OPINION17 January 2022

Predicting the future

Opinion Trends UK

Keen to find out what will be the main trends impacting on the insights and wider marketing sectors this year? Read on to discover what some of the top industry operators have to say. Compiled by Sarah Owen, founder and CEO at business consultancy Pumpkin.

Business man touching a screen image of  the number 2022, with two years prior and two subsequent years also visible.

Jo Allison, head of content, Canvas8

A change in the past year has been how people use social media. It kept us together while we were apart, but how and what people were wanting and willing to share has shifted; we call this ‘calculated candour’.

Research found that 42% of internet users say they feel less pressure to portray their lives unrealistically since the pandemic began. It’s why we’ve seen communities being candid about their ‘depression meals’ and why toothbrush selfies are now seen as disarming invitations into someone’s intimate space.

Honesty and authenticity will continue to be prized. However, this can be a tricky landscape for brands to navigate without coming across as disingenuous. People are eager for connection, there’s a growing desire for collective care and forgiveness; there’s an opportunity for brands to create space for unity.

Vicky Bullen, chief executive, Coley Porter Bell

The platforms brands use are common, so the danger is a proliferation of similar experiences that lack distinction. Brands will need to think about not just customer experience (CX) principles, but brand experience (BX) principles – they need to make sure their brand can provide a truly immersive experience.

Online brands will need to think about the whole experience, from the first search through to delighting on the doorstep – building in their distinct personality at every step,

Our love affair with artificial intelligence (AI) and data will continue but with a strengthened understanding that this is in service of creativity and not a replacement for it. To make the breakthroughs that the world needs from brands, human ingenuity will be vital. We are seeing a shift back towards a belief in the power of intuition and instinct, complemented by data rather than purely data-fuelled decision making.”

Federica Bowman, global chief executive, FirmDecisions

Following the accelerated migration of client spending from traditional media channels to ecommerce, social/influencer marketing, digital and so on under Covid-19, 2022 will be the year where a lot of advertisers audit for the first time.

They will also take stock of how transparently their dollars were invested by their agencies in these areas and whether in compliance with their agency contracts. Some may be surprised to find that they don’t have fit-for-purpose contracts covering these emerging channels at all.

In 2021, the government once again underestimated the creative (including advertising) sector’s contribution to trade. The UK is the largest ad market in Europe – and one of the biggest in the world – with ad spend worth £23bn in 2020.

In 2022, accuracy must become the industry’s guiding star. Proof and detail of the value of the market only comes with auditing and scrutiny of budgets. Next year the onus will be on the industry to better champion its place as an income generator for the UK at large.

Victoria Herrick, strategy partner, Strat House

This year we learned that supply chains are more fragile than agile. Our guess is we’re not done with panic buying yet. Mass media and social media have played their part in fuelling rumours and stirring up fear and uncertainty. It has been harder to harness the power of communications to allay fears and restore confidence.

For businesses and authorities, scenario planning will pay off, as will having pre-emptive and skilfully crafted communications plans. Those quick to spot the early signs of panic buying or even predict it, will seize the upper hand. Reading the signals right will enable speedy corrective action. 

Sporadic bursts of scarcity will open our eyes to the complex psychology of the panic buyer. Moments of scarcity will lift the lid on raw ingredients that we never knew were in the things we buy; they’ll expose surprising truths about the carbon footprint of our comestibles, and they’ll potentially change buying habits forever. Brands with genuine sustainability advantages should jump on this as an opportunity to show consumers why they matter.

Lisa Lishman, commercial director, Page & Page and Partners

In 2022, marketing will need to be braver, bolder, more empowered, and more creative to cut through the online noise. The purpose behind marketing will be crucial. Consider changing behaviour – how does it relate to your audience, is the ask of them achievable or aspirational? Only by seeing the world through consumers’ eyes, and being empathetic to their ‘why’ and their purpose, will marketing succeed.

Consumer consumption habits have adapted. Empathy and consideration of local and cultural nuances, gained from insights, need to be the foundation of a campaign if it is to be sustainable and scalable. Campaigns need meaning, depth, warmth, a cause and humanity if they are to connect to the audience, or from a commercial perspective, the bottom line.

Big talking points and trends will also be the harnessing and use of data and consumers and patients are much savier to this. We need to cultivate trust, embrace transparency and be honest; brands must allow people to control their own data journey.”

Joe Stubbs, global brand vice-president, Interbrand

The 2021 predicted demise of cities will not happen. Cities will recover in 2022, not because of Covid-19 treatments and vaccine uptake, but because of their innate capacity for change. Cities adapt to shock. If shops and offices are abandoned, urbanites will find new uses for them. This flexibility seemed to hurt cities during the pandemic, as white-collar workers switched to working from home and stopped buying bus tickets and sandwiches.

As consumer behaviour shifts, brands will adapt and thrive too, because the best and most robust brands are constantly tweaking and shifting to meet people’s new requirements. By keeping a close eye on behaviour, gathering insights and monitoring new patterns, brands can continue to be in the right place for their customers.

Sarah Owen is founder and CEO at business consultancy Pumpkin