Sixty-four percent of consumers have identified trying to keep their work-self and personal-self separate, according to research firm Gartner, Inc. A Gartner survey of 1,752 consumers during October 2021 identified the top consumer and cultural trends for marketers in 2022.
“Marketers responsible for strategic planning, targeting, positioning, messaging and corporate responsibility initiatives can use these trends to better align their initiatives to key cultural issues and changes in consumer behaviors and attitudes,” said Kate Muhl, vice president analyst in the Gartner Marketing practice.
The Gartner findings reveal five trends that marketers should keep top-of-mind as they enter 2022, including:
Personal Revolution: The pandemic has been an inadvertent social experiment, creating the space for consumers to ask big questions and test alternative ways to live
Fewer people tie their identities to their work or career. This was evident as the U.S. Labor Department reported that a record 4.5 million workers, or 3% of the workforce, quit jobs in November 2021, matching the record set in September. The Gartner survey also revealed that 51% of workers admit to performing personal tasks during work hours more frequently than before the pandemic.
“Marketers must recognize that consumers are in the midst of an exhausting practical and spiritual overhaul. That presents an opportunity for their brands to be facilitators of change,” Muhl said. “Consumers are valuing themselves more. Because of this, brands must emphasize their values that speak to topics that include authenticity, identity and self-esteem.”
Time Warp: Society is reconsidering the experience, possibilities and meaning of time
Seventy-seven percent of consumers reported experiencing some distortion in their perception of the pace of time, led by Gen Z (91%) and millennials (88%). Also, 66% of consumers report having difficulty making long-term plans or life changes at some point during the pandemic. Marketers must appreciate the profound cultural transformations underway regarding time and lean in to brand values that answer consumers longing for control, health and reality.
Seeking Sincerity: The layered and contextual nature of social and traditional media is exhausting. Consumers seek the straightforward in response
Gartner’s survey identified 61% of consumers watch or listen to entertainment “to relax or be comforted,” followed by 41% identifying “to escape from, or stop thinking about, reality” and 33% “to experience funny moments.” With these insights, marketers must realize that many consumers are more interested in straightforward, uncomplicated storylines than they used to be.
“The lesson here for marketing leaders is to do all they can to reduce mental load. This isn’t about increasing emotional engagement or intimacy. Right now, marketers must focus on simplifying the message and streamlining the consumer journey,” added Muhl.
Omnichannel Flex: Consumers are toggling and blending online and in-person experiences well beyond the realm of shopping
Necessity drove consumers onto new digital platforms, but convenience keeps them there. Thirty-nine percent of consumers claimed to enjoy new conveniences of going online or doing things virtually in various areas of their life, a 6% increase from 2020. Meanwhile, 57% of consumers identified their online or virtual experiences as inadequate replacements for offline or in-person experiences, a 17% increase from 2020.
Marketers must continue to invest in customer touchpoints and offerings that allow for hybrid online and in-person modes of interaction and choice while differentiating their brands by positioning omnichannel options not only as a way to gain security and exercise control, but also as a path to comfort.
Home First: With “before times” normalcy off the table, consumers have settled for- and settled into- a home-centered approach to living
Consumers are planning to have their home-centricity extend well beyond the lockdown, with 58% of survey respondents saying the pandemic will have a lasting impact on how they think about and manage their home (up 12% from 2020).
“Marketers must update their understanding of key drivers behind centering around the home,” said Muhl. “In the coming year, it will be less about consumers avoiding threats and more about consumers engaging in a cost-benefit analysis about experience.”
With this in mind, marketers should develop product offerings and buying channels that align with this home-first lifestyle and emphasize the aspects of their brands values that speak to consumers seeking safety, security and serenity.
Additional information is available to Gartner for Marketers clients in the report: 2022 U.S. Consumer and Cultural Top Trends.