Language: EN | ES

CMOs at Mastercard, NHL, Zola will focus on community building, virtual worlds, retention incentives and more in 2023

office hot desk
This article is also available in Spanish. Please use the toggle above the headline to switch languages. Visit to read more content in Spanish.

The end of the year is always a mad dash to finish work ahead of the holidays — and this year is no exception.

Getting back into work in early January, it can be difficult to remember what everyone was talking about before the family festivities (and drama). To make sure we’d have a good sense of what marketers expect to focus on in the New Year, we spoke with CMOs about the big topics they expect to focus on in 2023.

Virtual worlds

“We’re settling into a ‘new abnormal,’ where virtual and real worlds collide every day,” said Mastercard CMO Raja Rajamannar. “This is the undercurrent for the trends I’m watching.”

Rajamannar continued: “AR is on the rise. Even though VR seemed to be the buzzier ‘reality’ in recent years, AR technology has been gaining more and more traction. This is likely because there are more tangible use cases. Plus, the ability to use an existing device instead of an expensive headset makes it easier to access and lends itself to faster adoption.”

Community building

“Importance of communities is something that I think about a lot,” said Zola CMO Victoria Vaynberg. “For Zola we started our in-app and now on-web community at the start of the year. We have thousands of active couples in there. Outside of our business, when you think about what Web3 worlds are really about it’s ultimately communities.”

Vaynberg added that allowing for community to be built on brand properties not only fosters connections with people who share the same interests but gives the brand more insight into the community they serve.

“It’s a great tool but also a great listening tool for us to hear about what couples want whether it’s product feedback or cultural insights or how weddings are changing,” said Vaynberg. “It’s really important to get as close to the consumer as possible. Community as a whole is a top priority for me.”

Growth and first-party data

Zola isn’t alone in using its own insights to find ways to boost brand growth. The National Hockey League is also turning to its own data to find ways to grow its audience.

“We’re focused on growing and knowing our fans,” said NHL CMO Heidi Browning. “From a growth perspective, we’re focused on expanding and diversifying our fanbase, with a focus on female, multicultural and younger audiences. To grow, we need to know more about our current fans. We’re aggregating, analyzing and activating based on insights derived from first and zero-party fan data.”

Retention incentives

Finding ways to make sure customers will return is critical any time but especially during a more difficult economy. It’s no surprise then that going beyond the usual retention strategies will likely be common for brands next year.

“We’re going to focus heavily on retention and re-engagement,” said Lia Haberman, CMO of Fit Body App. “Our previous efforts to reduce churn were pretty standard automated efforts: cancellation surveys, win-back campaigns, exit incentives, etc. Now, we’re actively reaching out and trying to retain every subscriber looking to cancel. We’re digging in to understand why they’re leaving and then offering them a personalized incentive to stay. In this economy, you want to work to retain or win back every single customer.”

Brand values

In recent years, brands have spoken out and taken stands about various issues more and more. Marketers expect that to continue to be a focus in 2023, albeit the issues will likely be more closely tied to the brand’s lane.

“We’ve been very vocal about the Respect for Marriage Act,” said Zola’s Vaynberg. “It’s important for brands to know their lane. I don’t think it’s your job to comment on everything that’s going on in the world but for us we have clear company values and brand values. Continuing to use the leverage we can to support what we know is right will continue to be an area of focus.”

More in Marketing

It’s becoming impossible for game publishers to avoid the question of advertising inside premium titles

Major game publishers’ flirtation with in-game ads has yet to blossom into a full romance in 2024 — but the question of advertising has become nearly impossible for them to avoid, as shown by Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson’s endorsement of the revenue stream during the company’s earnings call last week.

Why Exverus’ head of strategy is marrying performance with brand in programmatic

Independent boutique agency Exverus Media is reshaping what KPIs and client expectations amid marketing shifts.

Behind closed doors: the intrigue and reality of platform marketer councils

The truth is, these councils are ways for the platforms to curry favor with senior marketers and extract market intelligence from them.