After another year of volatility and turbulence, making future marketing predictions is no small ask. The statistics are the proof: 44% of marketers have “completely changed” their marketing channel mix since 2020, while millennials, once always online, are now taking steps to reduce their time on social media.
Societal shifts have also continued apace, bringing about the prospect of positive change. Diversity and sustainability have risen up the consumer and boardroom agenda, shaping what we buy more than ever before. The result: a new sense of urgency for marketers, and a stronger understanding of the transformative role creative and strategic choices can play in shaping a better, more equal world.
Over the past year on Think with Google U.K., we’ve seen brands taking a lead and heard from inspiring thought leaders on these key issues. Below are five quotes that capture this pivotal period and offer valuable insights for any marketer looking to establish their priorities for a successful year ahead — whatever 2022 may hold.
1. Diversity is good for business
“Brands need to step out of their comfort zone and invest in diverse talent, from the bottom to the top. It has to be done, or the industry won’t progress.”
— Edward Enninful, Editor-In-Chief, British Vogue
When Edward Enninful, British Vogue’s Editor-In-Chief, shared his insights, he highlighted the benefits that diverse teams have for the businesses they operate in — and suggested that influence ultimately rests on people seeing themselves reflected in a brand.
In a year when the call for real and quantifiable change became louder than ever, the takeaways on diversity, equality, and inclusion for marketers are clear: not only is there an undeniable business case for building an inclusive workforce, but by addressing inequality in advertising, marketers can also help to do so in wider society.
“A single person sees almost 2 million ads per year, ” said Lorraine Twohill, CMO at Google, in her article on diversity in marketing. “That means almost 2 million ways we, as the advertising industry, could be helping people see themselves positively and authentically reflected.”
2. Creativity can drive sustainability
“People need help unlocking their imaginations to possibilities of a low carbon future — in a way that only creativity can achieve.”
— Ben Essen, Global Chief Strategy Officer, Iris
As climate change rises up the consumer agenda, people increasingly expect brands to take a lead in tackling the crisis. In a Google study, 78% of consumers said that big businesses have a role to play in helping to fight climate change.
Here marketers can take a defining role, linking purpose with product and unlocking people’s imaginations with the stories they tell. In the wake of the COP26 event in Glasgow, Ben Essen, Global Chief Strategy Officer at Iris, shared five strategies for sustainability marketing brands can adopt, while avoiding the pitfalls of “greenwashing”, where brand rhetoric moves ahead of actual progress.
Getting your sustainability strategy right has its rewards — and not just for the planet. In a recent study, 72% of consumers say that having a brand’s values reflect their own beliefs is a deciding factor in what they buy — and consumers are increasingly prioritising sustainability.
3. Prioritising privacy enhances marketing performance
“Brands that surpass expectations will likely gain a competitive advantage over those that consider privacy an afterthought.”
— Dunya van Troost, Research Manager, Benelux region, Google
The topic of privacy has been top of mind for marketers in 2021, with the key question being: how can marketers ensure their marketing is both privacy-first and effective?
But a changing regulatory landscape need not be at odds with accurate measurement. In September, a Google and Ipsos study found that establishing high privacy standards can create a competitive advantage for businesses that adopt them over those that fail to give privacy the attention it deserves.
As privacy becomes integral for growth, the winners will be brands who harness the power of first-person data to improve both their marketing performance and customer experience. From ASOS to PepsiCo, brands taking this approach are already seeing the rewards in terms of advertising effectiveness while future-proofing themselves for what comes next in 2022 for digital marketing.
4. Find and inspire valuable customers online
“Video is the new shop window and it’s one that is always open.”
— David Murray-Jones, YouTube for Action Specialist, Google U.K.
The consumer journey was already increasing in complexity (especially in the ‘messy middle’) long before the pandemic accelerated the rate of change. Nearly two years on from the first U.K. lockdown, shopper behaviour is still evolving in often unexpected ways.
When high street stores were shut, we saw consumers move online en masse to browse and buy — but as restrictions have eased, e-commerce activity has remained buoyant. Most notably, discovery and inspiration behaviours have remained firmly digital, with platforms like Google Search and YouTube effectively becoming the new shop window – and it’s one that is always open.
To stay relevant, brands and retailers need to ensure they are present in these moments of discovery and set up to understand complex paths to purchase — particularly as the offline and online shopping experience becomes blurred. Here, automation is an invaluable tool.
5. Connect the dots with automation
“Automated products can deliver better results, make faster decisions, and unlock time for marketers to deliver more high-value strategic thinking.”
— Alessandra Alari, Head of Search & Shopping, Google U.K.
The digital maturity benchmark is continually rising. Whether it’s identifying your most valuable customers or connecting the dots as shoppers search online and buy in store, automation is now table stakes for brands and retailers alike.
The advantages of automation are clear on a business’s bottom line: organisations that have connected their first-party data grew their revenue on average 2X faster and delivered a 1.5X cost efficiency improvement.
But the benefits go far beyond campaign performance. As Alessandra Alari, Head of Search & Shopping at Google U.K., explained, brands who embrace automation are freed up to do what they do best: develop strategies, be creative, and test new initiatives — three critical skills as marketers prepare for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in 2022.