We’re heading towards the end of the year which means it’s about time to share our predictions for 2022.
These are the four changes in needs that are likely to be amplified in 2022:
The importance of mental well-being will be confirmed
With a pandemic that seems to be lingering, we are becoming shockingly aware of our mental fragility as a society or as individuals. Laid bare by over two years of seemingly perpetual lockdowns, we are coming to realize the importance of maintaining good mental health in our lives. As people grow more tired of restrictions and we might find better ways to manage the virus, mental health will be prioritized more and more. This is something brands should be aware of. Whether it is to support customers, open the conversation or relieve stress among employees, brands can offer meaningful help in many ways.
We will start seeing more effects of an increasingly polarizing world
The last years certainly left us plenty to disagree about, such as the rise of new progressive ideals, seemingly harsher elections and of course the pandemic. Apart from a concerning uprising in fake news and conspiracy theories, it is becoming harder to deny the corrosive functions of social media on an open and honest public debate. These algorithms often feed on, and amplify, the polarizing content that only further widens the distance between ideological opponents. Thus, the divide between opposing groups feels bitter and more insurmountable than ever.
A recent 2020 study about polarisation in America shows a fairly consistent decline in feelings towards political out-groups since the end of the 20th century, with an even steeper drop since the rise of social media in the early 21st century. The result is that nowadays out-party hate has emerged as a stronger force than in-party love; a trend that is seemingly finding footing in many places around the world.
To illustrate, match-making service OkCupid asked 5 million of its users if they could date someone who has strong political opinions that are the exact opposite of theirs. 60% said no, a significant increase of 7% compared to the previous year.
It is the unfortunate quest for Brands to find a way to navigate their communication and marketing through this world of vocal opinions and reactive outrage. It is important to pick a strategy you can justify, as more and more people demand brands to pick a side.
An intensifying focus on diversity will result in men feeling left out
For years there has been a trend wherein traditional male values are becoming more taboo and traditional female values have grown in prominence, parallel to the slow, but steady emancipation of women in our society. Women have overtaken men in several areas already, like the universities and in salary in younger age brackets. Additionally, organizations increasingly make a conscious effort to stimulate diversity in several ways. Yet, diversity often stills feels like a KPI instead of actual inclusivity. Focusing more on biological, physical or sexual outliers than fostering and adopting a culture of acceptance of all different thoughts and ideas, even the traditional majority group. Whether wrong or right for men to feel left out, it is important for brands to realize the flip side of focusing too much on diversity instead of inclusivity.
The flattening of purpose will force brands to pick a lane
Almost every brand has a higher purpose these days. Whether it is sustainability, charity, fair trade or whatever else. You can often find it hidden somewhere on their website, but many brands also make sure to mention it in their communication or advertising. While it is of course a good thing that brands use their reach and resources to make the world a better place, from a marketing point of view, purpose is flattening. If every brand is defined by its special purpose, then none of them are. That is not to say that people will buy anything and don’t care about the way you influence the world around you — it is just to say that stressing it gets boring. A greater cause is already expected, so what’s in it for me? This gives brands marketeers somewhat of a choice. Either make your purpose so undeniable that you’ll still stick out, like Patagonia or Tony’s Chocolonely, or emphasize why people should pick your product and let it speak for itself. For example, Tesla spent zero dollars on tv advertising to tell you how sustainable their car is. And sure, for many people that own a Tesla, sustainability will have been important, but more often than not, it is secondary to owning a luxury sports car, status, or signalling progressive and conscious values.
Beware that when you go for the first choice, you can actually walk the talk. One of the foremost reasons why people are bored of purpose is because there are few brands that are actually willing to suffer the sacrifices that real purpose requires, resulting in boasting about negligible efforts and greenwashing.
The alternative is to half-ass your purpose because you feel like you can’t stay behind, funnel it into your marketing and disappear into the purpose grey zone that many brands reside in nowadays.