Marketing trends through a consumer lens

Benjamin Gibbs and Georgia Leathart
By Benjamin Gibbs and Georgia Leathart | 1 February 2022
Ben Gibbs

Benjamin Gibbs (Strategy Director) and Georgia Leathart (Sydney Head of Strategy), Hearts & Science

After many “here are 22 trends every marketer must know for 2022!” reports, we’ve passed through trend season. It’s a great time of year where an industry comes together, shares knowledge and looks for a competitive marketing advantage.

But it’s easy to exist in a marketing vacuum during trend season and fall into the trap of thinking the real world cares about the things our industry does. Why does this matter? Because the real world, consumers, are our North Star. Creative agencies want to move them. Media agencies want to reach them. Media owners want to entertain them. We all want to influence consumers.

Rather than produce another opinion piece with our 2022 trends, the Hearts strategy team looked at where marketers’ trends intersect with consumer trends. Why? To place a consumer lens over every marketing trend and prioritise what is important to consumers, not just what we think is important as marketers.

We asked ourselves:

  • Are the trends keeping us at night even on the periphery of consumers’ lives?
  • What connections and tension do marketing trends have with what matters in culture?
  • Are the cultural trends we’re talking about reflective of consumer behaviour today, or are they too future focused to impact the year ahead?

After reviewing over twenty 2022 trend reports (ranging from McKinsey to Oracle to Trendhunter and more) we’ve found the five most popular 2022 marketing trends:

  1. Digital transformation: Our future is first-party data, the challenges of personalising messaging across multiple channels while considering a consumer’s experience of your product’s lifecycle. Everyone is considering how they transform their digital footprint to meet significant digital changes, like…
  1. Cookie-less world: Apple, through iOS, was the catalyst for a complete reset of digital marketing with most players swearing off third-party cookies in the near term. We’re interested in what will replace third-party cookies, how digital advertising will need to change and, most importantly, the effect on efficiencies.
  1. Brand purpose: The reason why behind a brand is increasingly important. Are you here to only sell a product, or is your product the result of your purpose, part of a broader goal? Featured heavily in trend reports, while brand purpose may not always be the primary driver for consumer choice, it can be the ultimate decider between your brand and a competitor.
  1. Social commerce: TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat have been home to influencers for a while. Now we’re being introduced to in-platform shopping tools. The expected explosion of commerce within platform is the next shopping opportunity for most brands.
  1. The metaverse: We all want to understand what the metaverse is, and the forms that it takes now and will take tomorrow. Is it a present or future consideration for marketers, and how do we take advantage of the business opportunities? Meta’s (née Facebook) new name was a significant reason for business interest. We loved talking about the metaverse.

That’s what we as marketers think is important, but what about consumers? Are they interested in the metaverse? Social commerce? Let’s consider Google’s 2021 Year in Search report as a comparison:

  1. Behaviour change: We’re all concerned with how we interact with social media and engage with negative news, which appears everywhere. We’ve all had a moment of “I can’t look away from the car crash” doomscrolling and we don’t want it to continue. 2021 saw “doomscrolling” searched for more than any previous year.
  1. Connection: We all want to find meaningful connections, and a pandemic hasn’t helped that search. We turned to the search gods for support and approval (“affirmations” reached an all-time search high worldwide last year) and direction on how to find our “soulmate” (again, highest search volume ever last year).
  1. Entrepreneurship: Lockdown challenged many businesses leading to lost work and income for many Australians and business owners. In what could be a career comma, people leant into their side hustle or business idea, helping “how to start a business” trend higher than “how to get a job” in 2021.
  1. Sustainability: We’re increasingly aware of humanity’s impact on Earth. “Sustainability” and “impact of climate change” hit record highs last year. “Volcanoes”, “fires” and “floods” affected everyone, and our search interest followed the news.
  1. Local experiences: the past two years have seen us explore our suburbs and deeply experience our homes. Perhaps too much… The desire to experience things outside our own four walls has us wanting to know “where can I travel?” and looking for new things to do with the family (“camping with kids” and “skate parks”).

These consumer interests and trending searches don’t look the same as our marketing trends!

We know marketing trends and consumer interest aren’t always aligned, but hopefully you can see some clear tensions and connections that we can lean into. Some that we like:

  • Brand purpose, connections & sustainability: Consumers want a better, more natural, more sustainable world, where our impact on the environment gets smaller. Does your brand exist to sell products, or does your brand have a higher purpose, enabled by your products? If it does, consumers want to know!
  • Social commerce & entrepreneurship: Business can boom on social networks. New side hustles and companies look to social for their first exposure, first customer and first sale. Could you be the template for engaging influencers, new marketing tools and social opportunities? Are new social businesses’ commerce opportunities offering expanded distribution avenues to explore or attractive audiences for you to engage?
  • The physical vs. the metaverse: Digital, full body experience might be in our far future, but in the near term, consumers are interested in physical, tangible experiences. The metaverse was the most widely referenced 2022 marketing trend, but consumers aren’t as engaged with it as we are. In the epicentre of metaverse conversation, only 33% of US consumers have ever heard the term and 24% understand it[1]. Digital transformation is important, but physical presence and experiences are what consumers look for today.

So, marketers, as trend seasons fades into the rear-view mirror, keep in mind what consumers care about today; consider how consumers should influence what we think matters and always follow the North Star.

Georgia Leathart

Georgia Leathart

comments powered by Disqus