By the time you read this, we will be an entire month into 2022. As I looked back on the past year(s) and talked with other marketing professionals and agency owners, I thought about some of the trends that showed up across this industry — both expected and not — and how these might play out in marketing and our regional economy.
I’m an “armchair economist” regarding marketing and technology. I have no credentials in economics other than a love for the subject and at least a couple of decades of close observation. Also, similar to an ardent sports fan, I often yell at the screen and harbor a belief that it affects outcomes. It’s just a different screen.
So here are three trends and my correlating predictions that I’ll be yelling from my armchair.
Traditional media had a big comeback in spend. It won’t last.
This was a surprise to other marketing professionals and me. At first, I thought it was a localized trend. Still, an annual survey by Second Wind (a small to mid-size agency resource) showed a 7.2% average increase in traditional media spend in 2020. Many agency owners in my circle attribute this to two things. The first is that the CARES Act dumped money into communities to help educate the public and fight COVID-19, among other pandemic-related issues. A percentage of that was allocated toward traditional media to reach more audiences with broader messages. Some businesses also had extra PPP funds that gave them a little extra leeway in their budgets.
My second theory is that the over-proliferation of subpar digital ad content and the grip Google and Facebook have on the market (52% of the digital ad spend dollars) has reached oversaturation. As a result, many marketers haven’t moved beyond the two easiest platforms to reach people on, even as their effectiveness declines. Couple that with Apple’s privacy moves and Google’s continued threat to steal your cookies, and marketers are looking to other methods.
Prediction: This trend will level off in about a year to a year and a half, and then sharply decline to pre-pandemic spend or less as more realize the accessibility of other platforms. Eventually, funds related to CARES and ARPA and remaining PPP funds are going to dry up. This is an opportunity for marketers to see if their efforts in any of these mediums have borne fruit, analyze the ROI on the spend, and then reformulate their budgets with a healthy mix that reaches their audiences better.
Tech investors and users demand more proof of concept. Platforms will focus on delivery rather than flash.
On a more extreme scale, fallen tech superstars like Elizabeth Holmes (Theranos) and Adam Neumann (no relation!) (WeWork) are the witches we burn at the stake of ingenuity. Irresponsible actions and investor losses will take their toll on the broader innovation community, forcing entrepreneurs and start-ups to prove more than a minimal viable product before the money flows.
It’s been too easy for intelligent and charismatic people to talk over people’s heads and wow them with features and capabilities that sound life-changing, even when they are well-meaning and believe the tech will catch up to the promise. On a far less extreme level, everyday platforms that companies invest resources in but suddenly find features lacking, under-delivering, or unavailable without significant additional investment will begin to collapse.
Prediction: The requirement of plain language and proof of performance will lead to improvements in existing platforms, reduce the number of sham tech companies, but stifle some innovation by depressing investor risk tolerance.
(This one’s a stretch)
The death of the inbox.
Before you say, “that’s crazy talk,” hear me out. Ask yourself how much your email inbox causes you frustration and anxiety. Most of us dread our email, let it overwhelm us, treat it like our to-do list, and let email dust-bunnies accumulate there.
Those who are proponents of “Inbox Zero”; good for you. I look forward to your TED Talk.
For the rest of the world, email has become a swamp that we spend a lot of time managing or avoiding. It’s filled with newsletters and updates we don’t want, is disorganized, and makes sense only when needed. Couple that with the multitudes of ways we receive messages and ways to avoid spam, and we unconsciously migrate to other platforms.
Internal messaging now lives in programs like Slack and Teams. Customer and client communications live in our CRMs (or at least they should!), and our messages now live in iMessage, Messenger, or “DM’s.” Our email is an ugly necessity, and we are decoupling from it over time.
Prediction: Email will continue to decline as a business and marketing communication platform. And we won’t miss it.
As a final bonus prediction, I predict that I’ll be able to claim that I was at least partially correct in all three of these next year at this time. I can say with certainty that no matter what we try to predict, the world will continue to force us to pivot. •
Jen Neumann is owner and CEO of de Novo Marketing in Cedar Rapids.