Both 2020 and 2021 have been unusual years. Having spent the last two years in and out of stay-at-home orders, we have begun navigating our way out of working and socializing from home, and are walking into an exciting new normal… a new normal that is looking increasingly digital.
In 2021, marketers embraced the digital transformation as they adapted to the constantly changing virtual and hybrid business landscapes. Now as the world slowly opens up again, we are beginning to see a slump in virtual engagement and online traffic. Our relationship with digital is constantly evolving, and we are currently undergoing a reevaluation of where we draw the line between our digital and physical lives—and where the two will overlap.
With the prospect of the Metaverse looming, Web3, cryptocurrencies, NFTs and blockchains, we’ve been hit with a plethora of new digital terminology and challenges that are set to change the appearance of the marketing world in the post-COVID reality.
While the final Metaverse is still a good few years away, what can we expect from 2022?
Good Vibes Only
In 2022, we are expecting to see a shift from an emphasis on narrative to an emphasis on emotionally-driven content. Social media users have begun creating content that describes their current mood or feelings, which has resulted in different content groups of “vibes”—also known as “cores”.
The rise of the vibe has been heavily influenced by TikTok’s sound-on environment and is expected to be amplified with the coming of the Metaverse and the multi-sensory experiences that come with it—the Metaverse will present a digital location where users who enjoy particular vibes or cores can gather.
The movement towards a vibe-oriented social media was driven by the nostalgia experienced by social media users in 2020 and 2021. In a difficult period (with lockdowns, social unrest and aggressive social platform algorithms), we began yearning for simpler times. Times where we could be with friends and family, and when social media was built on the curation of moods and feelings (think tumblr or MySpace), and used as an outlet for teen feelings.
Come 2022, it’s likely we will see brands begin to work with creators who have built their followings around a particular vibe, core or aesthetic that matches their branding. Not only will this play into the emotional factor, but will likely be created in the favoured at-home, authentic content style.
Did you hear that?
The demand for audio has gradually been on the rise for the past couple of years, but thanks to the boom of audio-focused platforms, we expect to see a huge rise in branded audio.
The Clubhouse craze (remember that?), the sound-on experience within TikTok, and every platform under the sun developing some kind of live audio or audio-on-demand features has left consumers wanting more. Audio content has become common in the digital world, and brands and marketers have begun considering how this media format can be beneficial for them.
Research has shown that 53% of companies that leverage content marketing find podcasts and other audio content effective in improving engagement and brand awareness. In addition, 80% of companies plan to invest the same amount or more budget into podcasts and audio content come 2022.
The same investments can be expected in audio chat rooms such as Clubhouse or Twitter Spaces. This was the newest audio format for 2021, so only 16% of companies have invested in this trend, yet 84% plan to continue investing or invest more into audio rooms in 2022.
In addition to this, TikTok has invested in new partnerships that will help brands create their own sounds on the platform. The new sound partners will offer two audio categories: custom sound and subscription sound. Custom sound partners create sounds that aim to increase community participation around challenges and campaigns. Subscription sound partners offer music offerings through monthly, yearly or project-based licensing plans.
Into the New Reality
Throughout 2021, the Metaverse has been a consistent and exciting buzzword. Although the final concept is still out of reach, developments into NFTs, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) experiences bring it a step closer. We don’t anticipate the Metaverse will be cracked in 2022, but we do expect to see brands and consumers investing more in NFTs and VR or AR experiences.
The AR/VR market is expected to reach nealy £160 billion in 2022, and AR/VR application downloads will reach over 5.5 billion. Consumers have already become used to AR experiences through Snapchat and mobile gaming, and in 2022 consumers will have accepted that digital realities are here to stay. Studies have already shown that consumers are more likely to invest in a brand that uses technology to market itself. AR and VR technology can offer consumers virtual commerce experiences including showrooms, where consumers can virtually see, touch, and experience products. VR and AR experiences can help immerse consumers into a branded ecommerce experience, accelerating sales and driving growth.
In addition to these new experiences, we expect to see brands continue entering a Metaverse-esque internet, with more investment into NFTs, gaming skins and collaborations. We can also expect to see more brands accepting cryptocurrencies as valid payments.
Throughout 2021, we have seen a huge consumer preference for authentic, relatable, and at-home style content. Whether this is through a transition-filled TikTok, vlog-style content or a brand showing a fun and quirky personality on Twitter, everyone is enjoying the more relaxed content. Think of the incredibly popular TikTok brand accounts for Duolingo, Innocent Drinks and RyanAir. This is something we expect to see continue into 2022.
However, a recent study from Twitter found that brands are losing their distinct branding and personalities in attempting to come across as relatable to consumers. Many have begun to take on the same confident, but self-deprecating humour that is commonly seen in younger generations of internet users.
Given this, in 2022, we can expect to see brands gradually move back towards creating their own distinctive voice, messaging and aesthetics, while still maintaining a likeable and relatable tone.