07 DEC 2021
Looking back at this year’s most-read articles, we look at what has caught your eye and reflect on how these issues and opportunities will evolve going into the new year.
After the unpredictability of 2020, we’ve seen even greater change in 2021. We’ve seen significant behavioural shifts and certain trends accelerated by the pandemic, with changes sticking when restrictions were lifted.
MediaCom: All brands were grappling with the challenge of what eCommerce meant for their businesses before COVID-19. It was a long-term issue on everyone’s agenda. The acceleration of online retail during the pandemic made it a more immediate challenge.
Transformation in the structure of marketing teams must be coupled with transformation in thinking. A new model for brand building is needed that starts with the consumer. However, it is easy to get caught up in the data, but we still need to build brands through storytelling, meaning and purpose. Therefore, understanding how to create meaningful and creative brand experiences will be crucial.
MediaCom Reflection: The pandemic accelerated eCommerce but it also disrupted the flow of trade, and we can expect it to take a while to recover yet. We may never see a full return to the type of globalisation that we have been living through in recent years. There are still some key areas for growth: with so much competition in most categories, customer membership will be an even more crucial component of consumer management. Likewise, social commerce will come to the fore in the next few months – platforms such as TikTok and Twitter are new players keen to be part of that story. Additionally, finding sustainable solutions for returns and recycling will dramatically transform the way eCommerce operates. The future is full of possibilities for brands who swiftly adapt and reimagine how they interact with consumers in this new eCommerce era.
Jamaine Chiwaye: Making the most of an investment in sports sponsorship increasingly hinges on how close you can get to the fans. This ultimately boils down to doing one thing: putting the fans first. This requires a deep understanding of what matters to them. Defining where your brand’s audience currently is and drilling down to the shared values between the brand, fans, and the sport is essential.
When you reconsider sports and fandom, opportunities begin to reveal themselves. The scale of what you want to do isn’t limited by budget, but by your ideas and bravery. Media consumption, behavioural nuances and differences between fan groups are all fertile ground for creativity to flourish.
MediaCom reflection: The sporting industry is expected to be worth $599.9 billion by 2025. With a year of great sporting events coming up, including the most expensive Super Bowl ever, the Rugby Six Nations and the first-ever Winter FIFA World Cup, brands will not want to miss out on the excitement that these events bring and the opportunity to connect with an audience on an emotional level rarely seen in other areas.
Expect to see talent as media take a hold. We used to live in a world where talent was used as part of a campaign, typically by leveraging their image rights. Now we’re moving to a much more evolved way of leveraging talent that is about collaboration and co-creation. Ultimately these sporting stars, with hugely engaged communities, are media platform themselves and act as a conduit to directly engage with an audience.
Rob Dickens and Stacey Kaufman: Gamers make up more than a third of the global population – nearly 67% of Americans and 46% of the Chinese population. The sub-communities within these populations fit the definition of megacities; a large human settlement of more than 10 million people. In this case, however, the city borders aren’t defined by location, but shared interests. Gamers are residents of the games they inhabit and travel between. Together they are creating digital cities, each with a rich and diverse set of cultural norms and rituals.
To help brands navigate this new world, we outlined three key avenues for activation: communication, entertainment and commerce.
MediaCom reflection: As advertisers continue to gentrify virtual cities, gaming will soon become the largest entertainment industry in the world – a digital mega-municipality of the like we’ve never seen before. Since writing this article, Gucci and Nike have built virtual gaming neighbourhoods with the “architect” ROBLOX, adidas has announced a digital real estate partnership with Coinbase and Sandbox, and Facebook has rebranded as Meta – among many, many other examples of metaverse expansion. In retrospect, 2021 will be viewed as the year of the ‘Digital Big Bang’ and the emergence of new branded neighbourhoods and cities across the metaverse will only accelerate. The question for brands is no longer ‘if’ you should include the metaverse in your plans, it’s ‘how’ – and which avenue for activation is right for your brand.
MediaCom: We’ve seen how the media landscape has evolved over the past few years, and even more notably since the onset of the pandemic, consumer usage has steadily increased across Social and especially Facebook’s apps, as has brands’ presence and advertising. Maintaining a strong brand presence in an ever-changing digital ads ecosystem is business critical.
MediaCom reflection: Despite rising challengers, Facebook remained as the leading social media platform in 2021, with its 2.9 billion active users, which forms the largest interconnected network of humans ever. Facebook looks set for more growth as it continues to develop in more, and different ways such as in the Metaverse, greater eCommerce integration and a push for advertisers to run longer campaigns. The company is however facing an ‘aging up’ issue as younger people are shunning the platform and faces an uphill battle to win them back, something the venture into the metaverse may be looking to address. Be prepared to see a range of updates from Meta, geared to solidify their position, and new ways for advertisers to engage with audiences to maintain and build their brands.
Danni Beechey: The growth in NFTs may have been more gradual had it not been for two key changes. First, Bitcoin has had a massive surge (and subsequent drop!) creating renewed and more mainstream interest in blockchain and digital currencies in general. Secondly, during the pandemic, with the economy shut down and many of us stuck at home, we all had more time. People were looking for an alternative way to grow their money, and also things to do to minimise their boredom.
However, as with every ‘next big thing’, it is important to have a strong point of view as to whether NFTs are relevant for your brand before you dive in. But perhaps the most important aspect of NFTs today, at least for brands – even those that decide not to get involved – is that they are a window on our collective, shared digital space, now and in the future.
MediaCom reflection: Blockchain has become the pre-eminent technological accelerator of the last few years – impacting finance, popular culture and brand marketing. NFTs will continue to open a whole new revenue stream for brands by enabling them to sell goods in purely digital form or as a complement to a physical offering. Something we can expect to see a lot of next year. However, the rules for NFTs won’t change – the best response to their rise, whether you are a believer, or a sceptic is not ‘what role do NFTs play for my brand?’ but ‘what role should my brand play in the metaverse?’.