Send us a message
First published in on January 7, 2022 - Op-Ed Contributor John Mergen, Chief Media Officer at The Shipyard

Why 2022 Will Be The Year Of The Marketer (And The Consumer)

At least one thing is clear as we transition into 2022: we are no longer waiting for a revolution in how consumers interact with media. That shift has happened, and its impact increases with each passing month.  The new year is about accepting, enjoying and leveraging this phenomenon, if you haven’t already. And if you have – it is time to master all the new opportunities this creates. 

Consumers Take Charge of Their Happiness And Their Shopping Habits
Consumers in 2022 will not be the same as those who have come before. Today’s audiences seek purpose and joyful living, even if it creates risk of instability. They have high expectations for themselves, for the brands they consume, and for what they want to get out of life. They feel confident challenging the status quo, and empowered to pursue the things they love, whatever they happen to be. After interminable months being shut-in and buffeted by pandemic, consumers are reclaiming their lives, and shifting to a more thoughtful, proactive approach to directing their experiences. An example is self-care, which for many has moved from a luxury to a necessity, encompassing everything from their health needs to their fashion and cosmetic needs. 

As the age-old promises of the digital media ecosystem reach maturity around us, consumers are becoming ever savvier shoppers, who know how find products that truly delight them. They now respond to marketing messages contextualized directly within the content and channels they trust most, a trend which dovetails perfectly the massive strides being made in personalization. Relevant ads can be embedded in the YouTube videos we love, the shows we binge on, and the podcasts that serve as the soundtracks for our lives.   The ramifications are profound: 2021 saw a 30% spike in global e-commerce, and this growth will continue into 2022. This is excellent news for marketers who are quick to understand and master these new trends.  

Marketers Truly Begin Mastering Their Data And Delighting Their Consumers
2022 should be about pleasing customers by showing them we understand what they truly value. Marketing communications in the new year should celebrate the new boldness consumers are feeling, encouraging their pent-up desire to explore new horizons while nurturing their sense of hedonism. But this type of approach still needs to be contextualized to create communications which feel authentic, and make the consumer feel like their wants are understood and catered to.  This is why first party data about your audience remains so important. 

One example: while males are beginning to seriously embrace self-care products historically targeted towards women, and are adding a whole new layer to their care routines, data shows women are simplifying, both in their products and routines. So, a robust data strategy, powered by the ability to quickly parse, understand and act on your brand’s own data, is more critical than ever. 

Beyond this, while today’s consumers expect relevance and personalization, they are also more likely than ever to respond to visual communications, as opposed to readable content. Even more importantly, brands who wish to stand out should accept that beyond simply generating reach, they need to provide an authentic purpose.  

The Future Belongs to The Brands Who Seize the Present
The future of digital marketing we’ve dreamed of for decades has, in 2022, finally been realized. We have the tools we need, and the ability to collect and use the data that helps us understand our customers. And our audiences have matured enough that they know how they want to interact with us, and we have seen that they will love our brands if we follow their rules.  But we still have a lot to do. 

For instance: Safari and Firefox have already moved away from supporting cookies, and even Chrome will have completely done so by the end of 2023. While Universal IDs and tools like Google’s FLoC will help, marketers must embrace their own 1st party data initiatives, focusing on generating opt-ins. They should also be testing alternative methods of targeting – including household, predictive models, non-cookie-based IDs, while maximizing every customer interaction with a focus on data collection and opt-in messaging. Context, too, will be a critical feature of the cookie-less world. Tying your brand to the content your audience loves ties them closer to you, creating authenticity.  

As always, marketers will need to stay focused on changing trends. The tendency for consumers to “cut the cord,” with their cable companies still exists, but it has slowed - nearly 70% of US households still subscribe to cable or other pay TV, and it is still where consumers spend most of their time. But streaming services continue to grow as well, and today only 10% of consumers have just cable TV, with no streaming services. This will decrease even more in 2022.  

Beyond this, digital capabilities are transforming outdoor and audio marketing, creating chances for measurable and impactful relevance and personalization in media that have traditionally been push-only. Digital Out-of-Home makes up nearly a third of all outdoor marketing now and will be closer to 50% over the next few years. And ad spend on digital audio is increasing even faster than it was expected to.  

Ultimately, 2022 will be a continuation of the trends we saw last year. Direct to consumer marketing has taken off. Independent agencies, staffed by highly intelligent, entrepreneurial-minded, passionate professionals, have become critical as big brands seek to revitalize their nimbleness and relevance. Human desire for meaning and positivity continues to grow. The looming exit of the 3rd party cookie is still firmly occupying the minds of marketers.  

But the strides we’ve made over the last year, and the new opportunities they unlock, are why 2022 will be the year that we look back to as when our digital toolkit finally reached maturity, and digital consumers finally took their rightful place as managers of their own marketing experiences.