It’s hard as marketers to get far enough out of the day to day to observe trends materializing to influence our ability to do our jobs, much less think about marketing in 2020. But the difficulty not withstanding, the future of our brands depends on it. As often as possible, we must get out of our day to day and focus on the macro trends that are painting our marketing world, because if we don’t know we’re going to fall prey to them and not be in a position to proactively create our agendas for marketing in 2020.

When I start getting too tied up in the day-to-day, I make it a point to think outside the box and steep myself in future trends. One of the places I love to go in those moments is the World Future Society. For all of you wanting to get outside the day to day box, they have just released a special edition of the Futurist titled: Big Data and the Networked World of 2020. If you haven’t spent time at the WFS, head on over there now for their special report.

Marketing in 2020

marketing in 2020As I was reviewing the WFS site, a few articles caught my eye, which when compiled have profound implications for marketing in 2020.

It started with a newsletter article from Saeculum Decoded, by Neil Howe titled Once Again, Economy Hammers Gen Xers and Favors the Silent. Neil’s article discusses the recent release of the Fed’s “Changes in U.S. Family Finances.” No big surprise, except perhaps by the amount, but we were all a lot worse off in 2010 than we were in the last reporting period, 2007.

Neil goes on to show that in every successive reporting period from 1983 forward, those under the age of 55 are WORSE off than they were in the previous reporting period.

marketing in 2020

What this means to marketing in 2020 is that if that trend holds true, we’re going to be selling our products, brands, and services to individuals with less net worth — and therefore less discretionary income than in any year since 1983. That’s a pretty big takeaway for marketing in 2020.

The next was an article that caught my attention was by Thomas Frey titled “Workerless Businesses: An Explosive New Trend,” appearing on his blog, Futurist Speaker. The crux of this article is that in this recession, we see a massive movement toward what he calls, “Forced Entrepreneurship.” He defines “forced entrepreneurship” as:

“Forced entrepreneurship often starts with project work, temp jobs, consulting gigs, or other opportunities for making money. Sometimes the work is done as a trade-out to just get a foot in the door. Very often one opportunity will lead to another, and a patchwork business plan begins to form in the person’s mind. Formal business plans are rare, but the key metrics for managing the operation begins to crystallize in their head.”

There’s an interesting manifesto by Dale Carrico on Amor Mundi this month, titled “I Tweet From Basement, Home of Mom”: Time For A Cyberspace Manifesto 2.0? in which he pleads: “On behalf of our hopes for some kind of future, I guess I’m asking you to think about maybe giving me a temp job without benefits or at least to lower the price of a Big Gulp and a microwave burrito until I find work or I drop dead, whichever comes first.”  This is the credo for many of those individuals embracing the Forced Entrepreneur business model. It speaks to a level of both desperateness and tenacity that should not be underestimated.

Here’s the interesting note though:  according to Gallup, “thirty-two percent of 18- to 29-year-olds in the U.S. workforce were underemployed.” So coupled with the pressure of decreasing family net worth, and underemployment, we are seeing huge movement toward the workerless business/forced entrepreneurship model. The takeaway for marketing in 2020 here is that the emphasis on small business is only increasing. As a historical note,  Thomas Frey acknowledges that “…more than half of today’s Fortune 500 companies were founded during a recession or bear market.” It is not unreasonable to assume that we are in a similar business building marketing right now.

Marketing in 2020 Conclusions

What’s interesting here for marketing in 2020 is that we’ve got a large number of forced entrepreneurs, with limited incomes, starting businesses. All without formal business plans and key management metrics. On the one hand, this enables them to be incredibly agile and responsive, and on the other, prone to folly by leaping at the next great opportunity without sufficient analysis.

It also means that, for marketing in 2020 from a B2B perspective, we’ve got an unprecedented number freelancers to work with, and the opportunity for established businesses to get creative and meet these Forced Entrepreneurs partway is significant. As we move toward marketing in 2020, those Forced Entrepreneurs will need the established business’ practices, strategy, and analysis before they become a Fortune 500 business — a prime opportunity to integrate existing B2B businesses with these new Forced Entrepreneurs.

But in searching for B2B opportunities or B2C opportunities, the piece we marketers all have to remember about marketing in 2020 is that we’re talking about selling our brands, services, and products to people who have historically less net worth.  One in three of which are underemployed, and many, many of which have stepped out to become an entrepreneur. The piece that ties all of these together is, as Thomas Frey noted:

“To succeed as a forced entrepreneur, bootstrapping is king. They quickly learn to never spend a dime unless it is absolutely necessary. Their skills, talent, and ideas become a form of currency that they can exchange for equally valued goods and services.”

This new frugality is going to be the new key to marketing in 2020. We’re going to be working harder for less for the foreseeable future, the days of insane luxury are behind us. Demonstrating value, barter, and alternate currencies are where we need to spend some strategic time and energy to succeed in marketing in 2020.

Now it’s your turn, what do these trends tell you about what we’ll be marketing in 2020?

About the Author:

Tisha Oehmen

Tisha Oehmen is a professional brand strategist and a leader in the branding field. She has been named a member of the Global Guru’s Top 30 Brand Gurus. She is also the co-founder of Oregon-based Paradux Media Group and the best-selling author of the book, Finding Brand: The Brand Book Tutorial.

Learn More

Quacktastic Reviews:


  1. Bhushan on July 19, 2012 at 12:56 am

    Hi Tisha,
    Yet another Excellent chunk of information.
    I am at your side,Thank you for this disclosure. I have been researching disclosure statements.

    • Tisha Oehmen on July 21, 2012 at 10:16 am

      So glad to hear it was useful Bhushan!

  2. Display Source on July 27, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    What would you predict being the ultimate delivery method for advertising going forward to target these more careful spenders, and smaller businesses? Continued growth in digital outreach, or as history tends to show, a fallback to ‘classic’ methods for simplicity at some point but with improved delivery methods? (like, direct marketing via printed materials and social gatherings etc.)

    • Tisha Oehmen on July 29, 2012 at 11:22 am

      I think we’re going to have to get creative as marketers going forward. These folks are less influenced by traditional “selling” methods than other generations. To successfully market to them, guerrilla tactics and trusted advisers will win the day.

      • Mark Holmes on April 2, 2013 at 2:00 pm

        I agree with your point … ‘are less influenced by traditional “selling” methods’ to the extent that those methods undervalue the crucial role of building trust early and quickly into the relationship. Too many sellers and marketers are focused on the “pitch” and “features” vs. understanding the context of value, expectations, fears, needs and wants of their customer. Could you please elaborate on what type of “trusted advisers” you envision in future marketing?

        • Tisha Oehmen on April 9, 2013 at 10:03 pm

          Sure Mark, more consumers are looking to their trusted advisors, friends – family members, those in their sphere of influence to choose which brand to buy, which store to shop in, and which non-profit to support. We’re seeing an increased number of queries posed via social media such as, “I’m looking for X — anyone have any recommendations?” And those recommendations are driving the buying decision. This is true offline as well, but increasingly trusted advisors are influencing more than ever.

Leave a Comment