Blimey, what a year 2021 has been, from an attempted coup in the US to a record-breaking vaccine roll-out, all while billionaires were racing each other to space and football was very nearly coming home. After a couple of transformative years, we’re excited to see what 2022 will bring, so we asked our team to get out their crystal balls and share what they think will be the biggest trends, challenges, and opportunities of 2022.
I’m seeing and enjoying a lot of flatter designs and colours that bring a warmer, more human and hand-drawn feel to digital environments. I’ve also spotted a lot of cheerful free-form doodle style illustrations popping up. Both of these trends bring a sense of comfort with a more human aesthetic. On the flipside of that cosy warmth, and specifically for campaigns targeted at younger audiences, I’m predicting a resurgence of 90s nostalgia grunge and anti-design illustrations with semi-ordered chaos, semi-legible fonts and clashing colours. Interestingly, and although incredibly different, the warm vs the edgy design choices are really part of the same trend, with creative being led by a desire for human connection and authenticity.
Talent and change
My top two challenges that I think every business will face regardless of their sector are talent and change.
Many, if not all businesses, will be struggling to attract, recruit or retain talent in 2022. In the future there will be the challenge of automation and the fear of robots taking over the world of work, but for next year there’s still a shortage of people. That shortage means the existing workforce are tired, under-staffed, stressed, and potentially burnt out – creating a huge challenge for those responsible for employee engagement.
The second thing that I’d say every business is going through is change, transformation and digitisation. The adage of ‘change is a constant’ is true. It’s true to say I could say change is a challenge for every year, but I think now more than ever the businesses that have survived and evolved through COVID are much clearer about how their structures, propositions, and services they need to work in the future.
There’s another adage that rings true here and that’s ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. Necessity in 2020 caused a huge surge in innovation, and that innovation will run through businesses into 2022. It may be that businesses feel they’ve done their fair share of change in the last two years, perhaps by re-organising, shutting down locations or reducing operations, but that isn’t the end of the road. That innovation was just laying the foundations, and any business worth its salt is now heavily investing in the future, embracing technology like never before, and disrupting their model.
Read more: Post-COVID employee engagement priorities
Long live virtual events
Virtual events are here to stay. Recent research from LinkedIn shows that 85% of event organisers agree that digital events are going to be around for the long term.
We saw this with The DHL Fashion Potential Award this year. The webinar had many more attendees than could have been present in a physical venue – with digital events there’s no capacity cap. And with so many people working from home it’s a great way of increasing engagement as people can just join from the comfort of their home office (or sofa), while easily engaging with the presentation content. Even as social distancing restrictions eased and Covid cases in the UK dropped over the summer, virtual events remained popular.
Digital events are cost effective, flexible and allow people to attend from across the globe without the need for carbon-heavy travel. That’s not to say the in-person event is over. It’ll have it’s time and place, but through 2022 and beyond the digital event is here to stay.
Mail Privacy Protection
Probably the biggest trend to impact email marketing for 2021/22 is Apple’s announcement of their Mail Privacy Protection update. Users will be able to have email content downloaded before landing in their inbox, preventing senders from knowing if, when and where they opened their emails. This could see an over-inflation of senders’ open rates by roughly 75%! This poses an intriguing challenge for email marketers, as the open rate is often used as a deciding factor in other areas of our email strategy, such as data segmentation, inactivity management, A/B testing and automated journeys.
To tackle this challenge head-on, we’re looking at how best to combine the open rate with other metrics such as clicks, signups and downloads to give a more accurate overview of our email performance – this will also help when segmenting our audiences. And when mapping out automated journeys we’re making additional considerations for what advances users through the email series without solely relying on opens. This is likely to be the first of many email providers implementing similar privacy protection updates, so we’re already thinking about how our change in tactics will affect email design and copywriting and understanding the objective of each email we send so we can plan accordingly.
Read more: Is email dead?
Digital design trends
Here’s a few digital design trends that I’m getting excited about for next year. How many have you started to notice?
In 2021 there seemed to be a real influx of people posting about immersive media especially sharing footage of 3D OOH (Out of home) animated billboards. Piccadilly Circus in London used its prime location billboard to stop traffic with a few of their advertisements this year (examples below). This exciting new way of advertising has allowed creatives to break down the fourth wall and almost interact with their surroundings. What is great about this way of advertising, is people capture it on their phones and share on their own social media so the campaign can live on as it’s shared worldwide. We can expect to see a lot more of this sort of advertising not just on billboards but across websites and in particular on social media.
Mindful website design
We’ll notice a move towards calm ‘mindful’ design when it comes to designing websites in 2022. The lockdowns introduced an element of simplicity and calm, and as a result people don’t want to be overwhelmed with excessive amounts of information anymore. White space is making a comeback, allowing content to breathe and your eyes to notice every vital bit of content on that page. Not only this, but it will speed up website load times and with Google’s recent algorithm update, this will benefit you in the search engine rankings.
Big bold typography
I expect to see the trend of beautiful bold typography being used instead of images to develop. This confident move allows the designer to punch out a message and lets the words tell the story on their own. This website for Dillinger for example goes one step further by using playful and creative ways for the fonts on the website to change and move with the user’s mouse. Not only are the navigation and fonts supersized, so is the cursor which really adds to the scale of the typography. The immersive interactive experience encourages great exploration for the user.
Living up to pledges
2020 and 2021 were the years of pledges. Many businesses signed up to initiatives to protect the planet, encourage inclusive workplaces, or to make employee mental health and wellbeing a priority. With the panicked momentum of the pandemic diminishing, and us likely finally learning to live with Covid in 2022, it’s going to be telling to see which businesses stick to their pledges and which begin to slip back to old habits.
We’re increasingly seeing employees holding their employers accountable, and so we can expect to have more scandals accusing businesses of greenwashing or insincerity around their inclusivity agendas. Recent research has found that that only 67% of employees believe that senior leadership’s actions show they are genuinely committed to building a diverse and inclusive company.
And there’s more at stake than doing the right thing. Gartner recently reported that employees whose employer has taken a strong stance on current societal and cultural issues are twice as likely to report high job satisfaction, which is a vital consideration during the current war for talent.
Businesses that are truly committed to sustainability and inclusivity will need to ensure they’re maximising their communication opportunities, enabling them to engage and inspire their teams, future employees, suppliers, customers and communities.
Employer brand and visual content
There are two key trends I think will dominate much of 2022. The first being employer brand. Employees now, more than ever, are looking to move and change to find a role that offers them greater flexibility in the form of hybrid or remote working, a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I), and more. With that in mind, companies need to ensure they give these points of interest the visibility they deserve throughout both their recruitment communications if it is something they really are championing, and throughout their communications with current employees. The gap between marketing and HR is continuing to narrow and I am confident we will see HR, marketing and comms professionals coming together far more than ever before next year to help refine internal and external messaging to ensure they’re appealing to their current and prospective workforce.
The second trend is visual content gaining more of a focus again. You could be forgiven for thinking that with the explosion of smart speakers and voice search in recent years, that ‘readable’ content is now considered more important than visuals and design these days. While advancements in voice search are certainly influencing the way that we’ll create content now and in the future, it has never been more important that brands don’t neglect their visual content. Research confirms people still prefer and better digest visual content, you just have to look at the growth of image-focused platforms such as Instagram to see living proof of this.
Visuals also help us to remember things more effectively than written or audio content. Adding infographics, images, and videos to your communication channels not only make them more interesting and attractive, but most importantly, they ensure your message is better absorbed too.
Sustainability obviously is going to be, and needs to be, a key trend for all businesses in all sectors for many years to come. However, 2021 represented a turning point as the recent global disruption shifted people’s perspectives on environmental sustainability.
We’re really starting to see a demand from consumers and businesses for more sustainable options in all areas. A recent report commissioned by WWF revealed that the popularity of internet searches for sustainable goods around the world has increased by a staggering 71% in just five years.
At Something Big we’re proud to be making huge strides in improving our own environmental footprint, by educating and supporting our customers to make the right choices for their print, packaging and promo items needs.
Read more: Our Planet Mark certification
If you’re ready to make 2022 the best year yet, then get in touch with us to see how we can support with your creative comms.
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