Since 2020, he notes, with closures, postponements and social distancing requirements the norm, marketers and event planners have been required to rethink how events would happen. Live versions of events were almost unheard of for a span of nearly two years. The pandemic made it necessary to cancel such marketing staples as concerts, conferences, grand openings and product launches, and its disruptive effects on consumer behaviour affected the marketer's ability to tell a proper story.
As the founder and CEO of a marketing firm that now has 700 employees, Sonoda boasts some serious expertise. Recognized for his successful marketing efforts on behalf of companies of all sizes, from startups through Inc. 5000 firms, he now believes that major marketing shirts are on the horizon for 2022. He also believes that the future will usher in new opportunities for creativity, diversity and effectiveness.
The new paradigm of marketing success will centre around accountability and revenue ownership, adaptability, customer centricity and team building. "When building a marketing team, it is important to make sure that you assemble a team that you are compatible with. Everyone needs to know their roles, and you need to make sure that everyone is bringing something to the table."
More specifically, just what does this leader of Eduardo Sonoda Advisory envision, and what are the leading trends he sees impacting marketing for the coming year?
Primary Directions in the Near Future
Three trends that Sonoda believes will dominate marketing efforts in early 2022 include:
Hybrid Events: In some important ways, COVID has become a catalyst for innovation in marketing techniques. When continued outbreaks of infection became the norm, even after the introduction of vaccines, marketing efforts also took an unexpected turn. The public has demonstrated an acceptance of the creative approaches employed during the height of the pandemic shutdown. Zoom events, online streaming and other digital options are now familiar and welcome. The challenge for the future, Sonoda believes, will lie in integrating newer techniques with reenvisioned marketing goals in order to achieve a seamless strategy that creates memorable experiences for the consumer and effectively meets customer goals.
Content Alignment: A strong focus on content is needed, whether it's based on a website with blogs and infographics, white papers, videos and other valuable information, or knowledge shared on other social media. Content is a powerful driver for thought leadership and SEO, as well as for public relations. Content that answers consumer questions and supplies information in a variety of ways is vital. It is this no-nonsense approach to marketing that sets Sonoda's work apart. In addition, he is a writer, contributing thought pieces to major business publications. He serves as a valuable resource for entrepreneurs and business leaders because he has a proven ability to align ideas with action.
Non-Profit Partnerships: Finally, for businesses that want to establish a firm and lasting connection with their communities, he insists that the philanthropic aspect must not be ignored. According to Sonoda, it is destined to become even more critical in coming years, because investors and customers will demand it. For business, he insists, supporting like-minded non-profits is a win-win, and it should be considered a priority of the first order. But it requires genuine commitment on the part of the business, including corporate sponsorships, percentage-of-sales campaigns, employee volunteer programs and affiliate marketing, in addition to product placement.
Additional marketing influencers, according to Sonoda, will include a new trend toward sales ownership. Having an ownership stake in the products and services that marketers deal with, in his view, represents a lucrative option and can be incentivizing.
He believes that artificial intelligence and influencer marketing will also grow in importance in the coming year. Influencers already play an outsized role in marketing, and Sonoda views AI as a major tool for marketers in the future, predicting that it will be used in performance evaluation and in the identification of influencers.
A third concern, he believes, is grounded in the realm of growing privacy concerns. As Google phases out third-party cookies, he expects that marketers will have to look to other tools as that former tracking technology becomes less available. Some alternatives that he mentions are first-party cookies, customization of content, surveys and other services, and better CRM tools.
Philanthropy -- A Natural Extension
Sonoda, for whom philanthropic pursuits are a natural extension of marketing philosophy, predicts that new creative approaches in marketing will continue to spawn new enthusiasm and will aid marketers in their quest to reimagine traditional concepts and rethink their goals. He believes there will be a stronger emphasis on content, or storytelling, and on partnerships, particularly with non-profit organizations. He believes that marketers must become more adept at interweaving such community-minded support into their efforts. He stresses that corporate goals and objectives must become more aligned with public ideology and with non-profit causes.
Finally, he notes, authenticity is key. Giving lip-service to philanthropic partnerships is not likely to resonate with consumers, he insists, adding that brands will need to demonstrate a "more hands-on approach" that goes beyond "a press release and a few donations." Sonoda explains that "philanthropy is very near and dear to me, and I see so many well-intentioned but careless mistakes with these partnerships."
He notes that, in his own business, he prefers to "remain in startup mode," explaining that it's the state of "constant innovation" that keeps things fresh and allows new ideas to flow, whether he is focusing on his own company's growth or planning a marketing campaign for a client.
In essence, he says, "Make a plan, keep it quick, simple, and very no-nonsense. It should be easy for management and employees to understand, and be able to get off the ground quickly." In addition, he personally values spontaneity, and the willingness to try new approaches and embrace fresh ideas.