As we turn the page on the year, it’s time to look at the trends that affect PR and marketing communications. Of course, the changes we see aren’t usually sudden. They don’t magically start with the new calendar. They’re the continuation or peaking of the events and moves we’ve experienced in 2021. These are the ones that get my vote for the strongest and most relevant trends that will carry over into 2022.
Brand purpose has real purpose
Purpose and values-based communications will become an essential part of the marketing toolbox. Research shows that consumers want the brands and companies they do business with to be fair employers, good corporate citizens, and responsible stewards of the environment. This is even more important for business buyers, where the selling cycle is longer, the product or service typically more costly, and the reputation ruboff more potent. Look for brand values to be a core message for most organizations.
Employees are in charge
I’d like to think employers do the right thing out of principle, but in 2021, there’s also expedience. How many “Great Resignation” stories did we see in 2021? The talent market in many industries is tighter than ever. It helped grow “employer branding” among large companies and increased the clout of the workforce within the organization. Smart companies recognize they need to be seen as great places to work as well as great brands. But in 2022, employee engagement will be the new recruitment. This bodes well for PR professionals who focus in employee and community relations.
Branded content is king
Corporate content has been booming for a while, but it 2022 will see a tipping point. Video content isn’t optional anymore, and it seems that every major company is considering its own podcast if it doesn’t have one already. What’s more, the branded content we see in the coming years will be smart, strategic, and fully professional.
Everything is politicized
The politicization of everything from face masks to groceries has been with us for a while, and I see no reason for it to change in 2022. We’ll be heading into another election season, after all. The voracious appetite for viral stories on social platforms will assure plenty of exaggerated, distorted, and downright fake stories that seek to stoke tribal divisions. It makes for treacherous territory for brands that need to assert their values but good news for communicators who can help.
Social commerce will flourish
The pandemic accelerated many digital trends, but few were more dramatic than e-commerce. Social commerce was a big part of that e-commerce explosion in 2021, surging more than 35 percent. The effortless in-app purchase experience is particularly attractive to Gen-Z shoppers, for whom social media is a top source of shopping inspiration. Whether it’s the “old standbys” like Facebook and Instagram, or relative newcomers like TikTok, social channels will play a huge role for sales and marketing professionals in 2022. Watch Facebook’s Metaverse and look for greater investment in social media research, testing, and commerce in the months and years to come.
Marketers look beyond products
The move to ban third-party cookies has precipitated an “identity crisis” in digital advertising. The bits of code have long been used to track web visits and collect data to drive ad targeting. Now that cookies are going away, it’s a challenge for marketers but also an opportunity for innovation. It will revive contextual advertising and give rise to new data targeting tools. Most importantly, the cookie apocalypse promises to support a new age of more thoughtful and creative marketing and PR for smart brands and their agencies.