Right side up logo


Dear Marketers, Stop Chasing the Latest Shiny Thing—When Marketing Trends Are (and Aren't) Worth It


June 27, 2023


June 27, 2023

Unless you’re living under a rock or in similarly isolated circumstances, you’ve probably heard countless hot takes on AI marketing trends and their impact on the industry. The conversation is everywhere and has now transcended from marketing circles to mainstream media channels. Your mom probably even knows about ChatGPT—and we all know something is really mainstream when our Facebook-loving parents are asking about it.

But this isn’t another article about whether ChatGPT is going to unlock a marketing Renaissance or destroy the industry as we know it. We’re not even going to debate the impact of AI on marketing or run through the best tips for using AI to “hack your life.” There's already an endless stream of articles written on that topic—many of them penned by AI.  

Instead, this is an article about one of the biggest threats to marketing leaders (and no, it’s still not ChatGPT). The real threat is the risk of always chasing the next shiny object and losing your long-term focus as a marketing leader.

Over the last few years, we were enthusiastically told about the promising potential of Clubhouse and the idea that streaming audio was the future. Then NFTs and the Metaverse were going to replace our reality. And now, we’ve moved on to fearing the ChatGPT and AI overlords or getting in line to worship them (depending on who you ask). As a marketer, if you’ve gone all-in on the seemingly endless parade of shiny, new things, you're probably having a rough 2023.

Trends in marketing are not new. Some trends have stuck around and proved their staying power (influencer marketing looks to have passed the truth of time), while others have died a quick death (thankfully we're no longer forcing branded hashtags on everything).  

As experts in the field of growth marketing, it’s our job to help define long-term marketing plans for our clients. We’re frequently asked if it’s worth it to “jump into a new trend” and the answer is—usually not, but we have a few rules that we like to follow when determining whether we should integrate a new channel or platform.

Some, but not all, marketing trends are worth exploring.

Treat New Marketing Trends Like a Speculative Investment

Jumping feet first into a new platform can sometimes pay immediate dividends. We’ve all seen the successful case studies from Duolingo on their investment into TikTok, and Gymshark’s inspirational growth numbers gained through influencer marketing and product seeding. We’ve also seen the opposite effect—like Mark Zuckerberg needing to backtrack on his comments claiming that “the Metaverse is the future” and one in three brand NFT projects being canceled after their tokens weren’t redeemed.

We’re not saying that you should never invest in emerging channels. But we do strongly recommend that you dip your toes in the water before fully diving into this type of investment. Depending on the maturity of your company and your overall runway, you should be spending no more than 8% of your annual budget on speculative projects. And that's only if you’re sure that you’ve got the right resources, budget, and buy-in for a shot at success.  

So why only spend 8% of your total budget on these new channels? If the project goes well, you’ll have the opportunity to find additional funding. If it doesn’t go to plan, an 8% loss of budget will still hurt, but most brands can make up this loss over the course of a year.

More specifically, you should look at your total advertising budget and make sure that enough of that budget is being spent on “non-speculative media” dedicated to hitting your revenue goals and driving cross-functional metrics.

It’s also important to ask yourself the following questions before investing in speculative channels:

  • Do we have an existing skillset in-house to complete the work needed for this channel? Will the team working on this ‘shiny thing’ lose focus on their day-to-day role?
  • How do I know when to call it? What if there is a negative return on investment? Can you recover, or will this become a mistake that could (or should) have been avoided? Can I defend the decision with data?
  • If I reinvested the same resources that it will take to execute this ‘shiny object’ into our best-performing tactic, can I drive better results for the business?

Make Sure Your Customers Are Actually There

Even if there’s industry hype about the new ‘cool thing,’ that doesn’t mean anyone outside of our echo chamber cares about it. Case in point—less than 4% of Americans have ever purchased an NFT. Only 9% of Meta’s creator-powered worlds have more than 50 users. And Clubhouse, the darling of the early pandemic, laid off half of its workforce earlier this year.

We’re not knocking the products themselves, but marketers can easily get swept into these new ‘shiny objects’ and sometimes forget that our target customers may not have any idea that they exist.  

However, it’s not enough to just ensure that your audience is there—you must also ensure that there is enough of your audience to justify the time and budget spent.

As marketers, we talk a lot about effectiveness, but with most ‘shiny objects,’ we need to also judge if the idea is scalable and whether the time and resources could be better used to scale elsewhere. If you’ve built the most effective campaign within Second Life, but it only was able to reach a handful of potential customers, was it really effective?

Look for Trends That Complement, Not Compete

The last (and one of the most important) things to remember in this space is that you must know your brand and stay true to your brand. You should have brand guidelines that outline what you stand for and how your brand comes to life. This will help you decide whether an emerging channel is appropriate for you or just the latest flashy thing that everyone is talking about.

For example, if one of your key tenets is to connect with customers by building meaningful relationships, you should probably question the decision to replace your copywriters with AI. If your brand has a charitable organization that is designed to help mitigate climate change, should you really be releasing NFTs that require astronomical energy inputs and are notoriously harmful to the environment?

The same is true on the flip side. If your brand stands for being a challenger brand, trying new things, and being bold, then spending a higher percentage of your budget on new 'shiny things' might not be a bad decision for you. In the end, brands are most successful when they align their mission, strategy, and execution accordingly.

Sticking to the fundamentals has been a guiding principle in both media and communications planning for the past 40 years for a reason—it usually works. Don't go all-in on TikTok if your audience doesn't use the platform (even if you'll get massive reach) or launch a line of NFTs for your skincare brand because Gary Vee says it's an immediate revenue driver. Instead, focus on defining your customer, understanding how they consume media, and what needs and challenges they have. Once you have that locked in, then you can determine whether it’s time to use those new 'shiny objects' to help your customers solve those challenges.

Need help figuring out how to allocate your budget in a sea of marketing trends? The experts at Right Side Up can set you up with a strategy that delivers the results you want. Get in touch at growth@rightsideup.co.

Dan Goldstein is a fractional chief marketing officer who specializes in helping health, wellness, fitness, and sports startups achieve their full potential by developing sustainable and scalable marketing campaigns. With a background in both analysis and strategy, he has a proven track record of creating award-winning campaigns for agencies and Fortune 500 companies alike. As a full-time freelancer, Dan assists brands in understanding their customers, establishing their brand identity, and implementing effective cross-channel media plans to achieve long-term, profitable growth. Throughout his career, he has worked with major brands such as Reebok, MLB, Bank of America, Bose, Cigna, Partners Healthcare, Hydrow, and Yohana to drive sustainable profits.  His goal is to help all of his clients "unlock their superhero power" and help them find the next step in their entrepreneurial journey.

Let's talk growth

Get in touch

Let's talk growth

Get in touch

Let's talk growth

Get in touch