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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 New Marketing Trends That Leaders Need To Know.” As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marina Zubic.

Marina Zubic

Marina Zubic

Marina started at Async Labs as a project management intern six years ago and quickly progressed to Marketing Team Lead then Head of Marketing to eventually become the company’s first CMO. Since joining the company in its startup phase, she’s had to manage different scopes of work and business at the same time—from content and market strategies, to sales, business development and even talent acquisition. Thanks to Marina’s branding and marketing strategies, Async Labs is a recognisable and respectable name in Croatia and the Balkan region.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I actually started my career as a project management intern while Async Labs was still in the start-up phase. Precisely because of when I joined the team, I was able to explore and experience different aspects of the business. Our goals were high and the budget was tight, so we had to manage, which meant that everybody did everything. I had my fingers in design, people management, HR, advertising, and so on and that’s when I realized I like the variety of possibilities and opportunities marketing has to offer. 

It is like a living thing, continuously growing and changing and you have to be quick and adaptable. There are so many trends to follow—it pushes you to continuously try new things. A strategy that brought results a year ago doesn't have the same effect and you have to find a new approach, so it's very challenging. I found this dynamic very appealing. 

It has been said that our mistakes can sometimes be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about a mistake you made when you were first starting? What lessons did you learn from it?

In many cases, timing is crucial for marketing activities. It can literally be a deal breaker, because there is always someone who either already has your idea or will come up with something similar really soon. So the pressure to be “on time” is certainly present.

What I’ve learned though, and thankfully early on, is that no matter how timing and effectiveness matter, quality and precision should be your main priorities. 

A couple of years ago we ran a Facebook ads campaign for a startup client. We worked on various visuals, prepared the target audience and content strategy and had everything ready and timed for the big launch. The only thing that wasn’t ready was the client’s logo which we were to receive from the client. 

Since we were in a hurry and everything was already set, to make sure the launch goes the best it can, I wanted to test everything first and set it up. I needed the company’s logo for that and since I was still waiting to receive it, I decided, just for the sake of the testing phase, to put Async Labs’s logo which actually stayed and was running as our client’s logo for a couple of hours.

I don’t think I need to explain the extent and significance of this kind of a mistake. Luckily, we realized the mistake within a couple of hours and the campaign did pretty well in the end, but my eagerness to do things perfectly and on time led to making one of the most trivial but crucial mistakes. 

What I learned from this is that perfection and timing do not always work well together, and if you have to sacrifice one in marketing, I choose timing. 

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Our CEO and co-founder of Async Labs Alen was one of the people who really helped me kick start my career. Other than continuously challenging and motivating me, he gave me the opportunity and space to develop in whichever direction I wanted, as long as I can connect it with our brand. This was a completely different approach from anything I’ve experienced before, and it’s not an easy thing to do. You have to trust the person and their ambition and willingly give them an opportunity even if it’s not currently in alignment with your company goals and needs.

This was a game changer for me and I am glad it's a part our company culture today. Many people from our team start at one position, end up at another. When people are challenged and excited, they're more motivated and satisfied. 

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

There are a lot of metrics, statistics and success indicators in marketing, but for me, the one that always mattered the most and made me feel the most proud of our marketing strategies and actions is lead generation. When you get inquiries from clients and partners due to various activities you implemented—especially most of them being new—it's a really good feeling.

Whoever is in marketing—no matter the industry, position or seniority—you need to realize and accept that you have to learn, adjust, make last-minute changes, and be on alert for anything. One victory doesn’t mean all your strategies will be successful, just as one failure doesn’t mean that the approach was a failure. Most likely, it was the context and conditions. 

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Async Labs stands out with its people. As part of the management team I know how much time and effort we invest, not only into finding the right people for us, but becoming the best version of Async Labs we can be, for our team. 

I am glad to see that culture is finally getting the recognition and value it deserves. Ours is, above all, based on honesty, transparency and respect. Though it is challenging at times, it's recognized and valued by our entire team.

Furthermore, due to the nature of a smaller company, we have an advantage of being flexible and adaptable. This is very important in today’s environment, particularly for a digital agency that offers different scopes of services. 

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Among many other projects currently being developed, both for our clients and Async Labs itself, we are currently in the planning phase of a marketing campaign for construction software. This project offers a high possibility of helping construction workers and companies to save significant amounts of money and resources and optimize their business. 

Fantastic. Let’s get into marketing trends. As a CMO, you’re at the forefront of the marketing space. What resources or tools do you use to stay abreast of the ever-changing landscape?

Multitasking and focus management are must-haves in marketing, and I do have to say, the modern marketing tools that are available to us are extremely helpful. I am 100% serious when I say I use them everyday and could not live without them. They help and assist me on an everyday basis but also come very handy when I’m preparing a new campaign for a client.

Teamwork for people, project and task management. 

Ahrefs to keep track with continuous tracking and updates on the market, our rankings, our competitions, etc.

Google Analytics is extremely important for keeping track of your marketing campaigns and activities, defining your goals, target groups, adjusting your content, etc. It’s a crucial part of any testing phase.

Notes to help me organize my projects, tasks and thoughts. :)

LastPass is definitely a huge time saver considering all the platforms and accounts I need to log in on an everyday basis.

In your experience, is it possible to forecast upcoming trends? How does this process work? Please share a story.

I don’t think there can be a clear answer here. I would say that you can definitely assume and suppose certain trends that are about to happen but only if you are continuously listening to the market. 

Of course the first thing we all have to be aware of, is that the market is extremely unpredictable, especially today, and when it comes to marketing in the IT industry. New technologies, features and trends are continuously coming up, and what was hot and successful yesterday will be old news by tomorrow. 

For example, a couple of years ago it was much easier to implement and have SEO strategies with blog posts. Today, due to algorithm changes, evolution of video, and new user experiences, that is much harder. 

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? What are the pros and cons?

I’m sure we would all love to be considered as early adopters but that’s easier said than done. The main point is that everyone needs to weigh and calculate whether a certain trend makes sense for their brand, their goals and their audience. It’s not always a good idea to follow trends to be trendy. If it is not in line with your branding and voice in general, it can very much backfire. 

On the other hand, some brands actually profile themselves as trend followers and game changers and it can definitely work for them. Therefore, as probably most things in marketing, I would say the answer is not simple or black and white. You have to adjust it to your own needs.

What are some of the past trends that you embraced? What results did you see?

During Covid, we—like many other companies—very much adapted to remote work. We realized very quickly how to manage, communicate, and do teamwork when we are not always all together. The whole process with our clients was also changed with the pandemic. We were forced to hold online meetings, which can be extremely helpful if you want to open doors to other markets.

Can you share a time when a strategy didn’t deliver the results you expected and what you learned from the experience?

It’s a very thin line between marketing campaigns and sales. In most cases, when clients require marketing assistance they already have a company, brand, or a product and they just need help pointing at their brand to help them generate profit. That’s what we do. We create awareness, target potential customers and users, and encourage them to consider our client’s brand, visit their website, click on their video, read their content, etc.

In many cases however, the sales part is not particularly discussed and it makes sense because it is very hard to determine when the customer decided to buy or give up on a certain product and who is to blame. 

The lesson I’ve learned is that everyone involved needs to know precisely what they are responsible for, but know in the end that we are all working together, towards the same goal.

What factors should leaders consider before jumping on a trend? Can you please explain what you mean?

There are numerous factors really, depending on the specific company and situation. In general, I would again say every brand needs to weigh whether something makes sense for them or not based on their brand image, goals, budget, audience, and what kind of a relationship they want to build. Whether they want to be trendy, attain more visibility and traffic or their priority is focused on evolving into a long term, trustworthy and authentic brand.

There are no right and wrong answers here, only the question if you are in alignment with your primary goals or not. 

Here is the main question of our interview. We’d love for you to share the top five marketing trends leaders should know about in 2023.

1 . AI tools - Unavoidably, AI tools are already becoming a part of our private and professional lives, and marketing is no exception. While many fear these technological advancement will replace our jobs, I don’t see it that way. I think this can help all of us perfect and optimize our work, and we should use its benefits. For example, my team has actively started using tools like ChatGPT and not to replace their skill, but to help them work more efficiently.

2 .  Video content - It’s been on an uptrend for a couple of years now and I think it will continue on that flow. Video is the main type of content that keeps the user's attention. Therefore, your solutions and deliverables should be in video format as much as possible. 

3 . Content consumption - To me, this is a continuous trend. Thanks to continuous technology advancements, people keep changing their habits and quickly shift from reading blog posts and e-books to watching videos to listening to podcasts. It’s hard to predict what will be next once the era of TikTok and podcasts cools down, but what we can be sure to conclude is that consumers are getting more and more impatient, and want their information as soon as possible. Three sentences into an article, 30 seconds into a video—if the answer they’re looking for isn't immediately obvious, they will move on. 

4 . TikTok domination- This has clearly already started, but I think we have yet to see the high point of the social media platform. The number of users active on TikTok is constantly increasing, and some even predict it has the potential of replacing Google.

5 . Advertising changes - Recession is already here but its peak is expected sometime in 2023. The first step many companies take is halting or reducing advertising budgets. If a company has the budget, however, this period can actually be an opportunity to grow and stand out from the competition if you keep investing in marketing and advertising.

Facebook, for example, has had many changes and updates even before the economic crisis started which led to many withdrawing their advertising campaigns from Facebook. This does not mean no one will use Facebook for advertising any more, but the hype around it will certainly drop which will change a lot of strategies and approaches. 

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring a great amount of good, what would it be? You never know what it can trigger!

The first thing that comes to mind, as part of management departments, is the effect you can have on employees and the market in general, as an employer. 

Async Labs is primarily about people, and we understand that without our team members, we would not have our clients and our successes. This is why, from the start, our approach was to build the whole story together. That simple is not possible without honesty and transparency, in good times and bad. 

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I am mostly active on LinkedIn where I share the latest updates on Async Labs and our partners and clients as well as my thoughts and insights on the latest market trends. Feel free to contact me, I’m excited to get in touch! :)

Stephanie Hood
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.