The following is a guest post by Jennifer Mandeville, director of media strategy at Merkle. Opinions are the authors' own.
As we say goodbye to 2021, new trends are taking shape to inform media strategy in the new year, poised to influence everything from audiences to investments and technology platforms. With consumer buying, economics and technology evolving, here are the top trends to consider for your media strategy in 2022.
A focus on finding purpose
The pandemic has drastically changed consumers' approach to life, causing monumental mindset shifts that are here to stay. Consumers think about family, work and life differently, whether they are part of the "Great Resignation," carving out more family time or focusing on new daily habits. They are feeling bold, adventurous and more empowered than ever, regaining control in whatever aspects of life they can — realizing they aren't alive to only make a living, but to discover a true, authentic life. With this comes opportunity for brands and marketers, especially in the social realm, as consumers seek to share their journey with others across multiple platforms.
Thought starter: What are consumers' newfound purposes? How do we tailor our brand messaging to match those mindsets?
A crowded media landscape
Americans are seeing more ads than ever (think 6,000-10,000 ads per day) across many channels and platforms. GWI coined a phrase, "attention recession," which encompasses a holistic widespread attention deficit among consumers. This has increased sharply since the pandemic, due to increased time spent on media activities. With frequent channel-hopping and specific channels becoming more crowded (i.e., connected TV, social and gaming), brands and marketers will need to work harder, smarter and faster than ever before to get their message seen and heard. This could translate to using unique creative, implementing prescriptive technology or refining targeting methods through first-party data.
Thought starter: How can we break through and show the full value of our product or service? What sets us apart from the competition?
Accelerated digital transformation
Home lockdowns and work-from-home pivots during the pandemic sparked a digital revolution, with new gadgets and platforms rolling out constantly. Digital transformation now touches nearly every aspect of our lives, from cryptocurrency in the financial space to automated shopping experiences in retail. Our home and work lives continue to become more automated and tech-driven, making things easier yet more complex. The metaverse isn't just an idea anymore, but a potentially real, tangible future.
As digital transformation takes hold, brand marketers and businesses must embrace new technology and test them in new digital marketing avenues. They also must be flexible to create custom audiences and move budgets in real time; integrating digital tools, systems and software and deploying seamless communication processes to work in alignment.
Thought starter: How will artificial intelligence and automation play a role in digital transformation? In what ways will digital transformation impact me?
Health and wellness at center stage
"Health and wellness" no longer includes just physical well-being — it also encompasses social and mental well-being, including emotional and psychological health. Social isolation from stay-at-home measures and remote learning took a heavy toll on kids and parents alike. Stress, anxiety and uncertainty peaked and are still prevalent as COVID-19 variants and other complex, chronic conditions are on the rise. But heading into 2022, 66% of consumers are more conscious of looking after their physical and mental health than previously.
When it comes to health and wellness, taking life "breaks," like spending less time on social media and having more "me time" rank highest among consumers. As physical and mental health remain top of mind, brands and marketers can play a role in consumer wellness and should focus on how their product or services might seek to improve consumers' holistic health.
Thought starter: How does my brand fit into the overall health and wellness landscape? Is there a way to better position ourselves in this space?
The new workplace
Over the past year and a half, the work-from-home/hybrid model moved the workforce at least five years into the future. Working environments have shifted drastically, with fewer employees visiting offices. As the workforce adapted to these changes, brands and marketers also had to shift how they connect with consumers.
Without commutes and office lunch breaks, employees are engaging with less out-of-home ads. Families are spending more time together, diverting attention that brands previously captured. While some employees are heading back into the office, 90% of workers will remain remote to some degree, while 25% plan to continue working from home full-time. That's a large chunk of the workforce that brands and B2B marketers will need to approach differently to reach them in their new work environment.
Thought starter: How can I best show the value of my brand in the new workplace? Are there tactics I haven't tried yet regarding outreach to my core consumer in this new permanent environment?
Economic ups and downs
In the pandemic's early days, the economy was volatile. While travel and entertainment revenue plummeted, household goods and food and beverage revenue skyrocketed. Consumers made purchases based on cost, comfort and familiarity. Since then, supply and demand have largely course-corrected in industries like real estate and restaurants, while travel and entertainment continue to rebound from pent-up consumer demand. However, the supply chain remains a complex issue. While there is high demand, certain supplies are limited, causing major hiccups worldwide. Transportation has continued to create halts in the chain as well.
Another economic trend is the growth of social capitalism. Consumers increasingly seek brands that benefit all of society, not just individuals, with a focus on elements like equality and solidarity. For brands and marketers, it will be important to show goodwill and find ways to emphasize this ideal to meet consumers (especially millennials, Gen Z and Gen Alpha) where they are, while accounting for other economic factors.
Thought starter: What economic factors should I consider when planning media? Should I have different options depending on how the market shifts?
Shifts in consumers' locations
During the pandemic's earlier days, many people — 15.3 million to be exact — moved out of densely populated cities, seeking out areas with affordable cost of living, larger living accommodations and better lifestyle fit. Others decided to travel and "test" living in different locations while working remotely. These significant relocation trends will have a lasting impact on where brands and marketers should focus their media efforts and dollars.
For example, casual restaurant chains that depended on the lunch rush may focus on mid-tier cities with high population growth versus urban areas where workers are no longer present. A retailer that typically targets vacation-goers may increase marketing budgets in destination markets. It's all about location, and brand marketers will need to remain cognizant of that.
Thought starter: Am I still targeting my core audience in the correct geographic location? How should migration patterns factor into my market-level budgets?
When crafting a media strategy, there are numerous areas to consider, with audience as the top priority. Drilling down into the consumer mindset while looking at external factors will provide a holistic viewpoint to drive overall strategy. As major consumer shifts happen, brands and marketers must be ready to shift alongside them, especially in an ever-present and growing digital world.