The consumer PR business has remained relatively robust throughout the lingering economic downturn, thanks to a more central role that rewards storytelling, content creation and direct relationships with consumers, often via social media.

Against that backdrop, the Holmes Report invited consumer marketing experts from around the world to help us compile a list of five key trends that determine the consumer PR outlook for the year ahead. We also asked Coca-Cola Latin America VP Javier Sanchez Lamelas to provide his perspective as a client-side marketer at one of the world’s iconic consumer brands.

1. The power of sport
Last year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games demonstrated that smart campaigns, allied to a responsive, realtime activation approach, can drive genuine returns in return for sponsorship investment. Numerous brands benefited from the London Olympics, notably Adidas, British Airways and P&G. And while 2013 is considered an ‘empty’ year as far as sporting events are concerned, it seems clear that sports marketing is inexorably moving up the marketing agenda, evolving beyond a vanity vehicle towards a genuine engagement opportunity. Catalyst managing director Bret Werner expects brands to use 2013 to plan for the major events in 2014 - the Fifa World Cup in Brazil, a New York Superbowl, and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

2. Content crashes the party
The rise of content creation is not exactly a new phenomenon, but 2013 is set to be the year when the PR discipline fully wakes up to the opportunities on offer. Pushing this along, says M&C Saatchi PR CEO Molly Aldridge, is increasing client demand for content platforms that span a range of channels, whether editorial, digital, mobile, or advertising. “A recent example of this is the new Peroni client that we now work on across the group,” explains Aldridge. “This focuses on branded content and the creative platform above and beyond the actual discipline that supports it and smart brand operators are thinking more and more about creative content first and then the core disciplines needed to push out to the right target groups.”

3. Virtual retail
The media shift towards mobile and tablets means that consumers are increasingly making buying decisions on the go. This, says Waggener-Edstrom Asia-Pacific digital strategies lead Zaheer Nooruddin, means that “the marketing communications mix needs to be heavily skewed towards mobile and agencies need to pivot” by thinking “which device” when determining the audience and channel mix. In addition, says Nooruddin, smart brands will focus on online shopping experiences at the expense of physical retail stores. Flagship stores may become grander but much more resource will be devoted to socially-enabled e-commerce platforms.

4. Creativity at all costs
If the PR industry hopes to realise its ambition of becoming a central brand development partner, then it has to address a potential creative deficit that was unearthed by the Holmes Report’s Creativity In PR study. P&G CMO Marc Pritchard, who knows a thing or two about successful campaigns, probably put it best when he told us last year that “the PR industry needs to push itself to come up with the big ideas.” A clearer understanding of how insight and planning can drive idea generation would be no bad place to start.

5. Social purpose
Convergence may be the latest overused marketing term, but the trends it represents remain real. In particular, the continued fusion of brand and corporate communications will be most apparent where social purpose is concerned, responding to increasing consumer demand for tangible values. “Corporate leaders will attach themselves more closely to the big social issues, particularly as we get closer to the 2015 Millennium Development Goals deadline and the debate over their replacement intensifies,” says Salt CEO Andrew Last. “This in turn will put pressure on consumer-facing brands to step up to the mark, to deliver on the rhetoric of the C-suite.” Last adds that gender equality will also become a much bigger factor in 2013, “creating opportunities for brands that can demonstrate to their consumers that they share their values in this area, and serious reputational issues for corporations who aren’t seen to be doing enough to tackle equality inside or outside of their business.” 

In-house view: “Marketing finally dies…”
Javier Sanchez Lamelas, VP marketing, Coca-Cola Latin America

"New marketing & communications trends are based on Darwinism. It means that the only marketing that will survive at the long round is NOT the one supported by the biggest check; or the most pervasive multi-media strategy and not even the one with the tightest strategic fit to the brand it supports. The marketing that will survive above others is the most adaptable and capable of reaching highest virility, ‘rewatchability’, and impact and consumer engagement. It is the one that creates conversations and reaches fastest top of mind.  All the rest will disappear like dinosaurs did a few million years ago, but this process might take some time until marketing finally dies. But it will, and all this is happening because the environment – internet, consumer’s connections, social networks, mobility, etc – has changed our lives dramatically forever".