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Marketing trends to look out for

19 Feb, 2024

Marketing and communication are always evolving – and keeping an eye on the latest trends enables marketers to select which new and changing communication techniques suit your unit’s focus areas and strategies for the year ahead. Here are some of the tips gleaned from speakers at the November 2023 MACE National Conference:

Ilze Olivier, an independent consultant who specialises in strategic communication, presented on the topic ‘Future-proofing communications: Ensuring your communications strategies remain impactful and relevant’. Some of her key points included:

  • “Data is the new oil.” – The real value of data in the new era doesn’t lie in merely gathering data on customers/ target audiences; the value lies in how that data is processed, refined, analysed, and understood – and how it’s used to implement new, winning strategies.
  • The world population is set to hit 9.7 billion people by 2050 (from today’s 8.1 billion), and 65% of people will live in urban areas. This has important implications for how higher education institutions do their future-planning and future-proofing, especially in terms of potential student population growth.
  • Africa’s population is predicted to double by 2050 (from 1.4 billion in 2023).
  • In 2023, over 5.5 million international students travelled abroad to study. By 2030 this number will increase to over 7 million. English-language universities and courses are in demand, which presents an opportunity for South African universities in the increasingly competitive global marketplace for the best students.
  • Consumers have shorter attention spans today, which requires concise, visually appealing content.
  • User-generated content and influencer partnerships are gaining prominence, blurring the lines between marketing and genuine dialogue. The future belongs to those who can tell compelling stories that resonate with authenticity.
  • Chatbots powered by artificial intelligence are becoming increasingly important, offering customers instant assistance. Companies must tailor messages to suit different channels, while maintaining a consistent brand voice.

Gary Ndlovu, a media solutions architect and Associate Senior Lecturer in Music Technology at the University of Fort Hare, presented on the topic ‘An in-depth look into the potential applications, benefits, challenges, and considerations of using ChatGPT as a tool in marketing, advancement and communication in education’. Some of his key predictions included:

  • ChatGPT will be a key performance area (KPA) in marketing, communications and advancement in the future. Artificial intelligence- (AI-) driven content creation, stakeholder engagement, and data analytics will become so central to these roles that proficiency in managing and interpreting ChatGPT’s outputs will be essential.
  • ChatGPT and similar models will revolutionise content creation for marketing, communication, and advancement departments in universities. ChatGPT can analyse vast data sets and generate content that resonates deeply with each of a university’s key stakeholder groups.
  • Virtual AI assistants will increasingly enable 24/7 tailored interaction with stakeholders, such as a student enquiring about deadlines, or an alumnus asking about alumni events.
  • Data-driven insights gleaned from AI will increasingly create actionable strategies. This could be in the form of the marketing department being able to predict enrolment trends based on real-time data analytics.
  • ChatGPT and other AI can help optimise content for search engines and social media by creating a first draft of copy that is most likely to be prioritised by search engines and/or social media platforms, thereby creating higher click-through levels.
  • Crisis communications: AI can help generate data-driven and fact-based first drafts of press statements and other communications, especially at times of high pressure when emotions might be running high and/or there are significant time pressures.
  • AI can provide multilingual support, which will be increasingly important in light of the increasing numbers of international students seeking English-language tuition.


Access Ilze Olivier’s full presentation here.

Access Gary Ndlovu’s full presentation here.