4 Marketing Trends That Died Quietly in 2020



The hype machine is never greater than when it comes to marketing trends. Any tool or technique that might yield some success for marketers is shared, promoted, talked about and lauded as the next big thing.

At least that’s the case for the vendors marketing the tools, and for the agencies that need something new to talk about.

The reality is that while some things stick, such as marketing automationOpens a new window , and others kinda work but don’t quite “change everything” (we’re looking at you, growth hackingOpens a new window ), there are a few technologies and marketing trends that really fail to meet the hype. These trends and technologies rise up with great fanfare and much press, then quietly die or become niche tools and practices.

The world of marketing is littered with many of these quiet failures, and 2019 was no exception.

“Many of the technological advances that were predicted to take off in marketing in 2019 such as AI, chatbots, augmented reality–even voice search to some extent–have not had the impact many had thought,” says Michael Brenner, CEO of content marketing firm, Marketing Insider GroupOpens a new window .

So let’s shine the spotlight on four marketing trends that didn’t perform as expected.

1. Voice Search

With voice as an easy way to search on smartphones, and smart speakers penetrating an increasing number of homes in the U.S., it looked like marketers should start optimizing for voice instead of written text. Voice search would be the next big thing.

Even though people are using smart speakers en masse now, and Siri has been annoying us for years, optimizing for voice hasn’t quite panned out the way many marketers predicted. It just hasn’t been a thing, even if smart speakers are a thing.

“Voice search was a hot topic, but there was very little real marketing ROI from it,” says John Lincoln, author of one of my favorite marketing news digestsOpens a new window and CEO of SEO specialists, Ignite VisibilityOpens a new window . “Some people did better than others with it, of course.”

2. Virtual Reality

Once virtual reality took off, marketers could begin to saturate everyday experiences with marketing placement much as they have done with the online world. Facebook even got in on the act, making VR look like a done deal.

Only it wasn’t.

“The wow factor of Facebook SpacesOpens a new window and other shiny virtual reality formats is wearing off,” says Chris Sugrue, content and communications lead for social media marketing platform, Falcon.ioOpens a new window . “The market is leaning into the far more accessible world of augmented reality.”

Few disagree with this assessment.

“What was once a trendy idea is now a dying idea,” says Alex Membrillo, CEO of Cardinal Digital MarketingOpens a new window . “If you don’t believe me, just look at the 2019 sales numbers for virtual reality headsets. The technology was popular among early adaptors when it first debuted, but the masses never got on board.”

3. RankBrain

Google unveiled its machine learning-based search engine algorithm to the world in October of 2015. Last year was supposed to be the year that it took off for marketers.

RankBrain works by ranking pages based on user interactions. This includes measuring how long visitors from Google search spend on a marketer’s website before leaving. Optimization for RankBrain was supposed to help to reduce the bounce rate for marketers and increase their Clickthrough Rate on search engine results pages. But almost nobody uses it.

“SEO experts were predicting that marketers optimizing for RankBrain would be a growing trend in 2019,” notes Membrillo. “However, RankBrain optimization has continued to be a widely underestimated digital marketing strategy. In fact, your average marketer probably couldn’t even tell you what RankBrain is.”

If you’re still in that category and care to learn more, here’s a deep-diveOpens a new window on the technology.

4. Beacons

Beacons are a marketer’s dream. When consumers get within the radius of a beacon in the physical world, marketers and retailers are notified and can send automated messages and interact with potential customers. Beacons bridge the gap between the physical world and the online world, and promised to be a potent trend when combined with marketing automation.

Google has doubled down on the technology, sending millions of beaconsOpens a new window to retailers and other businesses in the U.S. and the U.K. But consumer response has been tepid, and beacons are a non-starter.

“As it turns out, beacons just haven’t taken off despite some predictions that it would once again gain traction,” says Membrillo.

What went wrong?

“In short, people don’t want to be spammed with irrelevant notification,” observes Membrillo. “Therefore, people disable apps or Bluetooth connections interacting with beacons. So despite continued efforts from Google and other providers, beacons still haven’t transformed our world.”

All four of these marketing trends are still alive and kicking. Some like voice search might even make a comeback. But for now, these trends haven’t gone quite as planned—and they are basically dead.