3 disruptive trends that will shape marketing in 2022

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.).

Top content creators are launching their own businesses within these platforms, reviewing and selling everything from dog sweaters to fitness. Take for example “Miss Excel” (Kat Norton), who reportedly makes up to six figures a day from selling Microsoft Excel training courses on TikTok and Instagram.

Where consumers go, advertisers will follow, and marketers have been increasing their advertising budgets for influencer-driven channels such as TikTok and Twitch. This year, the percentage of people who were exposed to an ad on TikTok nearly doubled to 37% from 19% last year.

Advertising via influencers provides marketers a captive, trusting audience. At Portage Ventures, our portfolio companies see ads created by influencers yielding better down funnel conversion and ROI compared to traditional ads on the same platforms. Additionally, having influencers create their own ads versus relying on a brand’s in-house creative team cuts turnaround time and cost.

Predictions for 2022

Native creative that blurs the line between paid and editorial content will reign supreme. Brands that have had the most success with advertising on influencer platforms urge marketers: “Don’t make ads, make TikToks.”

For example, The Boyos Brothers, popular on TikTok for crowdsourced pranks such as sleeping overnight at a Walmart, were tapped to stunt people in supermarkets by buying their groceries using Cash App. The ad has garnered over 21 million views (and counting).

Embracing native creative will result in the splintering of the once coveted consistent brand across all marketing touch points. How a consumer interacts with a company on TikTok will look different than how that company appears on TV, and that’s okay!

Watch for larger brands pursuing multiyear contracts and category exclusivity deals with top influencers. Co-branded products and revenue-sharing models will proliferate as more influencers become famous. Smaller brands will continue to seek low-cost avenues for marketing, shifting focus to micro-influencers, where CPMs are lower and the playbook for performance is less established.

The Great Resignation and the Gettysburg for growth talent

A record 3% of working Americans quit their jobs in September. While this exodus has been partially attributed to the pandemic backlog, this trend is amplified by the expanding opportunities for top talent. Remote work has unlocked the ability for companies to recruit employees from further afield.

At the same time, venture capital investment also reached an all-time high of ~$580 billion in 2021, a nearly 50% rise from 2020. Increased VC investment has led to larger funding rounds and bigger marketing budgets competing for the same customers.

Companies are fighting over a limited pool of growth marketers to manage these DTC budgets. The most sought-after talent are senior leaders with 10+ years of experience who can lead growth teams, manage top performance channels (Facebook, Google, TikTok) and are capable of making decisions with imperfect data.

Predictions for 2022

The fierce competition for growth talent will only intensify. We will see more top talent opting for fractional roles, establishing their own advisory side hustles or abandoning full-time gigs entirely to support multiple businesses at once. VC firms are also jumping into the fray, hiring growth talent to support their portfolio companies from within.

To combat this trend, brands will need to establish better tactics to grow and retain talent. Firms should recruit internal growth talent from quantitative, cross-functional teams, such as finance or data science, and take a page from sales organizations by shifting to more performance-based compensation for growth marketers.

At the start of every year, we are inundated with resolutions and predictions. Some of these will come to fruition, but many will not. This year has firmly illustrated that there will be no return to a predictable past. 2022 will reward marketers who look ahead with agility and are open to combining historical data with experimentation to chart a new path forward.