conversations around gun violence and to call out the politicians who refuse to enact any sensible gun safety legislation. Out of this, the Price on Our Lives campaign was created.

The core idea is rooted in utilizing data and design to stir emotion and peak audience curiosity to learn more. Bright orange price tags were created displaying the dollar amount calculated by dividing the NRA political donations by the number of students in Florida - $1.05 being the “Price on Our Lives” for Florida students. The bright tags and the mysterious amount stirred audience members to ask questions and search for the tags meaning online stirring organic conversation on social media and across the nation about gun violence. The campaign earned 2.2 billion media impressions, with no funding put into the promotion.

Today, the campaign and its message live on. Price tags for every state are available on the March For Our Lives website. More information about this campaign and other March for Our Lives campaigns can be found on McCann New York’s website.

Immersive Brand Pop-Ups

Neighborhood of Good

Creative Demand. In an oversaturated marketing world, strategists are being tasked with developing with the most abstract concepts to capture media and consumer attention, all while adhering to brand identity. More and more consumers are being immersed in the world of a brand during extravagant temporary events called “pop-ups.” They showcase creative risks, generate social media buzz with limited availability, and give new audiences a chance to experience the brand firsthand.

What to Watch For:

Valuing Experience Over Sales: Pop-up shops will continue to be about the experience they provide consumers, instead of strictly to sell products. Marketers will focus on creating events that give the consumer entertainment and content to share on social media with their network, rather than push them to walk away with a purchase from the brand.

Digital Pop-Up Shops: Brands are beginning to partner with online retailers to sell limited-run merchandise co-branded between the two companies. These partnerships will continue to increase between brands in different industries, not just retail, as well. For example, Cheeto’s snack food brand launched a limited-run line in partnership with clothing retailer Forever 21 earlier this year.

Developments in Customer Service Design: Pop-up shops will continue to experiment with innovative methods of customer service. These methods include the use of contactless shopping, being able to purchase without going to a cashier or waiting in a line, and the ability to send promotions to a consumer’s phone who is currently in the store.

Case Study

Cheetos, the popular snack brand, took on the fine-dining world in 2017 with the launch of a pop-up restaurant in New York City named The Spotted Cheetah. The restaurant included a three-course menu developed by celebrity chef Anne Burrell that included Cheetos meatballs, tacos and cheesecake.

Inspiration for the restaurant came from online trends of consumers sharing recipes that utilized Cheetos as a key ingredient. The company identified Anne Burrell as the perfect influencer to head the campaign and bring together snack food and fine dining due to her creative personality and notable reputation for quality recipes. Burrell released a recipe early on and a save-the-date as the first hints of a restaurant to come. In early August, the brand officially announced the restaurant would take place in the next few weeks and would be a limited-run.

The Spotted Cheetah was open from August 15 through August 17 and completely sold out of reservations within six hours of being available. They held private dining times for media and “foodie” influencers to drive content creation and social media buzz. The company created a digital cookbook for those who couldn’t’ attend to have The Spotted Cheetah experience at home, and the e-book was downloaded nearly 13,000 times in its first week of being available. Overall, the campaign generated more than 3,400 media placements and 157,000 campaign website visits during its run.

Addressable Advertising

Changes in TV Consumption. With many consumers “cutting the cord” on traditional TV service and opting for streaming platforms, brands need a new way to reach these highly fragmented audiences and get the most out of their budget. Addressable TV advertising utilizes data collected by cross-referencing the programs consumers watch, the cable provider they use and other factors like websites they visit. This data creates profiles of potential target consumers to be delivered specific ads that speak to their interests. Brands and companies provide a target consumer to a cable provider to ensure their ads are only going to households whose compiled target would make them prospective customers.

Case Study:

Gulf States Toyota, a private Toyota parts and vehicle distributor with over 150 dealerships, was seeking a data-driven way to drive more foot traffic to their locations. To eliminate budget waste, the company created an Addressable TV strategy to reach the in-market buyer audience that has expressed an interest in making a car purchase.

Gulf States Toyota utilized AT&T AdWorks addressable platform to execute the campaign. This platform allowed for the ads to reach in-market households that had DIRECTV service to run a month-long campaign. An external insights company was brought in to track success and uncover additional insights about the consumers who were impacted.

The company reveals that foot traffic in stores where the campaign was running saw an average increase of 19%.


Steps to An Addressable TV Advertising Campaign (Simplified):

1. Create a custom target segment utilizing consumer behavior and demographic profiles

2. Match consumers with what they watch and what they buy

3. Scoreholds based on how likely they are to act on a prospective campaign

4. Activate campaign in high scoring households with addressable advertising technology

Championing Culture and Diversity

Diverse Audiences Demand Diverse Messaging. Brands are continuously putting a greater emphasis on diversity and inclusion in their marketing campaigns not only because America is the most diverse it has ever been, but because of the visibility of that diversity. Consumers are demanding for brands to pay attention to representation and authentically showcase the population for what it is: a brand spectrum of culture and individuality.

With the rise of social media, everyone has a platform for opinion and to voice their individuality. Increasing, people of color are utilizing this opportunity to speak out about their culture, drive trends and become powerful influencers. Brands need to continue to make authentic efforts to include Multicultural Americans in to marketing images and diverse cultures into messaging. If efforts are not authentic, and these people are not recognized, brands put themselves at risk of boycott and backlash on social media, again with those growing platforms for individuals to become influencers of their culture.

Brands to Watch For:


Nike: In 2018, after a number of overturns in leadership, the brand admitted to its failure to promote women and people of color. The company has since turned around to mend internal and external issues with efforts like raising salaries by 10% to close pay gaps and putting out campaigns like the “Pro Hijab” sportswear ads to address the needs of Muslim women athletes.

Procter & Gamble: This brand has been making efforts to promote diversity and inclusion since 2007 with the formation of the “My Black is Beautiful” campaign. This campaign created a group of 2.6 million members to drive conversation around black beauty and the stigmas associated with self-image. The company Chief Brand Officer, Marc Pritchard, was also named co-chair of the ANA’s #SeeHer movement in early 2019. This movement was founded to eliminate gender bias in advertising and media.

Case Study:

Nielsen Research conducted a study in 2018 about the influence of African American consumers on creating mainstream trends. This group currently has the highest smartphone ownership and usage and are leveraging digital platforms and technology to develop individual platforms to champion cultural expression and entrepreneurship.

Subgroups are on the rise like “Black Twitter” and other cultural platforms as well, giving this community a unique place to network and further spread their influence. Bands are beginning to notice the power of this community and invest in the needs, interests and concerns of these consumers. African American buying power is expected to rise to $1.54 trillion by 2022.

Stay Ahead of the Trends

Request Information

When you submit a request, we will contact you via your preferred contact method. We’re happy to answer any questions you have as you consider your graduate education options.

Wondering whether you should send us your information? We get it, sometimes filling out forms on the internet results in overwhelming phone calls and email.

What we WILL DO with your information:

  • We'll email you program information, including testimonials from current students and faculty, and details we know you need when considering your graduate education. We'll also send regular program updates at the end of each month so you can keep up with what's currently happening in our programs.
  • We'll mail you a free copy of our program view book, which provides additional details on programs and college.
  • If you have any questions about any of the content we send you, contact our enrollment coach via email at or phone at (304) 293-6278.

What we WILL NOT DO with your information:

  • We will not bombard you with high-pressure messages. Our goal is to provide you with information you need to determine whether our program is right for you. You can opt-out at any time.
  • We will NEVER sell or share your information with any other college, program or organization.

Let's Chat

As the enrollment coach and an IMC alum, I'd be glad to share my expertise and help you decide what is the best fit for you. 

Email Bre   Schedule a Time to Chat   Attend an Info Session