Given the political upheaval, social unrest, lockdowns, protests, economic uncertainty, ‘Great Resignation’, vaccinations, mandates and just general exhaustion, you could be forgiven for wanting to approach 2022 with a clean slate.
The truth is, just one of these would be enough to change how businesses and CMOs navigate their plans for the next year.
But when so much happens, all at once, it can create a sort of data paralysis. Too many data points to truly understand what is real and meaningful when making decisions.
So like any good leader, it starts with asking the right questions. Here are five questions CMOs (probably) should be asking in 2022
People’s behaviours changed since COVID
It’s no surprise that there has been a slew of research across every category trying to understand the new post-COVID customer in order to adapt accordingly.
Take for example these two simple, yet influential impacts of the pandemic on customers.
People have become more connected to their homes
Our homes have always been sanctuaries. But today they are much more. Our homes have become our offices, gyms, and movie theatres. And although we’ll see a move back to bench presses and disturbingly warm seats at cinemas, it will never be the same.
We’ll continue to see people choose to eat at home, keeping the meal delivery market flourishing. People will invest more in their homes (Google search for home renos is on the up). It means parts of the community will go out less.
Kantar research found consumers are shopping for groceries less often, instead buying more each trip. And when they leave home, it’s to spend money in their local area.
This is an invitation to rethink client journeys, digital footprints and how we sell.
Customers are seeking more control over their lives
In times of uncertainty people seek control over their lives. Feelings of insecurity, anxiety and precariousness mean that people are looking for a sense of certainty.
But the plethora of choice and the rapidly changing nature of regulations, whether that’s travel or business, is making it harder for people to take control of their lives.
So, what can CMOs and marketing teams do to give people some semblance of control? Every brand has the ability to empower its customers.
Whether that’s providing more transparency and better communication to give people the power to plan, or innovating via tech and digital to better navigate this new world.
Ultimately, understanding these new customer truths will lead to more effective comms, better products and smarter spending.
Is the triple bottom line good for my business?
The answer is almost always yes. As brands continue to connect with audiences on a cultural basis, we’ll see a doubling down on how being sustainable and socially active can be good for profit. But if you hear anyone say the word authentic, leave the Zoom room.
Whilst it’s been a talking point for a while, the pandemic has further highlighted the need for social and environmental accountability.
A GWI study found that, for the first time, a brand’s support for people during the pandemic and eco-credentials both ranked higher than quality and affordable pricing.
In other words investing in community and the planet, if done right, is good for business.
But as execs juggle the rapidly changing landscape, the challenge is keeping sustainability and social impact a priority. The trick? Accept that the only way to execute a triple bottom line strategy is to make it true to the business.
An integral part of the company’s culture, the way people work, think and do business. Start inside out. And importantly, don’t try to do everything. Identify the areas the business can have a disproportionate impact, then practice, practice, practice.
What consumer data should I track?
This is not a new topic, but a constantly evolving one. For years, there has been a push to enhance privacy on the web. And this isn’t going anywhere.
Third-party cookies are how brands track you across the internet. They can see which sites you go to and use that to build a profile of you, which is then used to target ads to you. It’s not hard to see why some people are creeped out by it.
So as brands find it harder to access this data because of privacy regulation and increasing initiatives by tech giants to improve privacy, CMOs and marketing leaders will need to look at how this impacts spend and experience.
What might that look like? There will be a rise in brands monetising their media spaces.
Brands will increasingly rely on their own channels for data collection and, with that, a return to more traditional research to identify who their current customers are, why they came in the first place and what they want.
There will be more innovations on the use of first-party data and how it can be shared.
Taking advantage of the new digital ecosystem?
COVID-19 has fast-tracked digital commerce, which has led to significant changes in how marketers spend money and structure their teams.
From the rise of DTC, subscription and social commerce, another question CMOs should be asking is how do we make buying a natural part of, well, everything?
The first thing to say is that there’s a difference between selling online and creating a sustainable e-commerce offering. For many, 2022 will be the year to seize opportunities emerging in the space between brand building and digital commerce.
In fact, Gartner’s annual CMO Spend Study showed optimisation of digital commerce as the top priority of allocating marketing budget. But it’s easier said than done, as the complexity of multichannel journeys is only made harder by siloed teams and bandwidth.
Here are two common questions about e-commerce we’ll hear in 2022.
Can our social media be a sales channel?
Social media isn’t just about content or community. TikTok, the most downloaded app in Apple’s App Store, triggers users to spend £37M every year.
Most platforms are evolving to facilitate social commerce so their audience can buy products without leaving the app. So if you have a reason for being on social as a brand, maybe you have an opportunity to make buying part of that experience.
Is it too late to jump on the DTC band wagon?
Australians spent a record $50.46 billion online in 2020. So there’s an obvious appeal of going direct, as brands seek to drive sales whilst simultaneously establishing stronger relationships with customers, and gain deeper insights / first party data.
And for many brands the pandemic was the push they needed to try their DTC program. Obviously this isn’t right for every category or brand.
Perhaps the real question CMOs need to ask is: does the customer get more value going direct, and are we customer centric enough to deliver on it in a meaningful way?
Accessibility, safety and well-being
As experience remains a top priority for CMOs and marketing departments alike, part of that push will be looking at how your brand is enabling accessibility, driving inclusivity and championing a better state of wellbeing.
COVID-19 continues to create anxiety, so it’s important for people to feel safe when accessing services. What this means for CMOs and marketing departments across many categories is to design experiences with wellbeing front and centre.
Ignoring mental and emotional health is no longer acceptable. And that includes designing for accessibility and inclusivity. And it’s not just because it’s the right thing to do, which it is. Or that you open your brand to a broader customer set, which it does.
But because investing in creative solutions that serve typically forgotten parts of the community tend to vastly improve the customer experience and services for everyone.
A final note
Every new year comes with it a listicle of trends. And after the couple years everyone has had, it’s never been more important to understand how things have changed.
And while everyone hopes 2022 is less of a dumpster fire, it’s only prudent to be ready for anything. So the above list is less predictions, and more of a start on the questions we all need to be asking ourselves to ensure we’re ready for anything and everything.
Danish Chan is the co-founder of brand and strategy agency Untangld.