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Marketing trends are always changing, and it's so important to stay relevant. What are the latest trends, and how does one stay abreast of them? Is it better to be an early adopter or to see which trends stick? To address these questions, we’re asking experienced CMOs and marketing executives to share their “Top 5 Marketing Trends That Leaders Need To Know.” As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alexandra Saab Bjertnæs.

Alexandra Saab Bjertnæs

Alexandra Bjertnæs is Meltwater’s Chief Strategy Officer and is responsible for Corporate Strategy, M&A, Branding, Marketing and Communications. Alexandra joined Meltwater in October 2021 and brings extensive management experience with 25+ years in key management roles. She was previously the Chief Communications and Strategy Officer at Posten Norge, a large Nordic Postal and Logistics group. Alexandra has a strong track record of leadership across Strategy, Communications, Sales, Marketing, Customer Service. She has an MBA degree from INSEAD and a Bachelor of Science in Management and International Business (BSBA) from Georgetown University.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! To start, can you tell us a bit about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’m a strategist at heart and have worked in corporate strategy for global companies for 20+ years. Through my work in strategy, I started to work with communications and marketing teams, and was fascinated by the intersection of the three. For me, it’s the effect of seeing them work together.

Marketing and communications teams and professionals must apply strategy and visualize the future to stay competitive. They have to stay ahead of trends and identify them before they become trends. I think of this as sorting through the noise to find the themes that will drive whatever industry you are in to stay ahead of the curve.

This is where strategy is crucial – to look at information available, like M&A, to see how markets are moving and predict the trends of tomorrow.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a mistake you made when you were first starting?

I have always been a global citizen—I was born in the Middle East, grew up in the US, and worked around the world. Today, I’ve lived in Norway for 20+ years and lead teams in more than 10 countries. Even given this global history and experience, you have to take the time to learn about and absorb the nuances in each culture and market.

For a communicator, something as small as a mark of punctuation can make a big difference in interpretation. There was a time when I first began working in Norway that I read a communication to customers and changed the greeting, as it struck me as potentially offensive. My team helped me to understand that it was not offensive at all, and my small change had actually changed the message and tonality of the email. The little things can make a big difference!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you're grateful for?

I’ve always thought that the concept of mentorship versus sponsorship is very interesting. To me, a mentor provides guidance and advice, but a sponsor can actually get you a seat at the table. I’ve had wonderful sponsors and mentors in my career—and one of them was the CFO at Norway Post.

She took a chance on me and sponsored me into a new role. I had been working in strategy, but because of her faith in me I was elevated into a role overseeing business, sales, marketing, and customer service. She saw potential and gave me the opportunity to catapult my career. As a leader now, this is something I strongly believe in and am passionate about—believing in and taking a chance on people. That creates energy, loyalty and boosts retention.

Are you able to identify a 'tipping point' in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different?

That story about being given a chance to catapult my career was about 20 years ago and it was a huge tipping point for me. I went from leading five people to leading 300. It was an opportunity for me to prove myself as a leader, and to build my leadership principles.

As a leader, it’s important for me to pass this on and grow and develop others—I coach, help, and offer consistent support, but I also let people fly. I think it’s just as important to let them have the room to grow.

What do you think makes your company stand out?

First and foremost, it’s Meltwater’s people and culture. Without our incredibly talented and inspiring teams, we would not have been able to innovate to create a world-class product and deliver value for our customers. People are at the center of everything we do, from our commitment to customer centricity to our commitment to supporting our employees to do their best work every day.

We also work in an industry that is constantly evolving, and we’re excited by the challenge of remaining ahead of the curve so that our customers can keep their competitive edge. In 2021 alone, we acquired five companies, including Linkfluence, Klear, and Owler, with the intention of accelerating that innovation and expanding our product offerings.

Meltwater stands out as an integrated suite that helps teams across industries to cut through the noise and derive insights from billions of data points. We’ve been a trusted partner to some of the world’s most innovative companies for more than 20 years, and we’re investing in our people and technology to be an industry-leading partner for another 20 years to come.

Are you working on any exciting projects now? Tell us about it!

Investing in the customer journey and customer centricity is a key focus for Meltwater right now. We are on a mission to deliver the most value possible for our customers, and we’re doing this in a few ways, connecting customers to share learnings on our Customer Community, and elevating customers who are experts in their field through our experts’ program. 

We’re also a learning organization, and we’re committed to continuous improvement. It’s our goal to consistently learn and evolve all the time from customer feedback and evolve to provide the best possible experience for our customers. We always want to make sure our customers have the chance to have powerful experiences using our platform. 

As a CSO, you’re at the forefront of the marketing space and leading diverse teams. What resources or tools do you use to stay abreast of the ever-changing landscape?

We’re lucky to have access to an incredible tool, Meltwater, in-house and right at our fingertips. Meltwater provides social and media intelligence, meaning that it can examine millions of posts—blogs, social media platforms, news sites—each and every day to help us and our customers make smart business decisions based on insights from outside company walls. By analyzing billions of data points each day across news and social, Meltwater gives companies a glimpse into what their customers are interested in at any given time.

As a data leader, we partner with other smart organizations, like We Are Social, to analyze the ever-changing social space. We Are Social and Meltwater recently released Digital 2023, a new global report which offers a look at the current state of digital usage around the world and perspective on consumer trends and how companies should evolve digital strategies in 2023. 

In your experience, is it possible to forecast upcoming trends?

Absolutely—but it’s something that takes time and commitment. It’s first important to understand current trends. What are your customers talking about? What’s most important to them right now? How has this changed and in what direction are those trends heading? Keep an eye out for these patterns because they’ll typically be a good indication of where we’re heading.

Meltwater partners with Twitter for industry reports to help companies understand evolving consumer attitudes and rising trends. Fashion consumers, for example, share their opinions and ideas on Twitter every day, and we wanted to understand the subtopics popping up, micro and macro emerging trends, the authors leading the conversation and the opportunity for brands amongst all these insights.

From the 300 million+ fashion community we analyzed, we found five macrotrends and ten microtrends. The report that came out of this, The Fashion Industry’s New Era, offers insight into the fashion industry, but the central question—what do consumers want—is universal. To create innovative and impactful strategies, you must have an accurate and up-to-date understanding of your target audience. A social intelligence tool like Meltwater can demystify this data to give teams a full picture of the landscape and enable strategy alignment.

In marketing, would you say it’s better to be an early adopter of trends or wait to see if they stick before allocating resources?

There are certainly pros and cons to both. Being an early adopter means that you can have influence, gain competitive advantage, and become an expert on the topic before anyone else does. However, there are also benefits of waiting—which are of course having a better understanding of the landscape and whether the trend is going to stick around.

We’re seeing this right now with new AI technology like ChatGPT. Many companies are already taking advantage of the new tech and using it for customer service, etc., and perhaps rightly so. It looks like the use of AI for business may be part of our future. But we’re also seeing these early adopters face challenges like backlash and uncertainty related to the use of AI in customer relations.

Regardless, it’s important to be calculative in the trends you choose to take advantage of early—there’s always a risk, but the possible reward is great. Understanding the return on investment, in this case the ROT—return on trend—is incredibly important.

What factors should leaders consider before jumping on a trend?

It’s important to recognize that sometimes trends are just that—passing phases. In these cases, it’s often not worth the investment (cost and time) to tap into something so fleeting. This is particularly important in a business environment that’s saturated with information.

The goal is to find trends that have staying power and have the potential to become business and cultural norms. Of course, no one can predict the future—so the key to understanding this “staying power” is to listen for noise. What’s picking up momentum and what’s really driving that noise—and not just for a short period of time. The best investments are typically the ones that sustain that initial momentum or chatter.

I think it’s also important to look at what’s driving certain trends and the staying power associated with that need or gap. For example, e-commerce found a foothold during the pandemic, as people looked for opportunities to shop from the comfort of their own home. Many companies like Amazon, Etsy, and Chewy thrived, grew, and flourished. There was likely a careful calculation there, however, to understand whether or not e-commerce will remain popular post-pandemic—and it looks like it has to some extent.

Based on your experience and success, what are the top five marketing trends leaders should know about in 2023?

  1. The social media evolution. According to Digital 2023, while users’ time on the internet went down year over year compared with 2022, their time spent on social media only continues to increase. This indicates that digital habits are changing yet again—and that social media users are relying on TikTok, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more information and research than they did before. For example, there’s a growing trust in the use of in-app purchases—which has the potential to change not only how and where people shop, but how they make their purchasing decisions.

    This is particularly important for marketers who are considering increasing their social media spend. While now is the time to invest in social media advertising, it’s also important to do so strategically, as users are becoming savvier when it comes to what they like to see and where they like to see it.
  1. Advancing from data for insights. As social media use continues to rise, so do the opportunities to better understand our customer base. With that in mind, we predict companies will begin to invest even more heavily in social and media listening tools that can help derive and make sense of key customer insights. It’s not enough just to have data—companies need to understand it in a way that makes strategic decisions easy. That is what an AI powered suite like Meltwater unlocks for deeper and faster insights that drive real impact.
  1. The use of AI technologies in marketing. As chatbots and other artificial intelligence technology continues to expand and grow, the marketing industry will really begin to take advantage of opportunities to save time through AI-generated content development and create more meaningful moments with customers through quality and timely customer service. However, as with any new trend, there’s the potential for missteps along the way. It’s going to be highly important for organizations to use chatbots and other AI appropriately—take the time to make sure your new tech is working appropriately and be ready to respond if something falls flat.
  1. Mobile optimization will become more important. We’re seeing more internet users turn to their mobile devices to access the internet—and at the same time, we’re seeing a continued decline in the number of users using a personal laptop or desktop for internet. In fact, according to Digital 2023, mobile phone usage to access the internet climbed another .2% in 2022, while use of a personal laptop or desktop computer declined 8.4%.

    As more and more people use their phones to access information, marketers are going to have to keep designing mobile-first experiences. If a website feels clunky or outdated or isn’t user-friendly, customers may turn somewhere else for a smoother experience.
  1. Organizations will find their purpose. Consumers are making purchasing decisions based on more than just products. As our world becomes more socially and culturally conscious, consumers are actively looking for opportunities to support companies with a purposeful social mission.

    With this in mind, it’s going to become even more important in 2023 for organizations to align themselves with and clarify their commitment to a meaningful social cause that will resonate with customers and the brand’s core values. Not only does this humanize the brand but it also offers an opportunity for a deeper emotional connection with customers.

    Patagonia is particularly strong in this area – they’re known for campaigns that support environmental causes and, most recently, their founder created positive noise when he donated his family’s ownership of the company to help fight climate change.

Lastly, if you could inspire a movement that would bring a great amount of good to many people, what would it be?

I strongly believe in the concept of radical transparency. I always share the most that I can with my leaders about the Meltwater business—the good, the bad, and the ugly—in order to give people the right context and the right information to decide the best path forward. Information is power, and I think that sense of sharing information and working together for good is incredibly powerful. As a leader, I aim to create momentum by sharing information and through an openness and respect for each other and our work.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I’d love to connect on LinkedIn!

By Stephanie Hood

Stephanie Hood is an experienced marketing professional and Editor of The CMO. With nearly a decade spent as Marketing Manager at Discover Holidays and Executive Editor at VIVA Lifestyle & Travel, she built her career leading editorial and marketing teams and strategies that turn six-figure budgets into seven-figure profits. She now enjoys connecting with the world's top executives to learn their secrets to business success, and shares those insights right here with her community of like-minded professionals. Curious what she’s uncovered? Be sure to sign up for The CMO newsletter.