Ready to explore the future of marketing? From Hybrid Events to Customer-Driven Content, here are the top trends we’re predicting for 2022.
1. Hybrid Events Become the “New Normal”
During the global pandemic, online and virtual events (such as festivals, webinar platforms, and product launches) have become a necessity for many industries. For marketers, events are key for connecting with customers, increasing brand awareness, and engaging with both existing clients and potential new ones. But, with constant closures, strict social distancing requirements, and event cancellations around the world, many events have had to pivot online.
But for many, the atmosphere and immersion of in-person events can’t be matched. So as the world continues to open up, we predict that marketers will adopt hybrid events – for which you can use platforms like InEvent. For example, #FinCon2 – the digital marketing event held for Personal Finance content creators, gives ticket holders the option to attend in-person in Texas, or virtually from anywhere in the world. The virtual side of the event includes a live-stream from the main stage, the ability to connect 1:1 with other attendees, as well as various networking and conferencing opportunities.
“The ‘new normal’ is here to stay,” explains David Scott, Envato’s Senior Communications Manager. “With border restrictions and quarantine requirements around the world making international travel incredibly difficult – or just plain impossible – for many would-be event attendees, organisers have had to think outside of the box to come up with suitable hybrid options. In areas of high vaccination rates – think the USA and parts of Europe – this has led to a dual track approach, where local attendees can still meet IRL and experience a socially distant event, while global attendees tune in online for the stream, connecting across virtual chat rooms and visiting virtual booths.
There remains an incredible variance in the quality of these online offerings, be it the UX or the extra features; some have kept their online offerings relatively straightforward seeing them as an adjunct of the main event, though there are plenty of examples where virtual worlds as complex as any modern computer game have been the main way attendees maximise their event ticket experience. Regardless, the events that will shine in the future are the ones who can find smart and direct ways to connect the offline event experience with online attendees.”
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2. Personalization Gets Creative
With more businesses popping up online all the time, users are becoming more selective with the content they’re choosing to consume. From social media and email to display advertising, many brands are incorporating personalization into their marketing strategies to better engage their audiences and stand out in the crowded digital space.
We expect this trend to pick up pace in 2022, with personalized marketing branching out to include more untapped channels and content formats – such as videos, articles, podcasts, streaming services, and so on. To communicate with your customers on a personal level, you’ll need to understand what channels they use and how they use them. Spreading your customized marketing across a range of channels will give you the opportunity to reach your target audience through multiple touch points, using the content that’s the most appealing to them at the right moment.
A great example of personalized marketing using a targeted content channel is Spotify’s ‘Only You’ campaign. In June 2021, Spotify launched ‘Only You’ complete with an in-app experience and personalized playlists to celebrate each individual user’s listening habits and music preferences. Featuring an Audio Birth Chart, Dream Dinner Party, Artist Pairs, Song Year, Time of Day, as well as Unique Genres and Topics for each listener, the campaign reached millions of users by appealing to their individual interests.
“Personalization goes far beyond adding a user’s first name to an email,” says Sarah Dickinson, Envato’s Email Marketing Specialist. “It’s leveraging the data you have to add value to a customers’ experience. Reach them with the right message, in the right place, at the right time, on the things they care about.”
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3. Values Drive Brand Storytelling
Everyone knows that strong branding is the key to business success. But in 2022, we predict that marketers will take branding one step further and place greater focus on brand storytelling to showcase and demonstrate their values.
Instead of using your marketing solely to push your products or sell services, brand storytelling harnesses marketing materials and channels to share stories, and show customers who you are and what you stand for. By revealing little snippets about what your brand is all about, what goes on behind the scenes, where you came from and how you came to be, your audience will stop seeing your business as a faceless entity and, instead, connect with the people behind it.
“How a brand ‘fits’ in with your values, beliefs system and lifestyle will arguably determine whether you buy into that brand,” explains Envato Brand Designer, Sophie Dunn. “A brand’s mission and purpose plays a huge part in who you repeatedly buy from and choose to align with. There’s an increasing expectation among consumers that brands don’t just exist to make a profit. Their values, wallets and loyalty lie with brands who endorse, advocate and contribute to a greater good. It’s one of the easiest, most powerful ways for consumers to feel they’re playing their part.”
By inspiring and enriching your audience with inspirational stories, authentic thought leadership, and honest and relevant updates from your founders or company executives, your customers will be able to better connect with your brand beyond just an advertisement or product. And the more they get to know who you really are, and like it, the more their loyalty to your business will grow.
When it comes to brand activism, Airbnb are leading by example with #belonganywhere. The campaign has helped to reinforce the company’s values and purpose by emphasising local experiences, as well as raise more than $1m for refugees. More recently, Airbnb also provided free accommodation to more than 20,000 refugees from Afghanistan, demonstrating that there’s genuine action behind the stories they tell.
“Customers are more discerning in their dealings with brands,” explains David. “While we can thank social media for helping to democratize the engagement the general public can now have with businesses the world over, this has proven to be a double edged sword; people and brands who fall foul of poor behaviour, practises or inauthentic behaviour are swiftly – and sometimes viciously – brought to account. It’s little wonder then that brand marketers around the world are investing ever more heavily in establishing clear brand values and bringing those to life with authentic storytelling. Customers want to feel like they’re spending their hard-earned money with brands that are not just aspiring but delivering on these values.”
4. Brands Invest In Original Content Programming
Another trend which we expect to gain momentum in 2022 is the concept of original content programming. Netflix or Amazon Prime may typically come to mind when you think of content streaming providers, but some of the biggest tech brands are beginning to diversify their content in a bid to offer their customers more than just products and services. Companies from Salesforce+ to Mailchimp (recently purchased by Intuit) are developing broadcast quality entertainment and educational content, from live action series to podcasts. Why, you may ask? It’s all about building an engaged and targeted audience and then keeping them coming back for more.
“As marketers, we love claiming that such and such is ‘the new Netflix’, but there are a number of brands that are actually beginning to diversify their offering and get in on the content streaming game,” explains Envato’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Julia Fernandez. “Salesforce, a global software giant, has recently announced the launch of Salesforce+ – a streaming service aimed at businesses. Saleforce+ will deliver ‘compelling live and on-demand content’, including series, podcasts and other programming. Salesforce isn’t the first – and they certainly won’t be the last – brand to fund original programs.
Mailchimp Presents has a decent portfolio of shows, including documentary and short films, produced by it’s in-house entertainment studio. And WePresent from WeTransfer combines written and video content to create a beautiful narrative-driven experience. While these are all big examples of original programming, creating content your customers want to return to is the goal.”
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5. More Customer-Driven Content Marketing
Ever since the inception of influencer marketing, user-generated content has become the cornerstone of many brands’ marketing strategies. In fact, UGC is proven to far outperform brand-created content, with 86% of companies and many brands harnessing it. So, it’s easy to see why customer-driven content marketing initiatives are quickly becoming a go-to strategy for marketers.
User-generated content (UGC) is by no means a new trend, but there’s been a big increase in UGC over the past two years, partially due to lockdown and social distancing restrictions during the global pandemic. But with more brands making an effort to connect with their customers and looking to their audiences to create content, we’re now seeing customer-centric marketing become the norm across the majority of content channels – including a rise in content-driven communities and social commerce. For example, ModCloth now provides the option to shop via UGC on its website, allowing customers to see items worn and styled by real people before they buy, and encouraging those who do buy to share the experience with other ModCloth customers and followers.
But it’s not just about product-focused UGC, it’s also about providing space for genuine connection.
“One of the areas where I think authenticity is playing a role in marketing is when brands provide premium expertise and advice about an area that’s of interest to their customers,” says Julia. “In mid 2021, GAP’s Athleta launched AthletaWell, a digital platform which offers workout content, expert tips and guides – including an AMA with US Olympic athlete Simone Biles – and moderated spaces where users can discuss topics including health, fitness and body image. In markets like athleisure, where there’s a lot of growth but also a lot of competition, using a content-driven community can be a great way to build long-term relationships with customers and keep them coming back to your site for more.”
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6. The Future of Marketing Tech Is Here
Over the past few years we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the capabilities of marketing technology, leading to smarter products, more advanced features, and improved customer experience.
From fun immersive experiences such as augmented reality filters and interactive video to eCommerce plays such as chatbots, Instagram and Facebook shops, and shoppable video, technology allow marketers to harness data, target shoppers and streamline customer journeys like never before. While social media platforms are attempting to reinvent eCommerce with features such as Facebook Shops, Instagram shops, Pinterest Shopping Ads and Catalogs, augmented reality has also become a staple for all the most popular social networks. In 2022, it will become easier for brands to take marketing technology one step further.
IKEA is already utilizing shoppable videos – videos which allow viewers to buy while they watch – and have also introduced an AR App which enables customers to see how furniture looks in their home before they purchase. Google, Amazon and Apple have all jumped on voice commerce, and food delivery company DoorDash is trialling drone and robot delivery. There’s even talk of leveraging A.I to streamline influencer marketing in 2022, utilizing the technology for everything from researching influencers (A.I. can watch and assess millions of influencer videos in ways a human can’t) to actually performing influencer marketing itself.
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7. Users Continue to Favor “Unpolished” Content
With the rise of retro editing apps, Instagram Reels and TikTok, we’re seeing the popularity of less polished yet more entertaining content skyrocket. Consumers are no longer satisfied with flawless imagery, big-production advertising or high-quality photos, and are beginning to place more value on the authenticity and relatability of the content they’re consuming. Whether that be through candid photographs, more behind-the-scenes style video content, or less edits or filters on Instagram stories, the verdict is in – people are fascinated with keeping it real.
“Since the introduction of ephemeral content on social media apps like SnapChat and Instagram, we’ve seen a trend develop in less polished content, and it’s filtered through into marketing materials,” explains Envato’s Video Marketing Manager, Jen McKinnon. “Raw video gives a behind the scenes look and feel and helps audiences feel more connected to the brand. This also pairs with last year’s marketing trend towards authenticity.”
8. Creators Take Control of Monetization
As we head into 2022, we’re seeing a lot more creators taking control of their content, with support from the social networks that sustain them, in a bid to further monetize their output. Social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter are constantly introducing new features and updates to improve user experience and assist content creators – and, in turn, themselves – to increase engagement and revenue.
For example, Instagram is now retiring the swipe up feature on Stories in favor of a link sticker to offer more creative control to content creators, claiming that stickers better fit the way people currently use the platform and are more easily formattable for creators. Twitter has also released a new feature called Super Follows – a new subscriber-only content revenue stream. This feature is said to facilitate more authentic engagement between users and their followers, while offering creators a new way to earn money from the platform.
While Instagram hasn’t introduced a similar feature just yet, some influencers – such as FlexMami – are taking things into their own hands by offering ‘Close Friends’ subscriptions to die-hard followers. By paying a monthly fee, followers can be added to FlexMami’s Close Friends list and access premium content via her Stories. Many YouTube creators also offer premium content to subscribers who make a donation on their Patreon, creating another income stream in addition to the money generated by advertising on their free content.
“A trend in the creator economy is for creators to move their top fans to their own tools and websites to have greater control of monetisation,” says Envato’s Marketing Specialist Bianca Pellizzari. “To combat this, and in an attempt to keep creators and their top fans on social platforms, we’ll likely see more features that expand creative control of individuals on Instagram and TikTok. We’re definitely seeing this in Instagram and Twitter’s latest features.”