In last week’s column, I predicted that in 2020 we’d be going back to our marketing roots. Marketing has evolved a great deal since it began back in town crier days. One thing has been a constant: Since day one, marketers have helped brands capture and tell their stories in a way that had an impact on an audience.

Back in the golden days of advertising, brands were boldly creating content that makes what most companies do today look rather elementary. We went from brands creating soap opera programming to creating an audience of homemakers for their cleaning products to the scream-at-them ’80s, where advertising was intrusive and one-dimensional.

On the PR side of things, it was a little different. Back in the 20th century, PR was really about pitching stories to the media. There was always an element of crisis communications in the mix and some event creation and management. Still, all in all, it was primarily about influencing the stories that other people told about their clients.

We crossed into the 21st century, and the internet became more accessible and more commercialized. We began building rudimentary websites along with our traditional advertising creative work.

PR agencies continued to tell and shape their clients’ stories, but now they didn’t have to only rely on others alone. They had the first digital version of owned media: websites.

The marketing world changed when being findable online became a thing. Suddenly the brochureware websites we’d been creating weren’t the sum total of what was possible when it came to creating a digital presence. Google, Yahoo and other early search engines started to hold us accountable for the words on those websites and their relevance to the audiences’ queries.

One of the most beautiful benefits of the digital emergence is that companies needed to fill more space online, and they started answering customer questions (early-day FAQs) and actually interacting with their audience.

Google Adwords, the emergence of social media and digital ads added complexity to marketing strategies and execution. It was also the time when the phrase “content marketing” was coined by the Content Marketing Institute’s founder, Joe Pulizzi. The work being done was still pretty basic, but brands discovered the power of the overall strategy, and suddenly everyone was talking about it, recommending it and selling it.

And then the recession hit. Budgets were slashed, and everyone struggled to get by. As the recession ended, the mystique of the internet had faded, and brands were much more comfortable initiating dialogues with their customers and prospects. Digital assets were easier to measure and track. Post-recession, everyone was looking for proof that marketing was working, and Google analytics provided data, trends and clues as to what was resonating with audiences.

Smart brands built media channels like Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Center. There they moved from being perceived as salespeople, and now they are trusted teachers. That site became the No. 1 online destination for pregnant women and new parents. Much like P&G did in the ’30s, they created a channel that attracted their ideal customers. Marketing has gone full circle.

We have entered the era of the authority. Brands that develop a position of authority and teach and help from that platform will be pretty tough to beat. 

I predict that this is the cusp of a massive shift, and if you take full advantage now, you’re going to be tough to catch. You could be a P&G-like trendsetter and own an authority position that will future-proof your organization. 

What do you think? Is 2020 the year you step into an authority role and earn your consumers’ trust?