Creative consumer trend predictions for 2022

2021 was a roller-coaster year for businesses and consumers. We entered the year with many of us struggling to grasp the beginnings of another prolonged period under lockdown. We lived through the exaltation of seeing loved ones, the joy in regaining freedom and the sadness at seeing global communities carry the heavy burden of unequal vaccine distribution. And, just as we were adapting to our new post-pandemic world – a place where hesitation had been replaced by confidence and zoom calls by coffee dates – we digested the news of a new variant with mixed emotions; a stark reminder that our post-pandemic world is ever-shifting. 

2021 also saw the climate crisis placed firmly on the agenda. The UN Climate Change Conference highlighted that while the COVID-19 pandemic was both terrifying, isolating and for many brought profound loss, the climate crisis will serve much greater turmoil if we fail to act. 

All of this had a deep-rooted effect on consumer habits. The information served by brands and the creative content we consume is rapidly changing. At the start of the pandemic, it’s no surprise that news media was gaining the largest online viewing figures. In 2020, President Macron broke the French record for most-viewed TV broadcast with 35 million views of his televised updates. But, as time progressed, COVID-19 related news content was seen to deter viewers. No one wanted to read or watch pandemic-themed content anymore; it reignited feelings of angst, dejection and unease. Consumers sought positive, life-affirming media. Instagram accounts like the Good News Movement (@goodnews_movement) grew with gusto, racking up 3.2 million followers at the time of writing. Consumers were actively switching off media outlets that prioritised COVID-19 content over others. 

We have turned to GWI, producer of the world’s biggest study on the online consumer to look at predictions of consumer trends for 2022. Their data sets represent 2.5bn+ internet users, 40k+ data points, and track 4k+ brands across 47 markets. What content are consumers looking for? How are their media habits changing? What media types are they consuming? GWI presents data and analysis to enable startups to strategise sensibly for the year ahead. We look at four key trends from the report.

The pursuit of purpose 

GWI found that the pandemic instilled a greater sense of urgency. Consumers are treasuring and appreciating two valuable assets – time and life – more than ever before. As GWI notes, the average adult works 16,790 days before retirement; we want to make those count. This sense of value presents startups with an opportunity to consider how they’re communicating to their audiences. How can your brand content support your customer’s ambitions, aspirations, desires and goals? As GWI notes, there’s a real opportunity to support your target audiences ‘pursuit of purpose’, “encouraging consumers to step out of their comfort zone and design campaigns that inspire and nurture a sense of limitless possibilities will be key.”

Attention economy

A phrase coined by economist and Nobel Laureate Herbert A. Simon, attention economy relates to a theory that describes consumers attention as a commodity. The concept has arisen as a result of a shift to an economy focused on information rather than material possessions. While information is in abundance, attention is scarce. As Simon notes “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

In terms of the commercial application of the theoretical model, 2021 has seen a shift in media preferences. News media has seen the largest flux, with interest in newsworthy events fluctuating greatly over the course of the year. 

Serving relevant timely content to your audiences is key. GWI notes that presently viewers of all ages display a strong desire for more positive news content. The younger generations have a greater interest in global coverage, in sharp contrast to the older generations who are more interested in locally themed content. The demand for TV streaming has also increased in 2021 in response to global events, and gaming has seen exponential growth among Gen Z.

GWI offers three tips for securing consumers attention in 2022: provide escapism, add value to someone’s life and focus on distinctive assets.

Curated online self

Life isn’t perfect; it comes with ups and downs, flaws and imperfections. Consumers are moving away from stylised images. If startups want to grow their social followers organically, influencers that show the good, the bad and the ugly are more favourable right now than those that portray a life without imperfections. There was a strong sense across all age groups, that there is too much pressure on social media to be perfect. Consumers also expressed a strong desire to open up about “personal and societal challenges.” Consumers want to be more honest and vocal about our challenges and brands need to adopt this mentality. “Some audiences are trying to close the chapter on the curated self and its unreal standards of perfection, meaning companies and social media personalities who fail to dig deeper may miss out on a great opportunity to meet followers where they are.”

New wave of wellbeing

It’s no surprise that with 2021 came a strong shift towards looking after our physical and mental health. 44% of surveyed consumers stated that their stress and anxiety levels worsened over the course of the year. Of those surveyed, young people had been most heavily affected, with the report stating “disruptions to education, life experiences, and uncertain job prospects, paired with existing financial burdens like student debt, have all weighed heavily.”

Consumers are taking an active role in their own health with an increase in healthy eating, exercise regimes, vitamin consumption and sleep. 23% of Gen Z surveyed are declining social activities in favour of sleep. “Me” time is a large trend for 2022. Hobbies, therapeutic activities and taking time out are on the rise. When discussing how this can translate to marketing activity, GWI advises that startups focus on how their product or service can help to gain additional ‘me’ time – “for brands, advancing the mental health conversation could involve messaging around the importance of taking some time out of our days to do something enjoyable, trying something new, or just to reset. Brands should consider how their activities could be a part of healthy me-time.”

For more information on key online consumer trends for 2022, you can access the full report here.

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