There’s never been a more interesting time for brands and their marketers. We’re presented with a range of issues and opportunities – including the reverse pivot from virtual to live events, the emergence of hybrid workplaces, intense competition for talent, pressure to deliver on ESG and DEI goals, geopolitical risks, ethical use of data, evolving influencer, entertainment, and sports marketing landscapes – and more.
But even as we navigate today’s challenges, we need to look over the horizon and get ready for what’s next. We asked leaders across the IPG DXTRA collective of marketing services brands a simple – but crucial – question:
Choose a topic or scroll through for what to watch for in 2022:
How is a brand making itself fundamental to human life? The pandemic uniquely escalated and conflated human fear and worry on a shared, global scale. Health, wealth, communities, education, societal stability and the environment were all thrown together into an existential fear for the future. Some brands responded fast and instinctively - and were loved for it. LVMH switched to making hand sanitizer, Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson et al. created vaccines at record speed, Walmart protected supply lines, jobs and pensions, Netflix kept us from losing our minds. In their very different ways, these companies created platforms, products and services that people came to rely on. Moving forward, this is likely to be the new standard by which people will judge the companies with whom they decide to spend time and money.
As the hybrid, remote work model takes hold as the new way of working for many, employers are challenged with navigating new issues of inclusion and equity as some workers remain remote while others return to the physical office. As organizations manage the logistics of a hybrid workforce, a recent Gartner study found that only 13% of business leaders reported concern over creating parity between the remote and in-office experience. Remote workers, particularly employees from underrepresented groups, are at risk of feeling excluded and invisible if employers do not center inclusion and equity in this new approach. As the war for talent intensifies and employees seek employers that offer flexibility and an environment in which they can thrive, employers must consider the processes and systems needed to make work fair -- regardless of work style or location.
In the context of broad employee burnout and the Great Resignation, employers are facing an enormous challenge keeping and recruiting the talent needed to drive their organizations forward. This isn’t a challenge to be solved simply with additional compensation or remote work options. It turns out that what employees contribute – in the form of meaningful, purposeful work – is much more important. Employees also want to have fun at work, and that goes beyond happy hours: they want to engage creatively, solve problems and work with people that they enjoy. In The Contribution Effect, United Minds reviews these and other findings about what matters most to employees today.
As we look to 2022, here’s a central question for teams to ask: How do we help clients shape and activate ideas that help solve the real and growing challenges we face in our world today? We bring clarity to the complex ESG discussions playing out across corporate teams to help clients see where they are best positioned, to lead on specific business and social issues, and to drive and communicate creative, concrete, and high-impact actions. Because what’s needed at this moment are powerful actions that demonstrate that brands understand what’s at stake in our world and are committed to being a part of the solution.
More than ever, consumers demand individualized care across the health spectrum, from concierge doctors to tailored care delivery to personalized treatments. This is particularly acute with Millennials, whose healthcare spending and influence on health brands is growing. Consumers in this generation make health purchasing decisions the same way they do for non-health brands, requiring their healthcare to be on-demand, online and on-trend. Health brands increasingly must consider branding, packaging and marketing to patients the same way CPG brands market to consumers, within regulatory boundaries. Brands can achieve this by fusing the best insights of consumer behavior with specific, nuanced healthcare expertise to drive the biggest impact.
Plan for “everything” because we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Right now, each day is filled with ever-changing variables. It’s something we can all relate to in life and work, and a core issue our clients face daily. Most clients yearn to get people together – to drive their vision, seek participation, get alignment and ultimately foster business growth and they need our help to get them there. To lead the way, brands need to be looking around corners, preparing for every curveball when it comes to experiences.
A recent study by NRG found that 9 out of 10 Gen Zers are excited about participating in experiences that change in real-time. Young audiences only know of a world where social self-expression and digital co-creation are norms. As 2022 unfolds, we’ll see young people breaking the boundaries of conventional brand relationships, demanding collaboration in significant ways - more than standard influencer campaigns. Young audiences are driving culture with an influence that we’ve never seen before - whether that’s hijacking political conventions or rethinking the stock market. Next year, brands that understand how to co-create with this highly engaged, creative generation will win over the hearts, minds, and wallets of 72 million new consumers.
Do your DEI programs prioritize disability inclusion? Probably not. Is your content accessible to all people? Probably not. According to the World Economic Forum and The Valuable 500, although 90% of companies claim to prioritize diversity, only 4% of businesses are focused on making offerings inclusive of disability. As marketers, we have an opportunity – and an obligation – to change this. Everyday content is published and campaigns are launched that aren’t inclusive of people with sight, hearing, speech, and cognitive disabilities. By ensuring your content is accessible by design, you will earn brand love from the 1 billion disabled people around the world who represent $13 trillion of buying power.
We are in a new geopolitical era in which rising and global powers are competing for economic and technological superiority and business leaders are caught in the crosshairs like never before. Our new global research reveals that the vast majority of executives (87%) believe their companies should be prepared to take a more public position on geopolitical issues over the next five years. This presents significant business and reputation risks for clients operating in multiple countries with competing interests and values. Teams should be thinking about how brands can best anticipate and prepare for the geopolitical issues they may be forced to speak out or act on (willingly or not).
Diversifying how and where influencers are activated will be key – a one size fits all approach is no longer going to cut through to or engage your target audience. Agencies and brands need to take advantage of all the tiles offered by the entire influencer ecosystem – exploring new content formats and platforms while seamlessly blending influencers’ organic reach with paid amplification to allow for advanced targeting. The influencers you work with should be regarded as publishers with real creative credentials and deep knowledge of their fanbase’s likes and interests. Keep an eye on subcultures across all verticals to understand what’s now, new and next, be that a Twitch livestream, a TikTok hashtag challenge, a podcast, an IG Reel, a Clubhouse conversation or a Roblox virtual world.
Think about how to create a “pop culture ecosystem,” a balanced strategy of partnerships, content, talent and influencers that can deliver brand messages in an authentic way through consumer passions and needs. Keeping business objectives at the forefront will help identify the right partners and places for your brand to show up. Content is king now more than ever, and the definition of content is far and wide, from music, esports, TV, film or experiential manifestations. There are more opportunities than ever to reach our existing and new consumers. Entertainment marketing drives cultural conversations; a brand must consider multicultural audiences as a primary target to market to and THROUGH as well as using the multicultural segment as tastemakers and influencers to reach the general marketplace.
Do the challenger brands you work with have a clear sense of their purpose in the world, why they exist for their customers and why they’re better than the market leaders? Are your client CMOs confident in owning this in the board room and is it creatively brought to life across every paid step of the customer journey, in advertising, paid digital and content with a clear ROI? In today’s connected, accountable world, it’s never been more important for challenger brands to box the clever and clearly articulate value they bring to customers and broader society and to extract every ounce of value from their paid marketing spend. Brands need to understand and articulate their worth in a way that will galvanize their businesses and earn their place in culture through exciting and differentiating brand and campaign platforms, helping them maximize their advertising and digital paid media spend by turbocharging it with the power of earned messaging.
Differentiation. As consumer habits splinter across the media spectrum, there’s a timelessness to sports which endures. Now more than ever, consumer passions and opinions are driving purchase decisions. Sport is a powerful way to unlock and meet heightened consumer expectations and differentiate from the sea of sameness in a world that’s grown weary of forced ad exposure. In 2022, brands can play and win by using sports as a cultural cache. Consumers have spent nearly two years apart and sports can be a driving force in bringing them together again via memorable in-person and digital engagements.
Ethical use. As restrictions around personal and consumer data usage increase, more “solutions” will crop up, offering workarounds to these restrictions. While loopholes and hacks are common, this doesn’t mean they are ethical. Data regulation is generally pushing for privacy, so any workaround to circumvent regulations will increasingly push us to a non-ethical and eventually restricted use of data. As data-driven marketers, we should continue to create ways to use data in the service of humans, not just in service of our KPIs.
A Marketing Collective Tailor-made for Our Times
IPG DXTRA is a global collective of agency brands, anchored by Weber Shandwick, Golin, Jack Morton, FutureBrand and Octagon, that brings the best of specialty marketing — and people — together. Our agencies configure unique combinations of in-demand skills and expertise, drawing on best-in-class talent from disciplines including public relations, experiential, sports and entertainment, workforce transformation, influencer marketing, social content, digital transformation and brand strategy to help the world’s most iconic brands earn attention, drive experience and gain influence.
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