2021 Trends Report: How Marketing and Advertising Mixxed Things Up

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January 27, 2022
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6 min read

2022 is in full swing, but we can’t know for sure where we’re going until we first understand where we’ve been. Here’s the top five (5) trends in marketing and advertising we saw in 2021 that we expect to carry over in the weeks and months ahead.

Artificial Intelligence

AI is changing the game across pretty much every industry, and it’s no different in marketing and advertising. These tech advancements have enabled users to have a more personalized digital experience. This includes everything from using a consumer’s location to generate geo-targeted ads on YouTube and streaming services, to personalizing the content you see on your Facebook and Instagram feeds (hello, Meta!) based on the way one interacts with content in order to increase user time spent on the platform.

To reach consumers, companies are actively integrating AI and Big Data to create tailor-made shopping experiences. While research is still relatively new in this space, one BCG study shows companies who’ve leveraged deep AI personalization techniques realized a revenue increase of 25% or more.

Inclusion

At The Mixx, we believe that true representation is more than just a trend, it’s a way of life…and it seems the rest of the world is finally catching on. In fact, “diversity” was dubbed the 2021 word of the year by the Association of National Advertisers. That makes sense given that results from the 2020 census show the United States is more diverse than it’s ever been, with the multicultural population reaching 42.2%, a 5.9% increase from just a decade prior.

When we hear diversity, the default is to think about ethnic and racial diversity, but true diversity is more complex - understanding it also applies to age, gender, language, socioeconomic status, health, disabilities, religion, and body types. Humans are multi-dimensional and multi-faceted and that means that marketing and advertising must be intersectional to be effective. This past year we saw Victoria’s Secret rebrand from its famed “Angels” who’ve been the face (and BODIES) of the brand for decades, to a more diverse approach—Victoria’s Secret Ambassadors. This welcome shift comes after many years of consumer backlash about the lack of body diversity and LGBTQ+ representation, and a dip in sales.

Major beauty brands like Gucci are also catching on. In 2020, Gucci Beauty launched its unconventional campaign celebrating “non-stereotypical beauty” and among its models was Ellie Goldstein, a supermodel with Down’s Syndrome. This really resonated because beauty is so much more than surface, but also inner beauty. At The Mixx this is our bread and butter, and in the summer of 2021 we had the pleasure of working on Smirnoff’s “Color the Future” Campaign— one which embodied the pride of the LGBTQIA+ community for June and beyond. Our list could go on, but it’s sufficient to say that brands are getting that diversity is not only necessary, but a business growth driver.

So there’s diversity, but what about true equity and inclusion? DEI has gone from being a performative, checkbox tactic to a real movement in changing the way humans interact with one another and are represented. Furthermore, companies across all industries are realizing the need to go beyond diversity to ensure their businesses practices and organizational composition are reflective of these ideals by being inclusive of diverse individuals they are actively recruiting and onboarding. A 2021 Deloitte Insights article shows that companies can elevate equity by ensuring their suppliers reflect the market, bringing diverse voices to the organization, and ensuring that claims regarding DEI are both measurable and tracked.

Platform Commerce

Whether it’s through social media, TV, or blog posts, consumers are looking for more integrated ways to shop. The rise of Facebook Marketplace and Instagram Stories has given this movement real momentum and allows brands to meet consumers where they are in more ways than one. In fact, an Instagram for Business survey revealed that 44% of respondents use Instagram to shop using their shopping and shop tag features.

The downside of this ecommerce-social media integration is that companies are seeing less organic engagement across their social pages. Furthermore, the cost to advertise across the Metaverse has increased, and will continue to increase as social sites find new and innovative ways to monetize their features.

What does this mean for brands with no social budget? Well, trends have shown that engagement and visibility for businesses on Meta will continue to decrease without some sort of minimal investment in advertising. This includes brands with a large following. In fact, a recent HootSuite report indicated that brands with 10k followers or less enjoy more organic engagement than those with larger than 100k. To combat the dip in engagement, brands need to stay in-the-know and actively use new features as they’re rolled out across social media, since platforms typically reward those accounts with higher visibility to promote their new features.

Data Disruption

With the rise of eCommerce and digital spend coupled with two years of social distancing and quarantine, window shopping has gone virtual. While this has resulted in a drastic decrease of in-store traffic (in fact, brick-and-mortar spend on Black Friday was down 28.3% in 2021 in comparison to 2019, according to CNBC), companies have found compelling ways to use analytics, data tracking, and cookies to create the perfectly tailored shopping experiences while retaining consumers’ attention.

The cosmic shift to online consumerism hasn’t been without its challenges. With the gain of a more customized experience came a loss of privacy and data that has caused quite the uproar. While many brands have used personal data for the purposes of tracking the customer journey and effectively targeting consumers, use of third-party tracking systems made it easy for data to make its way into the wrong hands. And, as you probably guessed, this means new regulation and consumer protection.

In September 2021, the marketing technology world was rocked by the enaction of new legislation that have required increased transparency around data sharing and blocking the use of many third-party cookies. While Google Chrome will still allow many third-party cookies until 2023, brands are already feeling the impact and rushing to innovate so that they don’t become obsolete (BBC).

Sustainability as an Industry Standard

A green conscience has permeated across industries and people everywhere are looking into how they can live more sustainably. Over the past year, 38% of consumers changed their shopping habits to support clothing that comes from more socially or environmentally conscious brands (Energy Watch), and the idea of electric vehicles has become increasingly compelling with a 43% increase in global electric car stock in the year 2020 alone (IEA).

But support for sustainability doesn’t just stop at automotive or retail. The movement now has serious support from the business and financial sector due to the regulatory push for a net zero economy. In fact, ESG issues represent a core business value for many companies (Harvard Business Review).

While Gen Z is behind a lot of the social change among consumers, the incentive for businesses to go green isn’t just with appeasing end customers—in some places, it’s required. Legal mandates are requiring companies to disclose their emissions and energy use - and bills have already passed in Colorado and New York City, with more local governments expected to follow suit.

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