The branding, image, and marketing consulting industry experienced more than 6 percent growth from 2013 through 2018. The industry is expected to continue growing in the coming years as the economy strengthens and more companies and individuals are able to invest money in improving their brands and marketing efforts. The Department of Labor predicts 10 percent employment growth for marketing managers, which is faster than the average for all other occupations, through 2026. Marketing and branding consultants will have good job opportunities in this same time period.
Companies in various industries will continue to seek guidance from marketing, image, and branding consultants to improve their marketing strategies, their image, and their brands. The key areas that consultants will focus on for companies include digital and multichannel marketing, as well as e-commerce. The growth of online data has created demand for transparency and honesty from companies and their brands. Greater emphasis will be placed on building and improving the companies' relationships with their customers. Consultants will help companies develop and create content that encourages engagement and interaction with audiences.
Branding and marketing consulting agencies will be needed to assist companies and organizations in creating effective marketing and branding strategies that increase sales and reduce costs. The growth of e-commerce and social media has given consumers greater purchasing power than ever before. Consumers can now comment on products, brands, and companies, and their online comments are seen by the masses, influencing others in their purchase decisions. Marketing and branding consultants specialize in providing insights into the behavior of consumers and the past and current performance of products and brands, with an eye toward improving customer satisfaction and the companies' services.
Marketing industry experts point out the following trends expected to proliferate in the next few years. Companies will increase their focus on customers by creating content targeted to specific niche audiences. Marketing strategies will include content such as online articles or videos that encourage dialogue and interaction with customers. Companies will also increasingly use artificial intelligence to gather information about consumers' behavior and reactions to products and services.
Advances in technology have increased voice-based commerce sales; more people are using smart speakers to search for information online and make purchases, and voice search is expected to grow. A growing number of consumers watch videos on sites such as YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook, to learn about products and gather information. More companies are using vertical video for brand storytelling. Vertical video is video that is shot vertically, in portrait mode, which allows consumers to watch videos on their smartphones because most people hold their phones vertically when using them. Vertical videos give viewers a sense of immediacy and intimacy.
Companies will also be turning more to micro-influencers than to celebrity influencers in their marketing strategies. More consumers now prefer real, authentic dialogue with people they can relate to, as opposed to celebrity influencers. Micro-influencers generally have 1,000 or more followers on social media sites such as Instagram. Consumers trust micro-influencers because they "have a direct, personal connection with their audience," according to an Entrepreneur.com article. "They have a very intimate sense of who they are and what they like... These influencers further see their role as one of continually serving up interesting ideas, news and options to their followers. And this strategy works. Some 92 percent of consumers trust an influencer more than an advertisement or traditional celebrity endorsement. That makes sense: Influencer recommendations are like your BFF telling you about her new favorite product."
Corporate executives, business workers, nonprofit leaders, educators, and others will also continue to hire image consulting firms to help them improve their professional and personal image. The growth of social media and videos has also increased the demand for image consulting firms to help individuals improve their appearance and speaking and presentation skills. Companies will need the expertise of image consultants to make sure their employees give customers a consistent, beneficial impression of their vision and mission. Corporate image consultants will continue to educate corporate groups through workshops and seminars, helping business professionals to improve their presentation and communication skills, business etiquette and protocol, and customer service. The International Association of Image Consultants reports that image consultants will be needed for services such as: image branding, image motivational speaker or presenter, executive presence coaching, etiquette consultations, wardrobe consultations, personal shopping, clothing or uniform design, and hair and makeup styling.
The image consulting industry is competitive and consultants must keep up with innovations in business practices and technology to have an edge in the marketplace. Certification enhances knowledge and skills and gives consultants better employment opportunities. The International Association of Image Consultants offers several levels of certification in image consulting: Certified Image Consultant, Certified Image Professional, and Certified Image Master, which is the highest level consultant in the industry.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the branding, image, and marketing consulting industry renewed focus on value and frugality as consumer habits changed in response to social restrictions, a widespread shift in brand loyalties (due to supply-chain disruptions), and an invigorated focus on digital advertising to reach consumers on mobile devices and computers. Many brands adopted campaigns or positions that emphasized the shared values of the company and consumers during a time of crisis.
The market research group SpendEdge predicts that the global marketing consulting industry will be valued at $22 billion by 2024, with slower growth in the first half of 2020 due to the effects of the pandemic. It also notes, however, that "healthy growth is expected to continue throughout the forecast period, and the market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 4.38 percent." More marketing consultants, as well as branding and image consultants, will be entering the job market in 2021 due to the elimination of full-time jobs during the pandemic. A Forrester report projected that at least 17,000 agency jobs will be eliminated in 2021, and this is in addition to the 35,000 agency jobs that had already been eliminated in 2020. As Adweek.com described it, "This will lead to an extraordinary number of uniquely skilled people entering the job market. And it is already having a significant impact on how and where brands look to fill their creative, media, and communications needs."