Over the past 12 months, I’ve been fortunate enough to speak with dozens of creative and marketing leaders and discuss where they see their brands - and the teams that manage them - going in 2022. I’ve also had a front row seat to Bynder’s rapid customer growth as more and more organizations see Digital Asset Management as a mission critical platform to bring content to market. When it comes to creative content, 2022 will be a year of breaking down silos, reconciling forces in opposition, and focusing on more joint wins in building a digital experience. Here are 7 things to expect in the coming year.

1. Creative gets closer to digital….and vice versa

Digital marketing teams continue to request a record amount of content to use on their channels…but aren’t always keeping the Creative teams up to speed on why they’re requesting it, or which content works best where. It can sometimes feel like speaking two different languages.

Performance insights are lacking, but so are delivery models that are fit for purpose. There are too many steps across workflows and platforms for those digital teams to even obtain all the content they need. In short, creative content and digital platforms are still too far apart, as are their functional owners.

This year, convergence will break down silos between them and gain crucial efficiencies in the 24/7, always-on economy we operate in now.

What’s top of mind here:

  • Platform strategy: Without a clearly defined strategy for a marketing ecosystem and where exactly creative content fits centrally, the disconnect between creative and digital risks turning into an unholy mess. Both parties need to be contributing stakeholders on the buying committee for any important platform like DAM, CMS, DXP, PIM, Marketing Automation, and more.

  • Connectivity: More brands will invest in the automatic delivery of assets into the platforms that the customer ultimately sees, leveraging connectors, CDN’s, and API’s. There’s no need for a creative person to log into a digital marketing platform and mess around, and conversely, there’s no need for a digital person to go back upstream and grab assets from some library that may or may not be up to date.

  • Web Content Managers (and similar roles) will play a more strategic role in orchestrating this, and move out of the repetitive motions of formatting and uploading content to websites every day manually.

  • The digital team will deliver more insights to the creative team on what works and why. Ideally it’s in a clear and detailed creative brief, so there’s the best chance of alignment from the outset. 

2. Business models are diversifying and creative content needs to keep up

In order to gain greater market share, the brands that came up as direct-to-consumer are now branching out into partnerships with external distributors and retailers. Conversely, brands that historically have relied on partners and resellers are strengthening their DTC presences. For example, most of the biggest apparel brands expect to be at least 50% DTC by 2025.

What’s top of mind here:

  • Content: Ultimately these expanded business models represent new formats of content to bring to market for new buyers on new channels. There is definitely a unique extension of the brand that is required, but the smart creative leaders know that this shouldn’t represent increasing the workload or output by 100%. Reuse, repurpose, and reimagination of the same brand concepts will get teams further faster.

  • Collaboration: if DTC is new to a business, there will be an added focus on the end-to-end digital experience of the customer, and a related investment in DX platforms. If external partners are new to the fold, then it’s more about enablement. Either way, new forms of collaboration will take shape and this will underline the need to break down silos and for creative and digital to be aligned, as mentioned in point # 1

  • Brand consistency: Whatever the magic is that got a brand to a given point in 2022, expanding the business model and channel plays poses a risk of diluting that magic. Brand managers' anxiety will be around upholding the identity of the brand as it tackles new frontiers, and they will be actively investing in the tools and processes that will get them there safely.

  • Platform consolidation: as business models diversify, the question for the tech stack will be: can it scale to these new use cases? If the answer isn’t a hard yes, it’s time to re-evaluate!

3.Creatives (slowly but surely) carve out more time and resources for brand work

I talked to a number of creative directors at consumer brands this year that truly disliked their own brands’ Instagram pages. Why? They felt like what should be a brand community is instead a product showcase. Another gripe is that this product-focus is too ad hoc, and not tied to any larger theme or direction for the brand. But we are in crazy times, and product-pushing is a near term path to revenue.

These creative leaders want to carve out more time and energy towards the slow build of a brand identity and the community of raving fans that follow.

When it comes to what plays in the boardroom, here’s how I would pitch it: it’s about the transformation from a regional, product-focused organization that’s after transactions to a global, brand-focused organization that’s after repeat business from a loyal community of customers.

What’s top of mind here:

  • Globalization: Companies want to unify their brands globally, in order to improve the end user experience, but also to achieve cost savings and faster time to market wherever possible. Sometimes it’s as simple as realizing you’re commissioning the same product photoshoot in 8 different regions, and then trimming that down to 1 photoshoot, from which the assets can be distributed out to the 8 regions via the DAM. 7-fold savings! Global campaigns are the goal, but global processes and platforms are required first.

  • Templatization: low lift/ high volume work should be farmed out to templating solutions where more people can self-serve to create the variations they need. The in-house, highly skilled creatives need to focus on the next great creative concept, not tomorrow’s organic social posts.

  • “We are not a banner ad shop!” Say it loudly, and proudly.

  • What plays in the boardroom re: brand: building a community of raving fans to build loyalty programs around. Think about customer LTV and recurring revenue opportunities.

  • What also plays in the boardroom: More full price sales because the brand is the differentiator leading with benefits and values, not features; less reliance on promotions and price wars with the competition.

4. In-house agencies and external agencies need to collaborate more as partners

The move to bringing more marketing and creative work in-house is nothing new and will only continue next year. In a recent survey 80% of respondents indicated that their company brought marketing assignments in-house and expanded the capabilities of their in-house agency. And yet, agencies don’t seem to be going anywhere, they’re just evolving. The new dynamic is a central, in-house creative agency at a brand that deploys a full roster of agency partners as extensions of its central objectives. The agencies are now specialist partners for a particular type of project/format, or in a particular region.

What’s top of mind here:

  • Two ways of working: while “partnership” sounds nice, whose ways of working are you adopting? Whose technology?

  • Getting on the same page: I’ve heard that PowerPoint is the only program that is universally understood, and therefore is often the default for how in-house teams work with external agencies. It seems crazy, but it just underlines the importance of a shared visual language, or technology language, between two parties.

  • External collaboration, sharing, and permissions around content: what’s the system of record for all the creative content that’s free to use? The Dropbox’s and Sharepoints of the world weren’t really even cut out for the old brand:agency paradigm, let alone this new one.

  • Cost efficiency: Costs can be consolidated. Monthly agency fees structured on management and ad hoc design work are no longer necessary as in-house teams expand. That’s just a reality; the Finance folks at agencies may not love that, but it just means the agency strategies for new business and client engagements also need to evolve.

5. Content sources are diversifying and guidelines, policies, and workflows will evolve accordingly

Every year, less and less of a brand’s most valuable content is created within the 4 walls of its corporate studio. Instead, it’s created in the real world. The proliferation of user-generated content, influencers, and in-store experts have wrought a brave new world for the creative directors and brand managers tasked with building a consistent identity. A top priority for those brand leaders will be achieving extensibility for the brand while still maintaining proper governance and guidelines.

What’s top of mind here:

  • More video: Specifically, more video shot on mobile phones. This has widespread implications around what can be captured and where, but also nitty gritty implications: will the resolution quality be any good? How about the formatting, and the “videography”?

  • Usage rights: As a result of this dispersion of content creation, usage rights will be a concern. Influencers and UGC tend to require release forms, the terms of which ideally map to the platform that is distributing all that content to ensure all assets are being used properly. Unless we want to take our chances with signed release forms getting stashed away and never seen again.

  • Internal SME’s take center stage: Internal subject matter experts are getting in front of the camera more and more, hence the proliferation of mobile video content, shot at any location. But what happens when that internal SME goes viral, who owns that content and who benefits? And what happens when the message is decidedly off-brand, as many of the largest retailers experienced first-hand in the last 12 months.

  • Brand guidelines: All of these shifting dynamics in content sources will have an impact on how an organization crafts and enforces its brand guidelines. They need to be crystal clear, specific enough to achieve a certain “vibe” but flexible enough to allow for natural, individual expressions of the brand’s core principles. And don’t be surprised if more and more guidelines include “how to take a selfie with our product” next year.

6. Employer branding moves front and center

The employer/talent acquisition component has always been part of brand building, but let’s be honest, in some years it fell down the priority list at the hands of more go-to-market focused efforts. Moving forward, we’re going to see more of an emphasis on this front, driven by the macro trends of the great reshuffle, retail labor shortages, the DEI movement and purpose-driven work. Simply put, it’s more important than ever to get a clear and compelling message across to prospective employees, and one that considers the whole self, not just a work-for-pay transaction.

What’s top of mind here:

  • Rebranding and repositioning: Many organizations, especially the legacy brands, will be actively working to shift the public perception of their work culture in order to paint the picture of innovation, collaboration, and inclusion.

  • Templatization: So many positions to fill, so little time. Job opening posts and related content tend to fall into that “low lift/high volume category”. If brand teams can provide on-brand templates, there’s no reason that HR teams can’t actively create their own content in order to socialize all the vacancies they’re hiring for, and in doing so avoid relying on the Creative team every single time.

  • Employee-centric content: similar to the trend of focusing more on internal SME’s, the same will apply to employer branding. Employee success storytelling will be more important now to give the broader market of talent a good feeling around the brand/company.

7. The dream of a customer experience concierge is slowly becoming a reality

A digital customer experience should be seamless, consistent, and delightful to the end user…DUH! Much ink has been spilled on this topic. It’s what we all strive for and many are making serious headway on achieving.

The big brands envision a world in which their customer experience is so attentive and personalized that it feels like a concierge. For example, large insurance brands want you to use their app to shop ways to save, submit claims, and perform other key actions, and then when you call them, a trained, friendly voice says “Hello [yourname], would you like to finish submitting that claim?”. The same goes for the big box retailers as they keep trying to blur the lines between online and in-store. And consider this, from Forbes’ 2022 Customer Experience trends: Shopping is no longer just about products. Modern retailers are expanding to offer creative services that enrich customers’ lives, build community and showcase their products in new ways.”

Creative content obviously plays a huge role here. Will the standard e-commerce websites with tiled product options and detailed product pages start to feel dated? Is a more immersive, visual commerce experience next? And where does the Metaverse fit into all this? Let’s table that one for 2023.

What’s top of mind here:

  • All of the above: the strategic decisions outlined in the preceding 6 points need to come together to even have a chance of executing on this concierge-level digital experience!

  • Eye on the future: Even the household name retailers with the most resources understand that this concierge vision won’t happen overnight. It’s a longer term play that requires continuous investment and brand building

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