Sharon McFarlane, managing director, Digital Footprints
Lee-Ann Johnstone, founder, Affiliate Insider
Corey Padveen, partner, t2 Marketing International
Charlotte Emery, chief brand officer, William Hill
What marketing trends do you foresee for 2023?
Sharon McFarlane: I think for 2023 we’ll see a lot more video-based content. I think we’re seeing a rise of things like YouTube Shorts, TikTok and Instagram reels.
I think we’ll find a lot of businesses and brands placing a larger focus on that in 2023. I think they’re understanding that those can be more easily digestible content for the user. Those will be the brands that will do well, particularly on TikTok, which is solely video-based. That’ll be the one they need to start creating for.
I think we’ll probably see a rise in influencer marketing. Within all industries, but within igaming as well, I think that we are now beginning to see the true value of that – when that’s used properly, and when the correct amount of research has been put in, and we choose people that are relevant to our brands or business. I think those are the two main things that we will start to see.
Corey Padveen: Over the past year, we’ve heard a lot of discussion around certain high-concept trends like the metaverse, but in reality, we’re a long way from practical marketing applications available to the average brand and organisation becoming commonplace.
We’ll continue to see news and pilot campaigns in the space, but on a more realistic level, we can expect to see trends picking up in other, more innately accessible areas. We’ll see AI-powered initiatives making their way into the mainstream, from AI engines prompting consumer action to AI systems creating unique customer journeys in everything from commerce to gambling.
We’ll also see a much heavier reliance on creator-brand partnerships due in some part to user data and targeting capabilities becoming less available to brands. Digital and iPad natives – Millennials and Gen Z consumers – have shifted preference away from access to personal privacy. As such, brands have had to rely on what consumers engage with rather than targeting them for their affinities and interests with ad campaigns, as that data has become more guarded.
And what’s one of the best ways to accomplish this? By partnering with the creators with whom consumers from these demographics have a good rapport and loyal commitment to their personas. We’ll start to see much more of that in the coming year.
Lee-Ann Johnstone: As we head into a global recession I foresee brands are going to react by cutting brand spend. However I think those marketers who have lived through a recession time already will understand that this is not the best decision to make.
What I’d like to see is brands moving closer to building partnerships with their already engaged clients, creating ordinary people into brand ambassadors for their business and using tried and tested tactics like word of mouth marketing, community and brand affinity campaigns being punted forward for stimulating sales growth and brand reach too.
I think we’re headed into a world where web3 will drive innovation forward. Retail brands have already embraced this, creating real estate and communities around products in this space.
Charlotte Emery: Given the macroeconomic challenges facing most markets in 2023, two clear groups will likely emerge.
Those who see marketing as a cost and cut their budgets to the right size for inflation and cost pressures, and those who see marketing as a growth accelerator – increasing spending to offset recessionary headwinds.
Many businesses will refocus on short-term KPIs and prioritise channels which evidence the fastest short-term ROI, potentially neglecting higher long-term channel investments such as brand, which are key.
Specifically, in the UK, regulatory challenges face several verticals, such as gambling and HFHS brands, which are being challenged to redefine and rethink decades of marketing and advertising. Many will emerge with new strategies which will focus on more sustainable approaches to communicating to their key audiences in engaging and entertaining ways.
What other sectors can the gambling world look to and aim to emulate for the challenges it will face in marketing in 2023?
SMcF: I think definitely the hospitality sector. I think they’re a good example of a specific niche that’s faced challenges, certainly relating to Covid-19 and how they’ve now come out of that.
And how they are the ones that are sort of using innovative marketing techniques, and influencer marketing and reaching out to bloggers, brand ambassadors and the sorts of things that we treat in the igaming industry with a little more trepidation and a little more caution than perhaps we need to.
CP: Coincidentally enough, the crackdown on data resale from social media giants like Meta can provide some insights into challenges that might manifest for other industries, including the gambling sector.
The gaming industry has already had tight regulation placed on it when it comes to harvesting and leveraging player data for increased deposits and revenues. But now, in places like New York, for example, we’re seeing a harder stance taken on bonuses and user engagement strategies deemed predatory or unfair.
As the gambling and sports betting sector expands in new, emerging, or expanding markets like the United States, a crackdown on some standard industry practices that have been in place in other markets can be expected. We can look at the web user data privacy programmes in place for consumer protection in places like Europe and California as examples of how the gambling world can get ahead of some of these challenges.
LAJ: Any sectors at the cutting edge when it comes to data. With stricter regulation and global governance emerging in this sector we’ve already seen how the world of partnerships is changing. Sports betting brands will seek other opportunities to engage with their customers outside of the point of sale or engagement reach.
We’ve seen companies like Yolo take their brand into emerging markets such as Africa – embracing strong local music scenes to market brand trust, spark new customer interest and gain customer brand affinity, creating really innovative and engaging experiences for their customers that stand out. Marketers will have to become innovative and stop relying on old-school digital tactics to gain reach.
Affiliates will need to think about how they are playing a part in this brand-to-consumer connection, because driving traffic from one place to another isn’t going to be the main component of how partnerships work any longer. Brands using data to drive acquisition AND consumer engagement will win in the end.
CE: It’s a cliché to use the word “entertainment” given how we throw it around meetings in most boardrooms across the industry, but whether we want to believe it or not, we are competing for people’s entertainment time.
There’s still a large cohort of customers who bet and game to win, but this cohort is on the decline, and the growth is taking place in recreational spaces where customers gamble to enjoy the moment. The enjoyment is the process and not the result. For this reason, in most cases, the brand that makes that experience most enjoyable, in my view, is the brand that wins.
In the past, the industry has focused heavily on the output, which leads to price, free bet and marketing wars, while in most cases, the customer experience is pretty awful as a base average. I don’t believe in gamification, but I think for a £5 bet, we have a responsibility to make the experience as enjoyable as possible for customers to enhance their consumption of the most significant sports events. Whether or not we want to believe it, we are competing with all forms of entertainment and not just each other – significantly as disposable income choices change in 2023.
What lessons can be learned about marketing in 2022, in gambling and otherwise?
SMcF: I think it is often underestimated how much people want to have a brand or business affinity. So they are really interested in culture-based content, even if, for example, you’re an online casino or an online business.
I think we need to remember back when – specifically within affiliate portals – the most successful ones were the ones that had that community focus. So the ones who had chat hosts, even on affiliate sites, whether they had free-to-play bingo for example. We need to make sure that we carry that over to this new sort of social world.
Use social media as a customer-focused tool, as well as a promotional and sales tool. And I understand that people do care about the background of brands and businesses. Things like fair gaming and responsible gambling will probably be more important than ever before.
CP: There is no doubt that 2022 has been a wild ride in the worlds of marketing and emerging technologies.
What I think is perhaps the most pertinent lesson to come out of this year is that diving into any unknown territory without a full vetting and understanding of its utility, value and overall purpose to a brand’s main objectives is a recipe for disaster.
Taking the crypto and, by extension, NFT markets as examples. We saw a global phenomenon whereby fear of missing out outweighed traditional business and marketing strategy to the peril of virtually everyone involved.
Moving forward, I think some level-headed caution will be applied when venturing down these new paths so as to ensure that any company looking to invest heavily in something new and exciting understands exactly why, and has given full thought to how that investment will drive business and growth objectives.
LAJ: Never underestimate the power of brand affinity vs brand reach or promotion. We’ve learned that we cannot tell customers what to enjoy and where to go play. We need to work harder to engage our audiences to follow us, because they want to and because we identify with them personally. The days of spray and pray one-size-fits-all campaigns are over. We should consider ourselves fortunate as we’ve got to the point where data is now able to foster trust. We need to use it to figure out how to build customer loyalty that stretches beyond how much you pay players to stay.
I’d like to see some of the learnings from ecommerce verticals spill over into igaming and an adoption of a wider view of partnerships vs the notion of just finding traffic suppliers is being seen in the performance channel specifically. This is an area where the rest of the world has adopted a broad strokes approach with much success and where we seem to be lagging behind in the igaming sector.
CE: As the world emerged from Covid-19, the most significant prediction on everyone’s lips was the “death of retail”, but 2022 has proved just how resilient this industry is.
Suppose convenience is the primary objective for customers. In that case, online will always win. However, customers have returned to retail despite the market predictions because the experience of betting and gaming alongside others is still highly valued by many.
With retail expected to show growth in 2023, this year has proved that betting shops aren’t going anywhere and having a high street presence is as important today as it’s ever been.
Admittedly, with many operators focusing on their respective “Shop of the Future” concepts – the industry is on a journey of redefining what a betting shop experience should become. I’d predict the environment will continue to evolve and progress over the next five years, benefiting from new technology and driving much needed innovation.
Gaming Innovation Group is a leading igaming technology company, providing solutions, products and services to igaming operators. Founded in 2012, Gaming Innovation Group’s vision is to be the industry-leading platform, sportsbook and media provider delivering world-class solutions to igaming partners and customers. GiG’s mission is to drive sustainable growth and profitability of partners through product innovation, scalable technology and quality of service.