Supply Chain Marketers, Listen Up: The Trends You Need to Know About

Posted by Kate Bachman on Mar 27, 2018
Kate Bachman

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There are several big supply chain trends today that marketers should be paying attention to – and acting on – to raise awareness and drive growth.


Marketing and PR in the supply chain space is, to put it mildly, tough. The market consists of a niche audience of buyers and influencers with varying personas depending on the industry vertical, and supply chain services and platforms are not conducive to quick or inexpensive deals. Luckily, if you’re a marketer in the supply chain space, you’re probably a “challenge accepted” type of person (my favorite) and you know that this game is all about relevancy.

At Corporate Ink, we love the supply chain space (yes, we’re nerds) and we’ve found that keeping our clients relevant means staying on top of the key trends and conversations that surround and drive the industry. Obviously, trends change, but here are two major ones you need to be paying attention to —and acting on — to keep your supply chain marketing fresh and effective: sustainability and technology.

Sustainability and CSR

It’s likely you caught the news about H&M and C&A’s alleged connection to China prison labor or the story the WSJ ran on Volkswagen supplier IAV facing criminal charges as part of the company’s ongoing emissions scandal. People are paying attention to the supply chains behind the brands they know.  Unethical and irresponsible actions at any point in a supply chain can cause a perfect storm of media and regulatory problems. We’re talking serious reputational damage that can erode customer and partner trust and cause real organizational damage.

The size of the sustainability and CSR conversation, however, means a lot of opportunity for marketers to position their companies in a positive light – as experts in solving sustainability issues, in touting exemplary CSR efforts, or in simply being prepared for communications crisis.

Technology: AI/ML, IoT, Blockchain (Everyone loves a good tech acronym)

While the technology space is enormous, here are the big, buzzing players that supply chain marketers need to pay attention to: artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), the internet of things (IoT) and now, blockchain. FYI – Gartner put together a great Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2018 piece for further reading.

Toss a figurative rock and you can’t miss a story about the latest vendor, application or prediction in the tech space. Generally, all the technology trends applicable to the supply chain industry deal with increasing visibility, efficiency or security by lighting up any of the dark data (data you collect and have, but can’t or are not using) and gaining insights to improve performance. A key thing for marketers to know, however, is this: where and how your company reasonably fits into a discussion around one of these technologies. Tech talk is exciting and it can be tempting to dive in with content, rapid response pitching or some other marketing tactic loosely tied to a tech theme, but pump the breaks for a second and ask yourself this: Does my company actually employ any of these technologies right now?

The key to breaking through the noisy technology trends conversation (and you should try) is tangible value and precision targeting. Cut all the fluff or theoretical nonsense about how your company maybe, could be, or someday will be using tech to advance your operations and instead, go have a chat with your product dev team and figure out how to show off the cool things you’re doing.

Trends come and go (remember Beanie Babies and bell bottoms?), so how can you stay on top of these trends, and use them? Well, first, check out our eBook, “Nine Tips for Supply Chain Marketing Success.” Secondly, read the news and talk to your sales team. It’s always worth getting a download from the front lines on what they are being asked about and then digging in to build a compelling story that your customers, prospects and other stake holders care about.