Privacy is the number one most important technology, topic, or space for marketing in 2022, according to almost 500 CMOs and other marketing leaders. Also significant: AI, the power of story and content in video and audio, metaverse technologies like VR and AR, web3 technologies like crypto and blockchain, and environmental, social, and corporate responsibility.
Plus the continued evolution of marketing fortresses like Facebook, Reddit, TikTok, Google, and Twitter.
I recently asked 463 marketing technologists: what are the most important technologies or topics for 2022. The result was an avalanche of insight including 616 distinct predictions which I’ve synthesized into seven main themes for marketing technology. (Full disclosure: this was for a consulting client, Singular.) Together they outline major storylines, opportunities, and potential pitfalls for brands in the coming year.
Seven predictions for marketing technology in 2022:
- Story (video/audio)
- Marketing fortress
Prediction 1: Privacy
Not shockingly, privacy is tops.
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Years of breaches, unwanted sharing, and greedy grabbing of all zero, first, second, and third-party data that companies can get their hands on have made people angry, confused, and suspicious. Every time a hack goes public, trust goes down. And every time people see ads that feel too suspiciously tailored to their exact situation, conspiracy theories about Facebook or Google listening to us via our phones gain a little traction.
The bottom line is that when Company 2 knows what we personally told Company 1, we don’t like it. And when a company wants too much data from us, we don’t like it.
The solution is a substantial investment in privacy, marketing leaders say.
“Marketers must be prepared to invest and get the right tech in place to develop its first party data,” Walgreens CMO Pat McLean told me. “This is exactly how Walgreens has differentiated in marketing via our mass personalization strategy and myWalgreens platform as we know this is core to our future growth.”
There’s a few keys in that: first-party data is data a customer shares with you directly. Customers want brands to have this data and want them to use it to personalize experiences. They don’t want brands to share it with others.
But some won’t share data, and for that, mass personalization is a viable strategy: tailoring experiences, content, ads, and products to known segments of consumers. That delivers a “personalized” experience feeling without requiring the data that true personalization requires.
Delivering it successfully demands new skills, however.
“All of us have to be mini data scientists in today’s tech-driven world,” says Prudential Financial CMO Susan Somersille Johnson.
In addition, that means more contextual targeting for advertising as the cookies, IDFAs, GAIDs/AAIDs, fingerprints, and other device and personal identifiers adtech companies have made available for marketers over the past decade to track customers, prospects, and users become less and less accessible, and less and less effective. In other words: all things old are new again, since contextual targeting used to be the primary methodology of targeting: you put an ad for canoes in Outdoor Living, for example.
But it’s not all old-school: the science of context is getting better.
Even in programmatic advertising channels.
“As we head towards more privacy-focused advertising, contextual targeting has become one of the main viable ways to reach a target audience,” says Mateusz Jędrocha at RTB House. “And thanks to technological advancements, the solution has become much more scalable … the key to success will be how well these contextual tools are integrated within the entire programmatic ecosystem.”
The solution, says G2’s CMO Amanda Malko, is for marketers to “double down on building their own audiences and communities, and embrace new types of data like intent-based solutions.” In addition, Malko says, we’ll see a shift from knowing and trading personal information on people to using actions and signals like clicks, app installs, page views, sign-ups, and so on.
Prediction 2: Story
The second most popular prediction is not specifically a technology, though many spoke of technological enablements. It is the power of story and content to build brand and sell product. The technology pieces to enable it include video, including live-streaming, and audio, particularly podcasting.
“Consumers now spend one-third of their media time with audio … audio is now the most accessible medium,” says iHeartMedia CMO Gayle Troberman. “And marketers are waking up to the massive potential of audio to deliver highly engaged, targetable audiences at scale.”
It’s not just audio, and it’s not just about brand.
We’re starting to see the explosion and democratization of Home Shopping Network-style live-streaming video sales, China-style, in Western markets. Influencers are jumping all over the opportunity, and brands like Amazon are taking advantage.
“Brands who have jumped on the live shopping bandwagon are 3X’ing their sales goals during these live streaming events in addition to increasing their social engagements and follower counts,” says Jena Joyce, founder and CEO of Plant Mother, a vegan and organic skin-care brand. “Social shopping is coming to all platforms: Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest … Instagram shopping is becoming a profitable alternative to paid ads.”
Joyce says she’s seen revenue double from live shopping experiences in recent months and an almost 1300% increase in referral traffic from Instagram to her website.
Prediction 3: AI
AI or artificial intelligence was actually the fourth most-cited technology or space by CMOs, but the third was a grab-bag of literally dozens of different marketing technologies, so I won’t dive into that assortment.
Marketing leaders see AI as an essential aid through the Great Resignation:
“As The Great Resignation has shown us, teams are overwhelmed and overworked,” says David Council, CEO and co-founder of Drift. “For digital marketers, AI can provide some much-needed relief, and become the workforce in driving revenue, developing relationships, and eliminating gaps.”
It’s also something that can help with personalization.
Using, of course, privacy-safe data.
“Personalization is more than just knowing a customer’s name; it’s about leveraging customer data to build relationships with consumers that deliver relevant and compelling experiences,” says Bryce Boothby, a senior loyalty manager at McDonald’s. “Providing the most relevant content at the right time allows companies to keep their products top of mind.”
And AI can achieve relevance at scale in real time.
CMOs should be hyper-focused on using AI to make better decisions, says Leslie Osman, CMO at IncredibleBank, a neobank based in Wisconsin. Rewarding loyalty in real time is now table stakes, thanks to consumer experiences learned from Netflix, Google, Amazon, and others, she adds.
“[Customers] expect that brands know what they want based on their preferences and data collection,” says Anjali Iyer, a strategy and analytics director at Marriott.
Prediction 4: Metaverse
Given Facebook/Meta’s noisy multi-billion-dollar entry into the metaverse market, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that metaverse was the fourth-most-predicted technology that will be significant for marketers in 2022.
But take that with a grain of salt.
I won’t out the CMO who shared this prediction, and you’ll see more like it in the coming months: “If you’re not considering metaverse as part of your marketing mix in 2022, you’re already behind.”
Just beware the hype.
Marketers are as susceptible to Shiny New Object syndrome as any other profession, and maybe more.
The metaverse is real. And I’ve written about it in this column many, many times. (And likely will continue to do so.) But that doesn’t mean it will instantly become the most important technology, space, or topic for marketers. Like everything else, the metaverse will take time to develop. We don’t even, in fact, have a consensus yet on what it actually is. And clear guidelines need to be in place for how marketing and advertising can proceed in such a personal environment and immersive ecosystem, which I wrote about in The Future Starts Now, a compilation book by 20 futurists.
But there is a lot of value in being aware of what’s going on here.
“Companies should be able to demonstrate through their marketing campaigns that they are not closing their doors on this new technology if they are not yet ready to engage in it,” another marketer told me.
It’s already beginning:
“25% of our customers are already strategizing about the best ways to leverage Metaverse and create captivating content and experiences for their customers,” says Nishant Patel, the CTO of Contentstack.
Suggestion: tread carefully.
And don’t blow the whole marketing budget on one technology.
Prediction 5: Web3
The fifth-most-predicted set of technologies for marketing in 2022 are a combination of web3 technologies: blockchain, cryptocurrency, smart contracts, NFTs, and DAOs, or distributed autonomous organization.
As expected for something so frothy, there’s a divergence of opinion here.
Some marketing technologists are all in.
“2022 will be the year of everyday crypto for businesses and consumers,” says Joanna Lambert, president and GM at Yahoo.”As people and enterprises invest in cryptocurrencies, seek expert advice, and conduct research to ensure that they’re making wise investment decisions, crypto is set to impact everyday businesses and everyday people alike.”
Others urge caution, which is wise since under a quarter of Americans currently own any cryptocurrency at all.
“Balenciaga, Adidas, and a host of luxury brands have already started experimenting with Web 3.0, but it remains to be seen how these virtual interactions can become more immersive, more sticky, and how they potentially translate to sales,” says fractional CMO Atif Kazmi. “How it blends with social commerce will be something we’ll all need to wrap our heads around.”
The good news is that everyday brands like Taco Bell, Charmin, Nike, and Warner Music Group are creating NFTs, introducing more and more people to the technology and process of buying, owning, and selling digital collectibles.
And there’s plenty left to explore in the web3 world that goes far beyond questionable tokens or artificially-scarce digital images.
“Brands will stop using NFTs for silly limited edition tokens of corporate greed cashing in on hype, and instead start using them for their real use-case: authenticating ownership of a brand’s digital assets,” says Perch marketing manager Nathan Sieminski. “It’s digital asset insurance.”
I’m not so sure about that, but NFTs are also good for tickets, for souvenirs, for a digital component of a physical product, and for taking a relationship with a brand from one or two platforms (physical world object and app, for instance) to multiple others, like a virtual gallery.
Prediction 6: ESG
We’ve all had a stressful couple of years during Covid. And the divisions that have been driven through our society, families, and companies are deep. So ESG, environmental, social, and corporate governance, is an important are for marketers to consider, even if it’s not specifically a technology.
“Businesses are under increasing pressure to measure, improve, and disclose their ESG performance to investors, to consumers, and to regulators, and their efforts are reaching into every area of their operations, as are the risks and opportunities that follow,” says the Chicago Board of Trade’s Kirsten Opsahl.
It’s not necessarily an easy or a problem-free path tot ready, but Social for Good Co. founder and CEO Kara Hoholik agrees:
“Over the last 5 years, we’ve seen an increase in the consumer demand for sustainable products and social awareness from brands and companies. This trend has only accelerated in the last 2 years due to the pandemic, #metoo, Black Lives Matter, and the increasing buying power of Gen Z and millennials.”
Prediction 7: Marketing fortresses
We are increasingly seeing the rise of walled gardens that gather audiences, provide methods of advertising to them, and offer opportunities for brands to consummate those purchases in place. I call them “marketing fortresses,” based off of Eric Seufert’s concept of “content fortresses.”
The key is the ability to buy anything, anywhere, anytime.
“The result of … rapidly increased digitalization has been a merging of digital environments, as evidenced by tech giants like Facebook and Instagram launching shopping capabilities, and social platforms like TikTok rolling out their own marketplaces,” says Payoneer director Irina Marciano.
It’s primarily led by social sites, though Google is also an example.
“A high and increasing percentage of buying decisions are made on them,” says Doug Huntingdon, CEO of FatTail. “Their commerce capabilities are getting stronger. Consumers who cut their teeth buying on Amazon now expect to be able to buy anything, anywhere, and anytime.”
It’s essentially a big smush … read/watch/connect/buy all on the same platform, where data stays and privacy is maintained (or, at least, contained to on-platform use). In some sense it’s a re-creation of the China-style mega-app as a multi-channel platform for content, audience, advertising, sales, and even delivery, in the case of virtual goods.
In an era when brands want more first-party data … so do platforms.
“In this super-app, omni-channel, omni-device environment, marketers who focus on user experience will find themselves able to push ahead of competition,” says Marciano.
Captain Obvious moment: it won’t be easy.
Neither will navigating the year ahead.
Get the full Marketing Technology 2022 report here.