If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that unpredictability reigns supreme. No matter what we think we know, there’s so much that we don’t. We all like to think that we have the foresight to be able to tell what’s going to happen, but the truth of the matter is that making predictions isn’t for the faint at heart.
So why do we do it? Besides being a future-facing agency, It’s fun to try! Below are nine predictions (and one bonus prediction) for you to navigate the waters of 2022.
PREDICTION No. 01:
ACCESSIBILITY WILL BECOME A MAJOR CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE (CX) PRIORITY FOR BUSINESSES.
Accessibility has been a growing priority for CX leaders, but this year it will reach new levels. From July 2020 to July 2021, the number of job listings with “accessibility” in the title grew 78% — evidence that firms are putting budget behind their intentions. We predict that in 2022, $10 billion in design spending will shift to vendors and services that commit to accessibility as CX teams ratchet up their investments in these areas and hone their focus to make a targeted impact in areas such as accessibility and privacy.
This uptick is, in part, due to the growing belief across all sectors that accessibility isn’t just a nice-to-have for brands and businesses, but a crucial part of long-term brand health. As we’ve outlined before, it’s not about making your brand perfectly applicable to everyone—we all have our targets and audience segments, and that will continue. It’s about making sure that your brand comes across clearly and coherently to all. Even someone who isn’t in your preferred target market can still gain something out of conversing with your brand—and, obviously, your brand has lots to gain as well.
Making sure that our clients’ brands are accessible is something we take great pride in here at C42D. Contact us to hear more about how we can help.
TL;DR: Ignore accessibility at your peril.
PREDICTION No. 02:
QUALITY CONTENT > AD TARGETING AND TRACKERS
What do you do in a world where targeting is on life support? When you can’t rely on reaching the right people at the right time thanks to the power of the algorithm, and solely the power of the algorithm? In the early internet times, brands and marketers could target, but they had to rely more on their creativity and the power of their stories. So as targeting and tracking become less and less reliable, it’s not that content marketing is dead. It’s that bad content will sink your efforts. More than ever before, the quality of brand content will need to be there. Awesome content that gets people engaged and keeps them engaged long enough to get your message.
And this dovetails nicely with what we’ve been seeing across the B2B, startup, and SaaS worlds recently as well. Many in these industries had been relying on buying social media ads, but are transitioning more and more to content marketing. According to Google, content marketing is the best way to rank for buyer search. This is leading to an explosion of investment in content marketing from B2B brands, and you don’t want to be left behind.
What kind of content works? Well, that will be up to every individual brand and business to find out, and it depends on the audience—what platforms are they on, what technologies do they utilize, and more.
One great example is what myQ, a smart home technology company, created: A series about “garage masters” (they make a garage door opener) on YouTube. They don’t have a billion views yet, but it’s compelling, authentic content that kept me watching – and I don’t even have a garage.
Again, the traditional tenets of advertising and marketing still hold true. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Quality counts.
TL;DR: Create content people will be interested in, and good things will happen.
PREDICTION No. 03:
THE GROWTH OF AI CONTENT AND INFLUENCERS
Speaking of content marketing, you probably don’t need to hire a word wizard to create engaging content these days. Making predictions around artificial intelligence (AI) is often a fool’s errand, but we think we’re truly now on the verge of mass adoption of AI content generation.
This year, we predict that we will begin to realize the opportunity of an AI-driven content marketing strategy. If 60-70% of the content we create goes unused, AI will begin to force us to reconsider what we create and why.
You may not know this, but publications like the Washington Post and others have been using AI to generate templated content (think sports scores and highlights, or crime reports) for more than two years. This stuff is out there, but it’s going to continue to get more sophisticated and able to complete more nuanced and complicated tasks.
We’ve tested a few of these services and haven’t found any that can produce quality blog content or long-form articles to anywhere near the level of quality required to rank for search or answer technical or professional thought leadership requirements. But as computing power increases and algorithms become more intricate, that future may not be far off.
One place we expect to see major growth in the very near future? Influencer marketing. In general, Influencer marketing is here to stay, with an estimated $15 billion spend by the end of this year. AI “beings” replacing (or, in some sense, becoming) influencers is one way AI will affect influencer marketing, but AI will help streamline sales and conversion data and better ensure ROI on influencer marketing than ever before, thanks to AI’s ability to watch and contextualize millions of influencer videos in a short period of time.
TL;DR: Look for technology to fill efficiency gaps.
PREDICTION No. 04:
POST-PANDEMIC CHANGES – B2Bs AND REMOTE WORK
PART I: B2Bs WILL MOVE TO “ALWAYS-ON”
Though the pandemic isn’t exactly over, many of the changes and shifts we’ve seen as a result are here to stay. One sector that’s been heavily disrupted is B2B. We know that throughout the pandemic consumers have shifted their expectations around immediacy, relevance, and personalization, and have placed increased importance on how effectively those expectations are met via the technology they use throughout their day.
Folks often forget that B2B buyers are consumers too, and their personal expectations or brands also influence their expectations of the companies they buy from for their businesses. According to Forrester, 70% of B2B marketers will adjust to these changing expectations by adopting an “always-on” digital strategy, with dollars flowing into the tech stack. B2B marketers should expect, though, that return on this will take time as buyer insight takes some time to catch up.
PART II: THE REMOTE WORK SHIFT REFUSES TO SLOW
Millennials make up a sizable portion of the workforce, and since the pandemic forced many of them to shift to remote or hybrid work settings, the majority of them do not want a full return to the office…ever again.
What does that mean for brands? It certainly depends on the sector, for not all work can be done remotely. However, any work that can be done remotely will be done remotely, and brands need to embrace it. Why? Well, those aforementioned millennials (and Gen Z, too), flock to brands that share the same values they do. If your brand talks a big game outwardly but doesn’t walk the talk with its own employees, how can you expect consumers to believe what you say? Employer branding is an increasingly important aspect of all marketing, and the brands that do it well will continue to have a leg up on the competition.
From a B2B standpoint, you’ll want to make sure that your company can remotely do everything that your customers expect of you. If you don’t, you risk seeming out of touch at best and losing business at worst.
TL;DR: The implication of all this is a continued blurring of the concepts of business hours, open and closed, home and work, and a reduction in expected response times.
PREDICTION No. 05:
PRIVACY AND RESPECT, NO LONGER SWEPT UNDER THE RUG
The consumer backlash to the collection and use of personal data by major corporations and tech companies has been bubbling for a little while, but now it seems like it is about to burst. Apple has leaned hard into its position as an arbiter of user privacy. Possible legislation could be on the horizon that echoes here in the US what GDPR brought to Europe. In California, aspects of the new California Privacy Rights Act are already in place, which gives consumers a lot more say into what and how data is utilized, including sensitive personal information. A year from now, similar legislation in Virginia and Colorado will take effect. These types of laws are likely to only continue to spread across the country. In addition, the death of cookies is looming large.
Many marketers (and some users) are wondering how these changes might be a net negative for digital customer experiences. The beginnings of the internet were a bit of the wild west, and many have had a hard time adjusting to these new rules and regulations. But every successful brand should look at this change as an opportunity, as a maturing of the industry as a whole. As an opportunity for brands to earn the trust of consumers.
We talk often about how consumers flock to companies that share their values and do good in the world. Respecting people’s boundaries and privacy and prioritizing their security is something consumers will notice. And they will reward the companies and brands that prove they aren’t misusing their personal data. This is the year many brands and companies will take a leading role in doing right by their customers when it comes to privacy and security.
TL;DR: Be respectful and upfront about data privacy in all conversations.
PREDICTION No. 06:
AUGMENTED REALITY GAINS STEAM
We’re long past the days of Pokemon Go, and Augmented Reality hasn’t quite taken off like many would have thought at this point. But we think that’s about to change, and in a big way.
Often seen as just a fun gimmick for gamers, the use of Augmented Reality by brands has been steadily rising. The technology is becoming much more mature, which represents a potential bonanza for brands that can pull off engaging and valuable experiences.
Many retailers have experimented with AR, mostly in terms of virtually “placing” large household items like appliances and furniture into a home to show a potential customer how something would look or fit. These experiences have thus far been a bit wonky—but the technology is close to maturing to the point where this will become a much more accurate and realistic picture. The same goes for fashion brands, who can use AR to give people the ability to virtually try on outfits. It’s a lot more efficient to try on many different looks and accessorize those looks when you’re not physically having to put items on and take them off.
This year, we’ll start to see AR gain momentum, shifting from cool gimmick to valuable marketing tool.
TL;DR: Look for direct and ancillary opportunities to leverage this new tool.
PREDICTION No. 07:
BACK TO BASICS
The last two years or so have brought about so much disruption, and not the typical tech-world “disruption”. The pandemic has upended how people live, how they work and go to school, shop, do business, and more. Many companies have been flying by the seat of their pants over the last two years, and understandably so. In many cases, their very survival counted on this willingness to shift and change, dive into new areas, and hope that something stuck.
While the pandemic is not over, things have certainly settled. And there’s been no better time for brands to get back to basics—brand building, audience segmentation, optimizing web and social channels, re-invigorating e-mail campaigns. For many companies, some of these seemingly core tenets of marketing have had to take a backseat recently, but shouldn’t be ignored any longer.
With the amount of change that has happened in society, now is a great time for all brands to take stock of their core branding and marketing sets and processes. We think more and more brands will take this year as an opportunity for a fresh start of sorts.
TL;DR: Take a moment to review business/marketing fundamentals and address long-neglected issues.
PREDICTION No. 08:
LINKEDIN BECOMES MORE IMPORTANT TO B2B MARKETING AND AS A PLATFORM
LinkedIn has for long been viewed as the boring, corporate social network. For individuals, it’s the place where your avatar is the nice-looking professional photo, where you share your work or company’s achievements. For companies, it’s the place to share positive stories of company culture. For executives, it’s where you market yourself as an intelligent thought leader.
Some of that will always be a part of LinkedIn. But with Facebook (and to a lesser extent Twitter) constantly in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, LinkedIn has slowly been morphing—and we expect this year to be the year where a major shift starts to take place. One area is LinkedIn Events, their webinar platform. It’s very tempting to have direct connections to the social accounts of all your webinar attendees, and the ability to DM them after the event.
LinkedIn is changing right before our eyes, increasingly becoming a platform where more daring, original, and bold content and conversations are taking place. Many NFT and crypto enthusiasts have gravitated to LinkedIn, a concept that would’ve seemed downright weird even a year ago. The idea that edgy, emerging technology and content would be hanging out with the suits on LinkedIn was not something that many saw coming, but is now prevalent and only going to increase.
TL;DR: Rethink your LinkedIn strategy
PREDICTION No. 09:
LET’S SPEND ALL THAT MONEY – ON MARKETING
You can’t fault business leaders for being conservative in their spending over the last couple of years. The amount of uncertainty the world has experienced has been difficult on us all, and companies have had to be very cautious across the board. And they’ve especially had to think twice about spending on marketing, creating new products and experiences, and on aggressive growth.
While the pandemic is not over, the realities have changed. Businesses are starting to spend again, and they’re starting to spend on marketing again. Opportunities abound. The past few years have seen massive shifts in consumer behavior—not just in terms of society-wide changes like remote work and more online shopping, but in individual behaviors. Many people have found value in slowing down, more people are conscious of their overall wellness than ever before, and many people are more eager for human connection than ever before.
It’s a great time for brands to make a real mark. They just need to know how and where to prioritize their spend to make the most impact.
TL;DR: Write that check.
*BONUS* PREDICTION No. 10:
NFTs CRAWL OUT OF THE PRIMORDIAL OOZE AND BECOME MAINSTREAM
In 2019 we incorrectly predicted crypto would crawl out of the ocean and become mainstream, but here we are now in 2022 and that’s finally happening. Now we see a similar situation with NFTs. NFTs are Non-Fungible Tokens, meaning literally one-of-a-kind objects that cannot be replaced (in a virtual sense).
Think what you want about some of the pixelated punks, but 23 Billion worth of them exchanged hands in 2021. That’s a lot of pixels. And brands have entered the conversation, with Visa buying a cyptopunk, Nike purchasing NFT studio RTFKT, Prada and adidas joining forces on NFTs, and Gary Vee announcing a restaurant in NYC that will require ownership of their NFT to reserve a table. Heck, even Wal*Mart is getting on the action.
Brands that make this journey into the metaverse will need specialized expertise in blockchain technology, smart contracts, community management (especially Discord), and influencer marketing (we’ve done a whole breakdown on the Metaverse and it’s implications here).
However, consumer education and user experience will be key, as many are still skeptical of NFTs in general. We think this will change as big brands launch more NFT experiences and bring their big budgets and talent to create consumer-friendly interactions with NFTs.
TL;DR: Far from a gimmick, NFTs are a unique opportunity to create branded experiences in NBDB (never been done before) ways.
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