Brands must embrace a new era of innovation in 2022

07 January 2022 7 min. read
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As 2022 gets underway, there will undoubtedly be a host of trends and predictions that marketers will be looking to identify in order to help design brand strategies for the coming year. Jane Hovey, Director of Communication Strategy at Vivaldi, examines which key themes are likely to be the most important and effective.

While the chaos from the last two years has made it increasingly difficult to predict what’s in store, one thing’s for sure, there’s an exciting opportunity for brands to rewrite the future and put things back together in a way that they haven’t done previously. We are entering a Brave New World shaped by a rising sense of optimism for creating the future. So, what are the key themes that will define brand marketing in 2022?

In a world of increased scrutiny, brands face not just the judgement of their customers, but of all parties within their ecosystem, including suppliers, partners, investors, competitors, observers, government agencies and media organisations. And what all these stakeholders demand now more than ever is authenticity, of meaning and purpose, feeling and connection.

Jane Hovey, Director of Communication Strategy - Vivaldi

This is about pushing back against purpose-washing and jumping on the bandwagon, an acceptance of imperfection and renewed focus on betterment. With more intuitive technologies, new products and services will constantly evolve to meet our needs.

Brands have an unparalleled opportunity to get rid of the bullshit and put an end to fakery, being true to what they stand for, their mission, values and purpose, whether that’s to enable children to enjoy free play (see LEGO) or to accelerate the transition to a sustainable energy future (see Tesla). It’s not just about selling more stuff, but it’s about demonstrating a true and authentic raison d’etre

Reimagining community

Rebranding its parent company as Meta, Facebook has brought the notion of the metaverse into wider conversation. A clever PR move sure, but let’s be clear, this is not a term coined by Mark Zuckerberg but in fact stems from the 1990s from a book by US futurologist Neil Stevenson called Snowcrash. Today however, there are still many in the marketing world who don’t really know what it is.

The metaverse itself is not a trend, it is defining something which is already happening. An overlap of VR and immersive worlds, it is a term that enables community, creativity and authenticity of meaning. It’s about doing, testing, experimenting, not just talking.

What’s interesting is how the metaverse can create a second world, enabling people to create avatars and then draw comparisons between them and their real self. Consider the possibilities this could bring for brands, consumers and wider societal issues, for example a disabled child who can give themselves superpower legs, or a person transitioning to explore different gender identities. Amongst the diversity and at times chaos of the real world, there are endless opportunities for reframing self and community, and for brands the opportunity is not just to sell more stuff, but to connect with and understand consumers more deeply.

Everywhere is digital

While not a new phenomenon, digital is everything and everything touches digital. For brands, the key is to integrate digital into every level of the business strategy, putting an end to silos and ensuring they don’t think of their digital strategy as separate to their overall strategy.

Digital has also enabled small businesses to diversify and reach new audiences. Whether that’s local delis now delivering online, restaurants that create meal boxes, or beauty salons that offer home appointments at the click of a button. Undoubtedly accelerated by Covid-19, business owners have had to rethink their offering, meaning the business they are in has been thrown up in the air – in many parts for the better. Category is almost becoming meaningless.

Purpose as a given 

By the same token, we are starting to see purpose as a given within brand strategy, not a separate strategy in itself. The global sense of community and giving back has arguably never been stronger. As a result, brands need to align themselves with a higher sense of purpose, which, while it doesn’t need to be a commitment to rid the world from all evils, needs to be a commitment that flows through every channel of a business. The simple truth is, brands that don’t abide by this unspoken rule won’t survive in the age of the empowered, digitally savvy and globally conscious consumer. In short, stop going on about it and just do it.

The quantified self 

According to Nancy Davis, Chief Creative Officer at the Global Wellness Institute, “Analysts agree that health and wellness technologies —whether in mental wellness or digital fitness— have now emerged as the hottest investment category.”

Through the emergence of new technologies, we are now able to track everything from food, to sleep, to exercise, understanding in real time the effectiveness of everything we do. This notion of ‘the quantified self’ is helping to make the invisible visible, through digital apps. But it stretches far beyond the health and wellness sector. Today you can track where your waste ends up (Waste Tracker), the supply chain of the food you buy (Provenance) and the content your child is engaging with online (Net Nanny).

Digital is empowering consumers in a way never seen before, which presents a huge opportunity for brands, but also a potential risk, as consumers are increasingly more savvy about what works and what doesn’t. Today, they are more equipped than ever with the tools to evaluate every facet of your brand, which can have both a positive and a negative impact on customer loyalty and engagement.

Collaborative advantage 

Much has been written about how collaboration beats competition as a strategy for business success, yet with the vast challenges we are faced with today, from climate change to the pandemic and political instability rising across the world, it is becoming increasingly obvious that brands and businesses can only solve these problems if they work together.

Just imagine what the world would look like if competitors all combined their vast reaching resources and expertise to find solutions to some of these challenges. In the age of purpose as a given and with the enormous capabilities that tech delivers, the power of partnerships has never been greater. So, brands should look to align with like-minded competitors as we enter the New Year.

Removal of rigid industries 

The chaos from the past two years has led to the removal of rigid industries in a way never seen before. In order to meet customer demand and navigate restrictions, many businesses have had to diversify; the walls of business have broken down.

Small but agile enterprises have been well-placed to try new avenues, looking at the core of their business offering and what potential channels are close to that and are ripe for innovation. While driven by necessity and demand, this has in fact opened up a whole new world of opportunities for many brands, and with it the need to reframe what they stand for as a business. Take a premium chocolate brand, for example. While the heart of that business might be to produce chocolates, they have an opportunity to reframe to become a business that stands for luxury, opening up new possibilities of what else they might offer, be that luxury homewares, clothing, other food and drink products, healthcare items, and so on).

With the consolidation of hybrid working, businesses will continue to navigate their way through the chaos. But as we look ahead to 2022, there’s everything to play for, and brands must embrace this new era of innovation.