Marketing 2022: Five predictions that will change how marketers compete

The acceleration of digital is adding complexity, scale, and speed to the marketing lifecycle — but resources haven’t changed much. And while hybrid work provides flexibility and can even increase productivity, the lack of boundaries between life and work continues to put extra pressure on an already strained workforce.

The proliferation of digital is also changing our customers. According to EY, 54% of consumers have more awareness about data privacy than they did before the pandemic. As consumers become savvier about their data, they’re also becoming more discerning about where and when they share the very information that powers the personalized experiences they expect. Last year, Apple released an OS update that allows users to opt out of sharing data, but an October report from AppsFlyer found that just 38% of Apple customers opted out.

While there are challenges ahead for marketers in 2022, there are also exciting new opportunities.

As we start a new year, Adobe’s Future of Marketing research provides context for a few New Year’s predictions as well as some guidance on how to harness them for success.

Prediction 1: The remit for marketing leaders will keep expanding

Customer-centricity is critical and has been a growing trend for a number of years, but the pandemic has made it non-negotiable. Delivering great customer experiences requires that diverse functions work together — and in the case of marketing, take on more responsibility.

According to the research, 85% of marketing leaders say their scope of responsibility has increased an average of 37% over the last five years and now includes activities far beyond traditional brand and demand obligations — from ecommerce to customer growth to experience design. And 77% expect their scope to increase by more than a third in the next 12–18 months.

Takeaway: The marketing landscape isn’t just expanding — it’s fundamentally changing. Marketers’ success is no longer determined simply by leads but rather how well they support the comprehensive customer relationship. The most effective way to evolve our marketing teams — as well as their role within the larger organizations — is to change what is measured. Instead of limiting KPIs to performance metrics, it’s critical that marketers also include customer success metrics like lifetime value to ensure people and resources are focused on what matters most: our customers.

Prediction 2: Gen Z will be your toughest “trust” customers

While trust has always been a bedrock of brand-customer relationships, there are more complexities in earning and keeping trust today. From what we’re doing in our communities, to how we keep customer data safe, to how (or whether) we use that data to make their experiences better with skillfully personalized experiences, the digital world gives us infinitely more opportunities to build and break trust with consumers. And once broken, the Gen Z consumers surveyed (those 18–25 years old) demonstrated that they’ll take the strongest actions.

The research found when trust is violated, 40% of Gen Zers will post negative reviews — 10 points above the average consumer and higher than any other generation. And while 58% of consumers say they have abandoned a brand due to a trust violation, 75% of Gen Zers left a brand in the last year, and 29% quit three or more brands due to a violation of trust.

Takeaway: Delivering personalized experiences that show that brands can empathize with what their customers really want and need is the key to building trust with Gen Zers. For most consumers, respecting data is the top way to gain trust. And while Gen Zers also value trust, they alone ranked “demonstrate you know me through personalized experiences” as the number one way to earn their confidence. The research also found that great creative content helps build trust with Gen Zers, with one-third saying it makes them trust brands more, and 25% saying creative content inspires loyalty.

Prediction 3: Personalization (at scale) will be the biggest opportunity to differentiate

Starting in the early 2000s, marketers began launching “personalized” campaigns by addressing customers by their name. Today, personalization means something very different and much more complicated, with leading companies leveraging artificial intelligence to create custom browsing journeys, provide product recommendations based on both online and offline behaviors, and more.

Despite the challenges, nearly all marketers surveyed (95%) say their companies are good or excellent at delivering great personalized customer experiences at scale. However, only 37% of consumers say their digital experiences have gotten better over the last year, with 63% saying they’ve stayed the same or gotten worse. And about a third of consumers (31%) don’t value personalization of any kind.

Takeaway: Personalization that provides real value to customers isn’t easy. The foundation of our ability to do great personalization is data — specifically, a unified customer data profile based on consented first-party data that provides a single view of the customer across the full lifecycle. Marketing leaders must make this a top priority for 2022. Not only do unified customer profiles power great personalized experiences for customers, but they also provide more accurate attribution, more and faster lead generation, higher engagement, and larger basket sizes — which all lead to better business outcomes as well.

Prediction 4: Integrated data governance will become a must

Marketers will continue struggling to stay compliant when it comes to both new and changing privacy laws and customer preferences. Simply avoiding violations is no longer sufficient. Marketers at all levels of the company must be able to design and deliver experiences that are compliant and add value across thousands of customers and millions (or more) interactions.

Strong data governance is the answer, and 88% of marketing leaders say they are knowledgeable about data governance and privacy policies. However, 90% of those leaders also say they’re concerned with their team’s ability to properly govern data and comply with their customers’ preferences — with 59% saying they’re very concerned.

Takeaway: Good data governance has always been a combination of having the right talent and commonsense policies. But with the rise and expansion of digital, even great people, policies, and the best intentions won’t be enough to keep up with the speed and scale of customers’ experiences and data requirements. Integrated governance tools that consistently apply policies and preferences can take the guesswork and strain off employees, deliver better customer experiences, and keep your team (and company) compliant.

Prediction 5: Improved employee tech will increase engagement

Between digital acceleration and the personal challenges of COVID-19, marketers are facing especially intense work pressures — and the pressures are taking a toll. A recent survey by MarketerHire found that 75% of marketers predict that marketing will see a new wave of resignations coming over the coming months, with nearly half (48%) of respondents saying they are personally planning on leaving their job.

Brands are responding by giving employees more time off and providing even more flexible work schedules and mental health support. While those are all very important, they don’t address some of the day-to-day pain points that can wear employees down and keep them from delivering great customer experiences. For example, the Adobe research found that while 93% of marketers said collaboration between marketing and design teams is critical to their success, they also ranked collaboration as their biggest challenge.

Takeaway: While professional development and personal support programs are important for strong employee engagement, there’s one big factor in workplace well-being that’s often left out of the equation: employee technology. And while technology can’t solve everything, the right tech stack can connect people and work for seamless collaboration, provide important context, and reduce manual labor and other busywork. Outfitting your team with the right tools for the job empowers them to do meaningful work and produce the best results.

Marketers don’t have control over when or whether the pandemic ebbs, the world supply chain works out its kinks, or inflation settles down. By taking a positive and proactive approach to challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, we can ensure that our teams, our customers, and our companies are better off by the end of 2022 than when the year began.

This piece was also published on