7 expert marketing trend predictions for 2022

7 expert marketing trend predictions for 2022
Dec 16, 2021
Seven marketing trend predictions for 2022 as companies innovate to deliver on elevated customer and employee expectations.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to fundamentally impact our lives and the way businesses operate. While some industries struggle, others have thrived as consumers adjust to a new way of living. But whether your business faces challenges or has seen record-setting growth, the pandemic forces organizations to embrace the importance of consumer trust. To survive, brands will need to continue innovating to deliver on elevated customer and employee expectations, explore new ways to engage in a cookie-less world, and further lean into the next digital frontier—including the metaverse and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

Amid the disruption, brand marketers and agencies have quickly delivered high-stakes, high-impact work—remaining agile to meet their customers where they are and deliver memorable products, services, and experiences.

As we head into 2022, our team of thought leaders assembled their marketing trend predictions for the year ahead. Though much uncertainty remains, in some ways, it seems we are inching closer to “normal.” As we look to 2022, we are optimistic that amid the challenges there will be bright spots of innovation and creativity, with empathy woven throughout.

Marketing trend prediction #1:

“The power of purpose—realized."
—Mary Carter, managing partner, healthcare

While a focus on purpose is nothing new, the realization of the value in purpose investments will be even more at the forefront in 2022. Those organizations that have it win. And those that don’t fall increasingly behind.

Studies demonstrate that purpose investments accelerate results for nearly every value driver within an organization—growth, retention and recruitment, and engagement to name a few. Consumers place significant importance on it when considering their investments in brands and products, most often viewed through the lens of satisfaction and experience.

The most important opportunity in 2022 is investment in the teams that make up the enterprise. Too often those investments historically were secondary to outward-facing, product and service-oriented opportunities. When faced with consumers’ evolving purchase priorities and employees’ own evaluation of individual purpose, organizations will be prompted to evaluate how purpose is lived and connected for team members at every level, then carried through to strategic investments company wide.

Marketing trend prediction #2:

“Re-energizing employees becomes mission critical.”
—Matt Silverman, senior partner, integrated communications

Still reeling from "The Great Resignation,” employee power continues to surge in 2022 and the most successful organizations will find ways to reconnect and retain employees in a tight labor market. Distanced, physically and emotionally, employees are craving belonging—to colleagues, the company, and a unified purpose. Organizations have the opportunity to create more meaningful and personalized experiences for their people and to invest in skill development and career growth. Now is also the time to enable workers to live your company purpose, not just talk about it.

More colleagues will return to the workplace in 2022, which will likely help them rediscover the positives of in-person collaboration. But it will also challenge organizations to create balance and equity between in-person and remote workers. An emphasis on better equipping day-to-day managers will be essential to navigating this next dimension of a hybrid work environment.

Focusing on employee well-being should continue to take center stage. Leading organizations are embedding well-being into all aspects of their people strategy, instead of treating it as a one-off program. One key is to train leaders, so a philosophy of well-being comes to life in new ways of working.

Done well, these actions should better engage employees and lead to more productive business outcomes.

Marketing trend prediction #3:

“Healthcare will invest in CX and move toward a continuous experience.”
—Abbie Ward, sr. director, organizational design & change management; Leah Sheveland, partner, Medicare experience and operations; Stephanie Counts, partner, digital and technical innovation 

As healthcare accounts for larger portions of GDP spend and consumers grow more interested in managing their health and well-being, we predict significant investment in customer experience. Experience-obsessed organizations generate 5.7x more revenue with 60% higher margins than companies that de-prioritize consumer expectations. The greatest return on 2022 healthcare CX investment will be from mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and development investment focused on highly customizable, digital-first systems, moving healthcare delivery toward one continuous experience.

M&A strategies will require integration using an adjusted lens. M&A activity reached an all-time high in 2021, healthily rebounding from 2020. Technology accounted for 20% of M&A, reflecting a burgeoning trend toward acquisition of technology and systems as a primary growth driver. As companies integrate capabilities, they’ll need to focus strategy on folding technologies into product offerings—with stringent assessment of talent within new operating models. (Ward)

Medicare Advantage will rapidly evolve to meet demand and expectations of Boomers. Best-in-class Part C experiences include buying benefits that align to any life stage—from the aging looking for fitness clubs, well-being incentives, and national networks to the end-of-life stage looking to age in place, RX coverage for high-cost drugs, and hospice resources. Digital interventions will require partnerships with, and investments in healthtech companies around connected devices, virtual visits, caregiver support tools, provider quality measures and price transparency insights. (Sheveland)

Interoperability—will we see seismic shifts or just minor rumblings? Qualified Health Information Networks (QHINs) will accelerate expansion of health information exchange (HIE) in 2022, but questions remain. Will consumers continue to bear the burden of making health decisions with imperfect information? How can participating entities increase transparency while safeguarding consumer privacy? Further, consumer-facing digital health products generate a trove of data largely untapped by HIE ecosystems. Payers, providers, and other digital health companies that invest in interoperability and automation of meaningful HIE will deliver superior experiences. (Counts)

Marketing trend prediction #4:

“Marketers will continue to rush the metaverse.”
—Nick Main, creative director 

Many will succeed—more will fail. Let's go way, way back to 2019 when my 10-year-old nephew told me about the Marshmello concert in Fortnite. “But Fortnite is a game," I replied. He then looked at me like I would soon be leaving his house in a horse and buggy. 

And that’s how many brands will be viewed as they attempt to enter the metaverse in 2022—old people who’ve stumbled into a party they were never invited to. The metaverse will involve multiple seamless virtual worlds—imagine going from gaming to shopping to social to entertainment all within one experience.

While advertising in games is nothing new, avatars seem to be the next foothold into this new virtual world. They will allow users to effortlessly cross platforms and experiences without logins (and those pesky passwords) and craft their own digital style, currency, and possessions. Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and massive interactive live events (MILEs) will also be fertile opportunities for brands to succeed but only those already positioned for these experiences. And the right brands will all have one thing in common—the right audience.

If your brand has a devoted, active, and inclusive audience, you’ll find success getting a foothold in these channels. That foothold will lead to very valuable real estate in the ever-bourgeoning metaverse. If you don’t have that kind of audience, focus on building one in 2022 and leave this uncharted territory to others for now. Doing anything else would be like buying luggage before you’ve built the plane.

And just to prove how clueless I was in 2019, more than 10 million people showed up to the Marshmello concert in Fortnite—a game my nephew now says he is "totally over."

Marketing trend prediction #5:

“Influencers become part of ALL marketing plans.”
—Julia Rosinus, director, social media

Did you know that influencers are responsible for driving more than $2.9B in annual brand sales? Gone are the days of maybe including influencers as they have proven to be an integral part of all marketing plans—and 2022 will be no different. Not only are influencers driving sales, but they have also become instrumental in increasing brand sentiment and consideration. While influencer rates are climbing, and will likely continue their upward trajectory, they have proven their worth time and time again. Brands who haven’t already will be working on strategies and tactics to tackle this space in 2022.

Marketing trend prediction #6:

“Programmatic display and upper-funnel media will fuel growth.”
—Larry Guerrero, partner, media

Despite the looming cookie-less world, programmatic display is expected to see continued growth in 2022. Even further, it’s expected that by 2023, 91% of display transactions will occur programmatically. And to make this trend even easier for media buyers, The Trade Desk has already developed a Unified ID that will allow users to continue to target niche audiences programmatically. This solution deploys user-volunteered identifiers to allow consumers to opt-in to advertising and access free content.

In addition to programmatic display booms, upper-funnel media—especially video—will drive spending increases. While search still represents the largest proportion of digital ad spending, video is growing quickly, and is where much of the digital spending gains are happening in 2022. This is being driven by connected TV (CTV), ad-supported video on demand (AVOD), and video on social and other platforms. While most brands have clear performance goals, media in the upper funnel, including video, is critical for driving search demand and conversions. Purchasing video in all formats programmatically and through key third-party partners is crucial. And while linear TV viewership is declining, it still represents nearly 60% of total time spent watching video. Being media neutral and investing budget where the right audiences are consuming content, regardless of screen or platform, can drive overall business objectives.  

Marketing trend prediction #7:

“Customer trust as a key business metric.”
—Ken Seaton, partner, sales and capture

It’s been broadly accepted (and proven through rigorous research studies) that trust is a cornerstone of any relationship—including that between a customer and a company. But organizations often struggle to break free from traditional metrics—falling back on KPI’s that are more historical and tangible in nature, and easier to measure and quantify. That approach diminishes a critical connection point, and ultimately decreases engagement and participation by customers.

The coming year will see an increased focus on two things specific to earning and managing customer trust. First, an embracing of new and unique metrics that are measurable and adoptable by traditional organizations—outside of things like Net Promoter Score. And second, trust will become a KPI for marketers across multiple channels, and a key area of focus in marketing efforts. The Age of the Consumer—where consumers have higher expectations and demand more meaningful interactions—will drive organizations to increase their focus on customer trust.

We are already seeing trust as a key component of marketing plans through social media planning, diversity-focused and environmental-based content, and overall helping customers feel connected to an organization more through what they do than what they sell. In 2022, this will be amplified by an increase in, and recognition of, the importance of customer trust to drive shareholder value and long-term growth.

For our experts predictions on the customer loyalty landscape, read here.

ICF’s global marketing services agency focuses on helping your organization find opportunity in disruption.
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