The world let out a collective sigh of relief when 2021 arrived. We congratulated ourselves for navigating 2020 and welcomed the year when things would finally go back to normal. But as we wrap the year, it’s become clear that “normal” is a thing of the past.
This is a reality growth marketers live in everyday. What worked yesterday may not work today and likely won’t work tomorrow. Let’s look at the three growth trends we saw in 2021 and how they will shape marketing in 2022.
Less data, more privacy and the return of growth hacking
In April 2021, Apple rolled out iOS 14.5, which made it so that apps required your permission to track your online behavior and serve personalized ads. Predictably, most users didn’t think twice before opting out. Suddenly, the user-level tracking data central to effective audience targeting and marketing attribution was restricted.
Apple implemented this shift in the name of consumer privacy, pledging to create a “safe and trusted place for users to discover apps.” But this change also shifted the power away from social media advertisers such as Facebook and Snap, who went from having unfettered access to user-level browsing and buying data to now receiving only aggregated information, often limited to the past 24 hours.
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Meanwhile, platforms like Apple can track performance within their closed ecosystems. In fact, Facebook, YouTube, Snap and Twitter lost nearly $10 billion in ad revenue, while Apple’s advertising business (search ads) tripled its market share.
The change severely limits advertising algorithms and how much data can be used to optimize marketing campaigns. These limitations are localized to mobile activity today, but Apple has also unveiled a new feature for email to hide your IP address from senders. Google is following suit and will start restricting device level IDs from advertisers.
Brands that have had the most success with advertising on influencer platforms urge marketers: “Don’t make ads, make TikToks.”
Predictions for 2022
No longer armed with user-level data or access to robust platform attribution, marketers will have to roll up their sleeves and do it themselves. Top performers will embrace the roots of marketing measurement and media mix modeling, which involves comparing sales with marketing spend and using regression analysis to draw correlations and assign weightings to your marketing channels.
Brands will also need to experiment by evaluating advertising effectiveness by using incrementality tests, such as turning channels on and off for select periods of time and using geographic holdouts (selecting control cities with no ad spend). Growth marketers will also need to collaborate more with their internal data science teams to construct bespoke attribution models, as one size will not fit all.
TikTok, influencers and the dominance of native creative
TikTok continued its meteoric rise this year, surpassing 1 billion monthly active users in September. Influencer platforms are increasing their share of consumer screen time (~24 hrs/month for TikTok and ~22 hrs/month for YouTube in the U.S.).