Time for a fresh start with fresh ideas, we are all looking for the next big thing in our arena. While the past two years has been unpredictable, there has been encouraging news with the relaxation of restrictions and the government encouraging us to end WFH and to get back to some kind of business normal.
With that in mind, our strategists have put together some ideas on trends to consider for the year ahead...
Written by senior strategists, Rob Williams and Martin Reid.
Web3 gets its wings
Web3 is going to change the way brands make themselves known. Where currently brands grapple with monoliths such as Facebook or Google to get seen on their platforms or harness customer data, web3 gives ownership, agency, and transparency back to individual users.
There’s already traction for web3 in creative sectors. Pace Verso invites artists to sell art as NFTs under its brand, while MetaFactory invites communities to vote on fashion lines and to share profits and exclusives with its users.
But B2B brands can weigh in on the fun too. From using NFTs as access passes to digital events or racing to establish real estate in the metaverse, the opportunities are endless. And financial service brands and retailers are of course changing tack to address how to bring cryptocurrency offerings and accommodations to customers (we are seeing our clients pioneering in this space).
This transition to Web3 will probably happen gradually as more people invest in crypto and curiosity peaks. Where customers go, brands will follow.
Even bolder creative
The tools, talent, and time it takes to make great digital creative are vastly improving – accelerated by WFH and the demands for better UX and CX. The upside is that branding can get much braver. Out with the traditional creative formats like downloadable eBooks and in with the interactive slideshow or parallax website. Even brand identities can become richer, more responsive, and even take a life of their own with AI and generative algorithms.
The downside? Standing out from the crowd. As always, the brands that have their strategies and stories straight will go further with their creative than the brands that throw budget at shiny propositions that don’t have much relevance.
Growth of Hybrid events
We’re not out of the woods yet, which gives rise to hybrid models. With many brands and businesses looking to return to face-to-face events, launches, meetings and conferences, a middle ground will need to be found to meet the needs of those unable to attend physically, with those who are eager to be in the same room.
Therefore, hybrid events will grow in popularity, offering a combination of in-person and virtual connectivity. Couple this with the rise of VR and the metaverse, we will see a monumental shift that blurs the physical and virtual, with experiential design that caters for both audiences.
Electric vehicles. Reducing single-use plastic. Plant-based food. Exposing supply chain malpractices. It’s no surprise that consumers are shifting to conscientious consumerism, empowered to make the right choice by switching to brands that align with their values around sustainability and social movements.
As the past few years have further accelerated this shift, brands too must now take a hard look at themselves to ensure they are aligning with this movement, as well as progressing the conversation by nurturing these values to support positive change. A brand’s ability to communicate these values will be critical to building resonance and trust, without being seen as pandering or greenwashing. With nowhere to hide, businesses must assess their entire operations to identify where fundamental changes are required to exist in this new world.
Brand purpose finds its purpose
In the last few years, many businesses went big on expressing brand purpose – soul-searching about their existing beyond earning shareholders profit and aligning to support or remedy social and environmental issues – only to face criticism of green-washing, youth-washing, rainbow-washing, woke-washing etc.
In 2022, brands will work harder on how they communicate purpose – with more precision on solving matters directly relevant to their brand and less focus on lofty language, inauthentic causes and ‘bandwagoning’.
Brand collaborations are certainly not a new concept; however, we should expect the rise of collaboration in 2022.
In response to hyper consumer-awareness and conscientiousness, consumers expecting more from the brands they interact with means that false promises and self-indulgence marketing will no longer cut it. For brands to cut through the noise and build an authentic dialogue with consumers, they need to focus on shared values with their target audiences.
As brands look to increase their audience reach further, a shift from competition to collaboration is a clear choice. What better way to strengthen your brand than by finding other brands that share your values, or run in the same circles, and working together to combine your reach as well as giving social proof to one another by linking efforts for the benefit of the end-user.
It’s not just about awareness either, there are many economic benefits of combining efforts. Accenture calculates that successful brand collaborations can decrease logistics costs by as much as 3-4% and manufacturing costs by 5-15%, as well as optimising inventory management.
Here’s one reality worth remembering, brand trust is at an all-time low. According to the ‘Brutally Honest’ report by ImagenInsights, 0% of Gen Z respondents said they’d trust brands in 2022 – because they don’t provide meaningful or emotional fulfilment.
Brands need to work on managing reputations and aligning talk with action, CX with UX, and products with 'purpose'. It takes more than better design to be a better brand.
With the promise of the metaverse to add more ways to interact with customers, brands should focus on sorting themselves out in the real world before expanding into new spaces.