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The human connection

Increasing reliance on digital technologies can create a need for human connection between brands and their customers, workforce and partners. This provides brands an opportunity to build connection, drive engagement and power growth.

EVERY industrial revolution was catalysed by a major technological evolution. Today is no different. With 90 per cent of the world’s data having been produced in the last two years and more than 26 billion clever devices in circulation, we are living in an era of unprecedented technological innovation—one that has spurred the Fourth Industrial Revolution.1

Our first Global Marketing Trends report is, in many ways, a response to this Fourth Industrial Revolution. Yet, it’s not a technology report. For no matter which era we live in or the technology it brings forth, the human remains constant throughout this relay of revolutions. This report is intended to guide C-suite leadership in developing their strategies in this fast-changing digital milieu, while keeping the human front and centre.

In this spirit, we set out to explore how brands can navigate the increasingly digitised business, economic and social environment in a way that helps preserve—and even cultivate—their human connections. Through interviews with more than 80 subject matter experts across the globe, we identified seven key trends on which every business will likely have to focus over the next 18 to 24 months to help build a socially and human-conscious enterprise. To create this report, we integrated new research and analysis, insights from academic literature and stories from the field. While each of these trends varies in age—conversations around some are just starting to pick up in the public sphere while others have been noted in literature for centuries—there’s a common thread that runs through them, one that puts the human at the forefront of our digital environments.

Just as people expect brands to treat them like humans and not merely as transactions, they also expect brands to act more human. This means they expect the brands with which they interact to embody human qualities—be steadfast and transparent in their beliefs, consistent in their actions and authentic in their intentions.

Our seven marketing trends are anchored in this human-first philosophy. Among these seven, we’ve identified two overarching trends, connecting nearly all facets of business, that help brands place the human at the centre of their work. These are purpose and human experience. The first trend—purpose—and the focus of the first chapter of this report is foundational to why brands exist. Though purpose is not new, it’s more important now than ever to direct every strategic choice across the organisation. Authentic, human-centric purposes are differentiated in the mind of society in a way that’s impossible for others to imitate. The second trend—human experience—weaves purpose across a brand’s interactions and relationships with its customers, workforce and business partners, helping ensure that every facet of a company’s operations is aligned with making the world better for all the people it serves.

Purpose and human experience unite the five other trends—fusion, trust, participation, talent and agility. The third chapter—fusion—highlights how purpose and human experience are together the North Star that guides brands in choosing partners with whom to engage in large, open ecosystems. Our fourth chapter makes it clear that brands can’t accomplish purpose-driven work authentically without establishing trust across these ecosystems.

To help brands align with customer values, the fifth chapter provides guidance on how they can bring consumers into the ecosystem and amplify their participation. Chapter six discusses how talent should be nurtured in a manner that enables brands to best work towards their purpose. In the final chapter, we deconstruct what it takes to structure internal operations in an agile manner that empowers brands to not only move at the speed of technology, but also slow down enough to create moments that matter for all people they touch.

From the C-suite to the frontline workforce, we close each chapter with specific tips on how marketers can better position their brands and their companies in this digitally connected age.

The breakneck pace of technological change is simultaneously exciting and overwhelming, full of opportunity and the potential for missteps. Our hope: Putting the human at the centre of our trends exploration can help brands forge their own path to making an impact that matters.

Deloitte Digital

Digital technology has changed the face of business. Across the globe, Deloitte Digital helps clients see what’s possible, identify what’s valuable and deliver on it by combining creative and digital capabilities with advertising agency prowess and the technical experience, deep business strategy and relationships of the world’s largest consultancy. Deloitte Digital empowers businesses with the insights, platforms and behaviours needed to continuously and rapidly evolve to perform beyond expectations.

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This report would not be possible without the subject matter expertise that results from working alongside executives on the front lines to understand the impact of these trends in the marketplace and how to embrace them to drive growth for organisations.

Thank you to the following contributors:


David Redhill, Partner, Deloitte Consulting Global CMO, Australia
Mike Brinker, Principal, Global Deloitte Digital Leader, US
Will Grobel, Director, Customer & Marketing, UK
Andrew Jolly, Partner, Digital Mix Lead, UK
Peter Sedivy, Partner, APAC Deloitte Digital Lead, US
David Phillips, Partner, Brand, Creative & Media, Australia
Pascual Hua, Partner, Deloitte Digital, China
Ryo Kanayama, Director, Chief Brand & Corporate Affairs Officer, Japan
Desiree Phakathi, Senior Manager, Marketing, South Africa
Tharien Padayachee, Manager, Marketing & Communications, South Africa
Livia Zufferli, Income & Associate Partner, Customer & Marketing, Canada
Pablo Selvino, Partner, Consulting Director, LATCO
Heloisa Montes, Partner, Digital Customer & Marketing Transformation leader, Brazil
Renato Souza, Director, Communication & Brand, Brazil
Victor Press, Partner, Acne, Northwest Europe
Jennifer Veenstra, Managing Director, CMO Program leader, US


Tim Murphy, Senior Manager, US
Josh Schoop, PhD, Manager, US


Anna Syrkis, Manager, Global Marketing Trends Program Manager, US
Julie Murphy, Manager, Marketing Manager, US
Marion Cannon, Lead, Content & Insights, US
Natalie Melamed, Senior Manager, Content & Insights, US

Purpose is everything

Jennifer Barron, Principal, Brand & Growth Strategy, US
Torsten Gross, Managing Director, Customer & Applied Design, US
Richard Prévost, Senior Manager, Branding, Marketing & Advertising Lead, South Africa
David Olsson, Partner, Acne, Sweden
Ori Mace, Senior Manager, Acne, Sweden
Andy Sandoz, Partner, Chief Creative Officer, Deloitte Digital, UK
Mark Hutcheon, Director, Risk Advisory, UK

Paying down experience debt

Amelia Dunlop, Principal, Customer Strategy & Applied Design Leader, US
Ashley Reichheld, Principal, Customer & Marketing Automotive, Transportation, Hospitality & Services sector leader, US
Stacy Kemp, Principal, Customer & Marketing Strategy, US
Maggie Gross, Senior Manager, Heat, US
Megan Fath, Senior Manager, Customer & Applied Design, US
Emma Gu, Manager, Customer & Applied Design, China
Thomas Kant, Manager, Deloitte Neuroscience Institute, Germany
Olivier Binse, Partner, Head of Digital Advisory, Deloitte Digital, UK
Deborah Womack, Director, Customer & Marketing, UK
Susie Nursaw, Director, Deloitte Digital Insights, UK
Peta Williams, Senior Manager, Deloitte Digital Marketing & Insights, UK

Fusion is the new business blend

Paul Magill, Managing Director, Customer & Marketing, US
Larry Keeley, Managing Director, President, Doblin, US
Mike Barrett, Principal, President, Heat, US
Will Grobel, Director, Customer & Marketing, UK
Tom Day, Director, Market Gravity, UK
Alex Curry, Partner, Monitor Deloitte, UK
Dan Adams, Partner, MarTech & Insight leader, UK

Are you a trust buster or builder?

Jeff Weirens, Principal, Global Business Leader of Financial Advisory, US
Jeff Simpson, Principal, Customer & Marketing, US
David Cutbill, Principal, Marketing and Advertising Risk Services Leader, US
Cameron Brown, Director, Head of Privacy, UK
Will Grobel, Director, Customer & Marketing, UK
Peta Williams, Senior Manager, Deloitte Digital Marketing & Insights, UK
Wendy Stonefield, Director, Customer & Marketing, UK
Nick Purdon, Director, Customer & Marketing, UK

The amplification of consumer participation

Jennifer Lacks Kaplan, Principal, Customer & Marketing, US
Melissa Schwarz, Senior Manager, Deloitte Pixel leader, US
Balaji Bondili, Senior Manager, Hybrid Solutions & Incubation, US
Grace Ling, Partner, Consulting, China
Emma Gu, Manager, Customer & Applied Design, China
Andy Sandoz, Partner, Chief Creative Officer, Deloitte Digital, UK
Matt Guest, Partner, Deloitte Digital, UK
Monica Hu, Manager, Deloitte Digital, UK
Alex Curry, Partner, Monitor Deloitte, UK

Valuing your most important asset—talent

Jannine Zucker, Principal, Human Capital, US
Ashley Reichheld, Principal, Customer & Marketing Automotive, Transportation, Hospitality & Services sector leader, US
Hilary Horn, Managing Director, Human Capital, US
Yohan Gaumont, Equity Partner, Digital Customer leader, Canada
Will Grobel, Director, Customer & Marketing, UK
Gillian Simpson, Director, Customer & Marketing, UK
Rupert Darbyshire, Director, Human Capital, UK

Diffusing agility across the organisation

Mike Barrett, Principal, President, Heat, US
Jocelyn Lee, Senior Manager, Head of AI, Heat/Deloitte Digital, US
Alan Schulman, Managing Director, Chief Creative Officer, Deloitte Digital, US
Ed Grieg, Senior Manager, Chief Disruptor, Deloitte Digital, UK
Martin Willets, Partner, Customer & Marketing, UK
Yohan Gaumont, Equity Partner, Digital Customer leader, Canada
Verusha Maharaj, Senior Manager, Monitor Deloitte, South Africa

Special thanks to the CMO Program team and the leaders of Customer & Marketing and Deloitte Digital for their insight and support through this journey.

Cover image by: David Vogin

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