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 Jordan Bitterman.
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?
My first job out of school was at a political consulting firm in Washington DC where I was hired to be one of two people comprising the media buying department, placing ads for candidates for Congress. One of our candidates was far ahead of his challenger when it was reported that he had an extramarital affair. He went from being ten points up to losing his election in the space of a month. I had wanted to be in politics for a number of years, but quickly came to realize the fickle nature of that industry. As a marketer, my colleagues and I could work so hard towards a goal, only to see it upended by events far outside of our control.
So, with my newly minted media experience under my belt, I began interviewing for similar jobs at commercial ad agencies in New York City. As I saw it, ‘marketing a can of soup would be far more predictable than marketing a human.’ While it was just a transfer of my experience to a different kind of client, it set me on the career path that I’m still on today.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a mistake you made when you were first starting?
In an interview for my first New York ad agency job, an interviewer asked me to provide a definition for the acronym “GRP.” Pretty basic stuff. I gave the correct name—“gross rating point”—but didn’t describe it properly, which was…embarrassing.
When I ultimately got the job anyway, I asked the interviewer, who was now my boss’s boss, why I was hired considering I hadn’t given the right answer. He said: ‘We can always teach young people the technical parts of media, but I felt you would bring other important skills to our team.’ That explanation stayed with me. I’ve always hired people who exhibit curiosity, insight, energy, and optimism. The nuts-and-bolts are easy to teach if the softer skills are there.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you’re grateful for?
The best part about the advertising world is that it’s a tight knit community of people who look out for each other. I have been the beneficiary of vast amounts of advice throughout my career. There are 8-10 people I speak with on a regular basis to both gut-check current challenges and maintain long-term career perspective.
At the top of that group have been two mentors. One of them sadly passed away about 4 years ago and I have mourned his loss both for the world (he was such a wonderful man), but also for what that loss has meant to me personally.
Losing a mentor has small similarities to losing an older sibling or a parent because the relationship can be so formative. I still think about him and his lessons often. My other mentor is a former boss, Carl Fremont, who many of us in the ad world look to as a “rabbi” of sorts. Carl is always available, asks incredibly insightful questions and finds a way to help you arrive at answers yourself. I call him for “tune ups” all the time.
Are you able to identify a ‘tipping point’ in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different?
I measure career growth in three stages. Stage one is when we take direction from a manager. This happens early on when our knowledge and experience are new and untested.
Stage two is when we take direction from a client, as I did when I worked at ad agencies. We’re able to progress to this stage when we’re more proficient at our job and can therefore un-attach from our managers to instead rely on our clients and customers for direction.
Stage three is the self-actualized part of the hierarchy. At that point, we have the skills, the experience, the knowledge and—most importantly—the confidence to operate independently. Hitting stage three was my tipping point. Nothing ever felt more fulfilling and empowering then when I was able to operate independently through my own ideas and convictions.
What do you think makes your company stand out?
What makes TripleLift stand out is our people. Since I started at the company over three years ago, I often say that “our people are our unfair advantage.” They are bright, dedicated and supportive—and they’re always looking to do the right thing for our customers. Many of our competitors rely on back-end systems to interact with their customers. We’ve made a conscious choice to put our people out front—and that strategy has also become an advantage.
The job of our marketing is to make sure the outside world gets the feels from our people just as we all do inside the company. We accomplish that in many ways. We created and maintain a vibrant brand with a logo and color scheme that stand out in a crowded B2B space. We put on events that our customers feel proud to participate in side-by-side with our people. We write materials and thought leadership pieces that showcase their expertise.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? Tell us about it!
TripleLift is a Black-owned business certified by the National Minority Supply Development Council, the governing body charged with making those distinctions. Being NMSDC certified means that we qualify for ad spend by brands and agencies who are looking to allocate their dollars in responsible ways—namely: by fostering economic inclusion by supporting diverse businesses.
As part of that, we have been working on an initiative to support the next generation of diverse advertising leaders. We’re engaging our own ERGs to create a program for which they, our entire employee population and our customers can feel proud. I really enjoy working on this project because it feels like we’re helping the industry at the individual level.
Being 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?
There’s nothing like connecting with colleagues. I text, talk and get together with people across the industry on a very regular basis—at conferences and back at home for a cup of coffee. Conversations with industry connections provide both sides with industry intel, updates on changes in our industry, and generally keeps you in the flow of what’s happening. Those discussions are equal in my mind to the best trade publications out there.
In your experience, is it possible to forecast upcoming trends? How does this process work?
Marketers need to be active listeners because customers teach us everything we need to know. Sometimes they tell us but, even more often than that, they show us—through how they spend their budgets.
One data point from a single customer is an insight, but multiple data points from multiple customers is a trend. We’re always on the lookout for when those insights start adding up on top of one another. We learn through annual NPS surveys, ongoing seller feedback and by looking at the numbers in both our own business and our competitors.
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?
While I definitely like to stay on top of trends, we tend to make case-by-case decisions on how to apply them to our business. For instance: generative AI, which is technology that turns text into images (for example), is obviously en vogue right now. Rather than go all-in, we have been testing its use so we understand what the impact could be for us over time.
If we were a major CPG company with hundreds of millions of dollars at our disposal, perhaps we would dedicate big budgets and full teams to adopting these trends, but we’re a B2B company that needs to deliver a greater return on investment on every dollar spent, so testing and learning is our friend.
What are some of the past trends that you embraced, and what results did you see?
When the pandemic began, our sales teams were obviously unable to visit their customers in person. The trend, in this case, was remote work. That might not seem like a trend, but I’ve racked my brain to find a shift more critical to how we operate.
To address this new dynamic, we invested in building more interactive experiences on our website so our sellers could walk their clients through our business over zoom and follow-up on those discussions with a shareable link. We hired a web developer, a web designer, brought on an external agency, and spent a lot of time strategizing and building virtual experiences to make customer interactions more meaningful.
Can you share a time when a strategy didn’t deliver the results you expected and what you learned from the experience?
About 10 years ago, I became the Chief Strategy Officer at a media agency. Our thesis at the time was that, while media spend had historically been the biggest driver of the ad business, dollars were quickly being replaced by data as the most important asset in a client’s toolkit. We went all-in on this idea, investing in insight partnerships, data feeds, and even physical spaces for our teams to collaborate on making data decisions.
Clients loved our approach and we won new business based on the concept, but it was really hard to get teams to change their day-to-day work habits in the dramatic ways it needed to happen. What we needed was more upfront training and an overall slower rollout. But, we felt a sense of urgency, so we pushed real hard.
From that experience, I learned that an idea can be right, but the winning equation needs to be: ‘strategy + execution + time.’ Don’t forget the ‘time.’
What factors should leaders consider before jumping on a trend?
Can you afford it? Is your ambition gated enough so that the work won’t take away from your most important projects driving your biggest goals? And, do you have a reasonable expectation for the outcome? If you can answer “yes” to all three questions—move ahead.
Based on your experience and success, what are the top five marketing trends leaders should know about in 2023?
1 . Social Platforms Have Peaked. Over the last decade, digital media has been dominated by social platforms. Both users and advertisers flocked to them. However, the industry has reached an inflection point where many of those companies have become compromised due to concerns about data privacy, content moderation or antitrust efforts. With all those unknowns, marketers need to find ways to rely on ease, stability, and performance in their media buys. In 2023, we’re going to see media spend shifting to venues where marketers can be certain those needs are met.
2 . First-Party Data Is On The Rise. As Google’s third-party deprecation goes into effect, first-party data will become the new standard advertisers use to fuel a range of targeting methods. We can expect movement beginning to happen in the first half of this year. Why? Advertisers are focusing on more efficient buying, stronger accountability and better return on investment, while gaining a greater understanding that a large part of the web is already incompatible with third-party cookies even at this moment.
3 . ROI Is Undergoing a Cyclical Revaluation. Advertising leaders always need to drive performance in their campaigns—no time more so than during challenging economic times. Spending cuts are a reality and budgets need to work harder. In 2023, marketers are prioritizing ad experiences like in-feed Native to deliver high brand recall, ensure their video ads are being viewed, and driving traffic back to their sites.
4 . Retail Media Networks Are The Next Web Giants. Many people make fun of the giant piece of paper they get at the pharmacy or grocery store check-out that looks more like an ancient scroll than a simple receipt. But, we all know why they do it. Merchants have so much data on our purchases and they are reinvesting those insights into getting us to buy more. That same activity is happening online and the web-based versions of those same retailers are toning their data muscles and building advertiser programs that are going to drive the next generation of hyper-growth in digital media.
5 . CTV Needs New Ways of Operating. By now, it’s obvious that linear television is on a precipitous decline. This means that a combination of streaming services, from the traditional (NBC’s Peacock) to the born-of-the-web (Netflix) will be ascendant over the coming decade. In order to win, they cannot simply ‘copy and paste’ their way into the future. They will need a combination of old-school spots and new, breakthrough formats to win. Those new formats will include everything from menu screen takeovers to on-screen ‘bugs’ to in-show product placement. These innovations are coming and they will forever change the monetization mix.
Lastly, if you could inspire a movement that would bring a great amount of good to the most people, what would that be?
As I get older, I can’t think of anything more important than the idea of being part of a community. When we’re young, we go to school, meet friends and expand our circles. If we get married, we join new friend groups and families. Through our careers, if we’re lucky enough, we become part of supportive networks that take care of us—and allow us to look after others.
But, as we get older, we realize that the former ways that brought us together start to wane and that it’s up to each of us to build, grow and maintain our own communities. If I could inspire a movement to bring good, it would be about bringing people together around a shared interest—could be music, art, food, athletics, or anything else. These resources obviously exist in the world, so it’s not like I’d be inventing the wheel. But, I do think friendship and networks are a key to health for all of us.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I have been a dedicated Twitter user going back many years, but I’m taking a break. I like to think my feed is a good reflection on my thoughts, personality and priorities—even if it’s a time capsule that hasn’t been updated since late 2022. That time capsule can be found at @jordanbitterman
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