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20-20 Vision: A Look Ahead Into The Future of Digital, Content Marketing & Consumer Trust

January 7, 2020

Entering a new year, specifically a new decade, gives way to reflect on what has come and gone. What has shaped a generation, culture, and globe. From political to social and technological and economic, it can often feel as though a whole lifetime has passed within the span of 365 days.

Let’s take a moment to pause, consider how much has changed, and ask ourselves: where will growth and innovation come from as we enter a new decade? In this post we will discuss and consider those factors in which we here at Proof have an understanding and point-of-view, specifically as it relates to social and digital trends and consumer attitudes towards trust.

Consumer Attitudes and Trust

Here at Proof it is in our DNA to study trust, to be curious about what drives trust among Canadians and to help share that narrative and what it means to us and our clients. We believe trust should be coveted and built, nurtured and protected. The results that emerged from our 2019 CanTrust Index; show that for the first time in four-years (since the inception of this report), consumer attitudes and our overall Trust Index has fallen. And while we can’t predict what 2020 holds for the strengthening of Canadians trust, we are certain that some of the below topics will continue to remain at the forefront of the minds and conversations of consumers:

Privacy: concerns will continue to rise amongst consumers, particularly amongst Gen Z’ers who are more cautious than previous generations. This will inevitably continue to impact marketers and advertisers in a big way specifically for those who don’t take consumer privacy seriously or those that do, and understand there are still consumers who are willing to share personal information as a form of currency and in exchange for valuable content. Consider Canada’s anti-spam legislation (CASL) and how that will be echoed for our US counterparts as it relates to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) that went into effect just last week. How will this impact the work we produce for our business partners abroad or are we already well positioned to provide expert advice? Or the changes we’ve seen to Facebook’s social issues, elections or politics policy post-Cambridge Analytica. And while we expect that changes from the likes of governing bodies and technology companies will continue to impact everything from targeting and personalization to measurement, we must continue to examine, does a loss of trust from a privacy breach, for instance, have a negative impact on business growth? Or, do brands that protect privacy and earn trust grow faster?

Authenticity, Transparency & Sustainability: with the overwhelming amount of content readily available at the click of a link and the swipe of thumb consumers are savvy and skeptical about the information they consume. Our CanTrust Index highlights that “friends and family and our first-hand experience are the most trusted source of information.” In order to maintain and build trust with audiences, brands need to ensure that every touchpoint from influencer partnerships to consumable packaging remains open, honest and ethical – without the hard sell from marketers.

Diverse & Inclusive Storytelling: consumers have come to expect that diversity and inclusion are reflected in the content they see on and offline. This can include demographic diversities and/or the diversity of experiences and perspectives that different individuals bring to the table. But that’s not enough. To be truly inclusive, people must be heard. Their ideas embraced, discussed and reflected back in a meaningful and productive way. Sharing in a story that feels representative gives people a sense of commonality, community and inclusion. And while this isn’t so much a trend as it should be the status quo, we expect to see more brands adopt and modify what this means as part of their marketing and creative process and more importantly as part of their entire business operations.

Alternative & Niche Social Platforms: while the likes of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter will continue to play and integral role for marketers and advertisers throughout 2020, it will be interesting to watch the shift of platform adoption and abandonment by consumers. Alternative and niche social media channels like TikTok are already seeing new interest and promising growth levels and we continue to see brand presence on “secondary” sites like Snapchat, Pinterest, Medium and Reddit. How these platforms continue to provide content, working with brands and influencers, and in protecting consumer privacy will be an integral part of how their existence remains on the screens and in the hands of consumers.

Emerging Tech: from 5G technology on mobile devices to advancements in AI and voice technology, how consumers engage with content will continue to transform this year. While 5G technology will change the speed at which consumers digest content on mobile, voice searches will lean into keyword-focused-content based on how people talk rather than how they type. As we think of the next decade, we imagine that what your brand “sounds” like and how it engages will become an integral part of your brand guidelines. A balance between technological advancement, inclusivity and consumer privacy will remain at the centre of these emergences and those brands that get it right without appearing to be “listening in” will come out on top.

Why It Matters For Brands, Marketers and Advertisers

1. Privacy and trust will remain at the forefront of consumer decision making and should be “always-on.” Embed truth-telling, integrity and transparency into your company values and day-to-day operations. Brands that lead with transparency lead with ethics and purpose and naturally connect with like-minded audiences.

2. In the age of transparency, how a company does things has become as important as what they say. Brands and marketers must make changes to the way they run their businesses to align with modern consumer expectations.

3. Know your audience. Brands have the opportunity to feature a more well-rounded representation of its audiences, to tell more nuanced stories and to make new connections from more inclusive brand marketing.

4. Foster communities created by and for your audience. Invite promoters of your brand to co-create content that brings to life your brand narrative in an authentic and genuine way. New and smaller social media platforms may not have the reach of social giants, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Often, specialized platforms are better at reaching specific audiences by behaviour, interest, or demographic.

5. Consider how new and emerging technology platforms will impact your business. Thoughtful planning towards voice search will put your brand at the centre of consumer decision making before your competitors.


What are your thoughts? What new and emerging trends have you begun to see and how might they contribute to the next decade’s growth, innovation and in the strengthening (or weakening) of consumer trust?