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 Cordula Pfluegl
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share what brought you to this specific career path?
Sure! Marketing is technically my third career but, somehow, it’s all interlinked. At a very early age I started modeling, which allowed me to travel the world, finance my studies, and develop a natural curiosity for people and their behavior. This led me to choose Psychology as a field of study. I did a clinical year in one of Europe’s biggest hospitals, and it was a great experience but taught me that I was missing creativity in my work in psychology.
My personal interest in the startup world and social media eventually led me to Marketing. I ended up moving to Cape Town, where I had to start as an intern despite my academic degrees and 10 years of work experience. I am grateful for my previous experiences; I think a non-linear career path is a big asset.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a mistake you made when you were first starting?
Oh I made a lot of mistakes. I remember one of the big ones I made in my early career was naming something industry-specific incorrectly on our 300k Instagram account. Within minutes we had tons of comments and people sending screenshot to our CEO complaining. It was a quick fix on the channel but within the team it turned into a huge drama.
I was very junior, took all the blame and felt terrible for days. These days I know if you output content at a large scale, you will always make mistakes, no matter how diligent you are. It is not the end of the world! It is the way you deal with mistakes that makes up a winning strategy.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you're grateful for?
I was fortunate enough to have some key figures in my career that handed me opportunities at the right time or simply trusted my ability. All of them were women. Starting with Rita Pires, who hired me for my first leadership role as a Head of Marketing. I had never led a team at the time but she believed in my ability and gave me the chance to grow within a company structure.
Of course I have to also mention the co-founder of my previous company, Lauren Dallas, who welcomed me into her founding team and oversaw my journey to CMO at Future Females. Recently Myrthe van der Erve (CEO of the TNW) offered me the Marketing Director role, which was another big step.
Was there a 'tipping point' in your career when you started to see success? What takeaways or lessons can others learn from that?
When I worked on my first growth projects, I really felt the power of the first-mover advantage. It was the early days of Instagram and the days where you could achieve significant SEO results with rich content in less than six months. Gone are those glorious days, but you can still find these marketing opportunities today. The one that gives you a competitive edge. Look for new channels, better data and analytic tools and trends within Paid Social.
What do you think makes your company stand out?
TNW is unique in its business model. We host one of Europe’s leading tech conferences, but the brand is so much more than “just an event company”. We run a media website read by millions where we write about the latest technology trends in the European ecosystem. As if this wasn’t enough, we also have a consulting department (TNW Programs) that works on open innovation projects with governments, and we house some of the most interesting startups of the Netherlands in our coworking hub in the heart of Amsterdam.
This allows for some great stories, like the story of Elena, who visited our Conference for the first time in 2018. As the first tech event she ever went to, it inspired her so much that she moved to the Netherlands and got a job at booking.com. Now Elena has founded her own startup Cino and has her office within our coworking space TNW City. These are the connections we are able to facilitate which is amazing.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? Tell us about it!
Indeed, we are. We are hosting a new conference for the first time this year in Spain, TNW València. It is a big undertaking, but we are very excited to bring the TNW Conference legacy to the Mediterranean at the end of March. The Spanish tech eco-system has made impressive progress over the last few years. The TNW Valencia event contributes to bringing together all stakeholder, investors, startups and governments to further drive recognition and growth for the Spanish tech sector and its wide range of participants.
As a Marketing Director, you’re at the forefront of the marketing space and leading diverse teams. What resources or tools do you use to you stay abreast of the ever-changing landscape?
I love listening to podcasts. They are super up to date and keep me informed about marketing and tech trends. I am also fortunate enough that some of my colleagues constantly share new marketing tools, trends, or updates with me. There is a lot of merit in sharing knowledge, also across teams.
In your experience, is it possible to forecast upcoming trends? How does this process work?
It is very easy to get caught up in the work, being reactive instead of proactive and forecasting new trends. At a basic level, you will need to carve out time to look at competitors, or even completely different industries to see what’s possible. At my previous company we tripled our social media following because we were “very early” to the Reels trend in 2021. We focused our whole content strategy on video and highly share-able content, which was the way to exponentially grow at the time.
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?
As mentioned earlier, I do believe in early adoption. You can test something with a relatively small budget and get an indication of performance. One of the cons would be that sometimes a trend does indeed turn out to be a temporary hype, like what we saw with Clubhouse. But if for the time being, you got great results, then you probably still saw a net positive effect.
What are some of the past trends that you embraced? What results did you see?
Using Instagram messenger automation for increased engagement and super high CTRs. This used to be a red flag for a long time with Instagram banning all kinds of automated messages. But done in the right way (in combination with great community management or customer service) and with the right tools you can get excellent results.
Use cheaper channels (Reddit, TikTok, etc.) to drive awareness and traffic and then remarket with the more expensive traditional channels. This is something that I still use today. We are currently experimenting with Reddit and seeing some interesting results.
Can you share a time when a strategy didn’t deliver the results you expected and what you learned from the experience?
In my time working in luxury travel, I worked with influencers a few times. It never had measurable influence on sales. I then changed the agreement—not to focus on generating-revenue, but to deliver high quality content (video, blogs, images), that we could use, saving us the cost and effort to create it ourselves. This gave the partnership the value I was looking for.
What factors should leaders consider before jumping on a trend? Can you please explain what you mean?
Ask yourself this question: Does this trend fit my brand? You could shoot yourself in the foot if there is misalignment.
Based on your knowledge and experience, what are the top five marketing trends leaders should know about in 2023?
1 . AI use in Marketing
We are now seeing how Chat GPT has set a record for the fastest growing app. It reached 100m users in only two months. The use of generative AI will disrupt many industries but for marketing copy-writers in the short term, it will make them faster and more efficient. The ones that learn how to prompt well, that is. The commodity is being disrupted but creativity is not. You will still need to come up with the original idea for the email, blog posts, headline or campaign.
Some other honourable mentions apart from Chat GPT: Unbounce, copy.ai and puzzlelabs
2 . Excluding bot and fraud activity when measuring your ad results
It doesn’t sound very sexy but it is so necessary these days. Click bots and fake traffic cost online Advertisers $35 Billion per year. There are lots of new companies and tools who are getting great at filtering fake or fraudulent activity from your campaigns. If you are running any paid social campaigns with bigger budgets, this is absolutely vital to increase your traffic quality and ROI.
One of the companies helping you with this issue is Lunio.ai
3 . 3D Digital Billboards
One could say that traditional billboards are dead in 2023. That is partly true but there is a new generation of billboards that will blow your mind. Resident Evil recently booked a 3D billboard on Times Square. The videos made of this hyper realistic 3D animated billboard reached a few million on TikTok alone.
4 . Sending your newsletter via new channels
Get more results for your newsletter by publishing it to multiple channels. The trend I see is LinkedIn’s publishing service and messenger services. For the latter, you will have to create a bite-size version of your email campaign. You audience can then subscribe via Whatsapp (as an example) and hear from you once a week. Extra points if you use an interactive format like the German Marketing experts at OMR are doing here. The reported open and engagement rates are through the roof.
5 . Moving away from the omni-channel approach
Unless you are a global mega-brand, it's likely that your budget and resources are somewhat limited. Find the top three channels that work for your content and marketing strategy and execute on them really well (better than 90% of your competitors). This will give you more focus than trying to do everything at the same time.
Lastly, if you could inspire a movement that would bring a great amount of good to many people, what would it be?
If every person reading this could influence one small change within their company to battle the effects of climate change, we can have a huge ripple effect together. It can be as small as instigating your company to switch to a clean electricity provider or using recycle bins.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
The best would be on LinkedIn.